Ireland make up quarter of Melbourne Cup field
Willie Mullins excited by Melbourne Cup challenge as Thomas Hobson sneaks in
Willie Mullins is excited by the challenge ahead at Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup. Photograph: Getty Images
Willie Mullins will be triple-handed in Tuesday’s Emirates Melbourne Cup after Thomas Hobson made the cut by the skin of his teeth.
Ireland’s perennial champion National Hunt trainer was already guaranteed to have at least two runners in the Flemington showpiece, with 2015 runner-up Max Dynamite and Wicklow Brave, down the field 12 months ago, both comfortably in the final field of 24.
However, connections faced a nervous wait to find out whether Thomas Hobson would make the cut and he crept in as the 24th horse on the order of entry on Saturday following the forced withdrawal of Jon Snow, who was ruled unfit to start by the Victoria Racing Club Committee acting on veterinary advice.
Thomas Hobson won the Ascot Stakes at the Royal meeting in June and was runner-up in the Queen Alexandra Stakes just four days later.
His ticket to Australia was confirmed when he also finished second in the Doncaster Cup in mid-September and after making the final field, he drew barrier 21 in the live draw.
Max Dynamite is in stall two, with Wicklow Brave only a little higher in stall eight.
Mullins told racing.com: “I’m really pleased. Whether the horses are good enough or not, you’ve got to persuade the owners and the owners have got to be game to come.
“It’s a big undertaking. It’s not just enter them and go. There’s a lot of things involved.
“Thomas Hobson was within a few minutes of not getting in the race, but Jon Snow didn’t run, so we got in. That was a lot of pressure off.”
Aidan O’Brien saddles Johannes Vermeer (stall three), while his son, Joseph, is represented by US Army Ranger (22) and Rekindling (four).
The British challengers are Hughie Morrison’s Marmelo (16), Hugo Palmer’s Wall Of Fire (15) and Iain Jardine’s Ebor hero Nakeeta (19).
Immediately following the draw, Morrison said: “Rumour has it 15 is quite good, so 16 can’t be too bad.
“You can ride him from the front or the back and hopefully two miles is a long way.”
Nakeeta is the first Scottish-trained runner in the famous race. Jardine said: “It could be worse, it could be 24! They’ll go quick and we’ll drop in about halfway if we can, get a tow into the race and see how we go from there.
“He’s had a good preparation, everything has gone well with him.
“He’s been working away nicely and seems to be acclimatised to his new surroundings. Hopefully he’ll go well, fingers crossed.”
Last year’s winner Almandin, the mount of Frankie Dettori, drew barrier 14.
Other leading contenders for the home team include Humidor (13), who pushed the great mare Winx close in the Cox Plate last month, and top-weight Hartnell (12).