Melbourne Cup 2017 barrier draw: Highly fancied horses unlucky

Marmelo didn't have the best luck in the barrier draw.  Photo: MAL FAIRCLOUGH
Marmelo didn't have the best luck in the barrier draw. Photo: MAL FAIRCLOUGH

Strongly fancied Cup raider Marmelo did not enjoy the best of luck at the Melbourne Cup barrier draw on Saturday night, drawing stall 16 in the 24 runner field.

Hughie Morrison, the English horse's trainer said: "He can run from the front or the back, and two miles is a long way. We have been pretty happy with him the last few days....given a bit of luck he will run well. Being here in Melbourne is just fantastic."

Almandin, last year's winner for Team Williams, will be two barriers further in, having to jump from stall 14 as he seeks to become the first horse since Makybe Diva to win back to back Melbourne Cups.

Top weight Hartnell will race to give James Cummings his first Melbourne Cup winner, as he follows in the footsteps of his Melbourne Cup King grandfather Bart. The classy Godolphin stallion ran third last year, and will, like Almandin and Marmelo, start from a wide alley in barrier 12.

Darren Weir's local hope, Big Duke, fared well in the draw lottery and will start from barrier five as he looks to give the champion trainer his second winner after he scored with 100-1 shot Prince of Penzance, ridden by history making Michelle Payne two seasons ago.

Young Irish trainer Joseph O'Brien, son of world record holder Aidan, fared well in the draw, with his Rekindling set to jump from gate four.

Scotsman Ian Jardine is in Australia with his first runner in the race, Nakeeta, who will start from stall 19.

Damien Oliver rides Almandin to victory in the Japan Racing Association Trophy at Flemington. The horse is again highly fancied to win the Melbourne Cup.  Photo: AAP

Damien Oliver rides Almandin to victory in the Japan Racing Association Trophy at Flemington. The horse is again highly fancied to win the Melbourne Cup. Photo: AAP

"It could be worse, it could be 24. He's had a good preparation and he is working nicely.

Nick Williams, son of Lloyd Williams, said Almandin's draw was not a problem. "He drew three worse last year and still won."

For the third time in Melbourne Cup history11 overseas horses will contest Australia's most important handicap, but they are still outnumbered by the 13 local stayers. Only in 2011 and 2015 has the race attracted this strong a representation from international stables.

Wealthy local businessman Williams will have a quarter of the field, having payed nearly $300,000 in acceptance fees for his six runners.

Shooting for his sixth Cup (and back to back Cups), Williams will have the favourite Almandin, Johannes Vermeer, Bondi Beach, US Army Ranger, Gallante and Rekindling.

Racing Victoria senior recruiting officer Leigh Jordon said he was "delighted with the number of international runners".       

"It's a very costly proposition with these owners and trainers. A lot must right and everything must fall into place."

Senior Racing Victoria handicapper Greg Carpenter described the 2017 Melbourne Cup as a "classy and very open race" with a balance of local and overseas horses.

VRC officials were delighted with the Derby Day crowd of 87,526, although down on last year's 90,152 it was the first time in more than a century that Flemington was without its huge members stand.   

As the day went on the news slowly got better for trainer Willie Mullins as he worked to get his three runners into the $6.1 million handicap.

Mullins had safely achieved a start with Max Dynamite and his stablemate Wicklow Brave, however the precarious position of his third hope Thomas Hobson became clearer as the field began to lose horses that were not accepting.

New Zealand stayer Jon Snow  was taken out of the Melbourne Cup after the committee of the VRC deemed the horse was lame on acceptance time.

The Committee heard submissions from Racing Victoria  veterinary officials and believed the rules of racing require a horse must be sound to start in any race at acceptance time.

Vets found that Jon Snow was a two out of five on the lameness scale reinforcing the club's decision to disallow the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman trained galloper to start.

His absence moved the order of entry down by one and earlier in the day trainer David Hayes said that he would not start Harlem in the Melbourne Cup after the gelding appeared not to stay in the Lexus Stakes.

Hayes was understandably disappointed at losing Harlem which had been under a cloud with an eye problem in the days leading up to the Lexus.

He will still have Ventura Storm and Caulfield Cup winner Boom Time in the race.

The Lexus Stakes brought welcome news to one of Australia's leading traners, Gai Waterhouse, who managed to gain a last minute start with her tough stayer Cismontane.

"He's incredible. I thought he was gone on numerous occasions throughout the straight but he kept digging and kept fighting and was very strong late," said Waterhouse's training partner Adrian Bott.

"It probably sounds ridiculous to say this now but he's only just learning what it's all about now – he's just starting to put it together at the right time."

"Stephen (Baster) got him into a beautiful rhythm, he got his own way in the lead and even though he was out in front by a few lengths he was doing it comfortably."

After many placegetters, Waterhouse finally won the Melbourne Cup with the imported stayer Fiorente in 2013 while her father Tommie Smith won the race twice with Toparoa and Just A Dash.

Frankie Dettori, the man given the job of winning back-to-back Melbourne Cups for Almandin will arrive in Australia early on Monday morning after riding at Del Mar racecourse in California on Friday and Saturday.

Dettori is determined to win his first Melbourne Cup after numerous attempts.

The full Melbourne Cup 2017 barrier draw:

  • 1 HARTNELL - barrier 12, weight 57.5
  • 2 ALMANDIN - 14, 56.5
  • 3 HUMIDOR - 13, 56
  • 4 TIBERIAN - 23,  55.5
  • 5 MARMELO  - 16, 55
  • 6 RED CARDINAL - 24,  55
  • 7 JOHANNES VERMEER - 3,  54.5
  • 8 BONDI BEACH - 1, 54
  • 9 MAX DYNAMITE - 2,  54
  • 10 VENTURA STORM - 6,  54
  • 11 WHO SHOT THE BARMAN - 20, 54
  • 12 WICKLOW BRAVE - 8, 54
  • 13 BIG DUKE - 5,  53.5
  • 14 US ARMY RANGER - 22,  53.5
  • 15 BOOM TIME - 9,  53
  • 16 GALLANTE - 18, 53
  • 17 LIBRAN - 7, 53
  • 18 NAKEETA - 19,  53
  • 19 SINGLE GAZE - 11, 53
  • 20 WALL OF FIRE - 15,   53
  • 21 THOMAS HOBSON - 21, 52
  • 22 REKINDLING - 4,  51.5
  • 23 AMELIE'S STAR -10,  51
  • 24 CISMONTANE - 17, 50