Again he was given nearly a year off before returning with a strong victory in the Doonside Cup (2012m) at Ayr in Great Britain.
Japanese stayer Curren Mirotic can really mix his form and is proven over 3200m having finished runner-up in the Tenno Sho (3200m), but he has drawn the cursed barrier 18 and will need to become the first horse in history to win the Cup from there.
Heartbreak City was a four-length winner of the Ebor Handicap (2816m), where he carried 55kg, but Oceanographer who won Saturday’s Lexus Stakes (2500m) meets him 7kg better at the weights for finishing nine lengths behind him in the Ebor and looks better placed in the Cup.
Oceanographer was also checked and held up at the 200m mark in the Ebor but was again doing his best work late.
Qewy and Grey Lion finished ahead of Oceanographer in the Geelong Cup and need to be respected, but that pair led in the Geelong Cup and are likely to be up on the speed in the Melbourne Cup, and that may pose a problem with more speed being injected into the race.
Irish St Leger (2816m) winner Wicklow Brave led all the way to defeat the highly-touted Order Of St George, and having drawn barrier 24 in the Cup, it’s hard to see him doing anything else but leading again.
Big Orange also has some pace and tried to lead all the way in last year’s Melbourne Cup before being challenged at the 400m mark and battling away to hold 5th place.
Last year’s Cup was run at a leisurely tempo and Big Orange still struggled to hold them off, so with more pressure coming this year, I can’t see him outkicking the swoopers, however, he is reportedly going better this year and if he gets some cover, he may get every chance.
Of the likely leaders, I think Wicklow Brave has the best chance despite drawing barrier 24.
It was champion jumps rider Ruby Walsh that suggested Frankie Dettori try and lead all the way in the Irish St Leger, and with that tactic proving successful, they would be crazy to try and slot in behind the speed from the wide gate instead of pressing on to lead.
The Caulfield Cup has always been a good guide to the Melbourne Cup, and from this year’s race, there are a few of standouts.
The winner, Jameka, has to be included, while Almoonqith and Exospheric put in eye catching runs also.
Almoonqith has never placed at Flemington and that is a concern, and Exospheric is a query at the distance and was comfortably beaten by Jameka.
The more I watch the Caulfield Cup and consider Jameka’s overall record, the more convinced I am she’s the one to beat on the first Tuesday in November.
She travelled into the turn so strong, and seemed to have so much more to offer, I doubt she will have any problem running the extra trip.
Her Caulfield Cup winning time of 2:28.8 rates strongly, and she has drawn barrier 3 which will give Nicholas Hall the opportunity to let his mare roll along and assess the speed from out wide.
With a few internationals looking to make this year’s Cup a genuinely run race, Jameka will get the perfect trail behind the speed and won’t need a miracle to get through a wall of horses in the straight.
The Melbourne Cup always produces some hard luck stories, but Jameka shouldn’t be one of them.
Others top chances may have to do too much work up front, others will be caught wide and have to cover ground and others will have to dodge and weave as they set sail for the winning post.
If Jameka can run a strong 3200m, I don’t think there is a horse in this field that can match motors with her after she enjoys the run of the race.
Hartnell may have beaten her comfortably in the Turnbull Stakes, but I think 2000m is his best distance and the battle would have been much closer over 2400m.
His previous attempts over 3200m are not world-class, and the Melbourne Cup certainly is a world-class race.
The way the race maps, I can see Wicklow Brave heading for home as they enter the straight, Big Orange will be looming large, while Jameka and Oceanographer will be making their runs.
Jameka can hit the lead at the 200m mark and hold on from Oceanographer, Wicklow Brave and Big Orange.