6 November 2000

Europeans fancied to lift Melbourne Cup

MELBOURNE, Australia, Nov 5 (AFP) - Irish entry Far Cry and England's Enzeli have firmed as favourites to lift the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday -- Australia's biggest and richest race.

Bookmakers report strong support for both the Martin Pipe-trained Far Cry, which has firmed into 7-1 second favourite, and 1999 Ascot Gold Cup winner Enzeli, which has been heavily backed this week into 10-1.

The other two European entrants, Arctic Owl and Godophin stables Lightning Arrow, both from English stables, also feature prominently in the market but have yet to be significantly backed in ante-post betting.


At a press conference Sunday, the visiting trainers all expressed satisfaction with the way their horses had settled in and preparedness for the big race.

"Far Cry is just as good as he was going into the Ascot Gold Cup when he ran second to a very good horse in Kayf Tara," said Pipe.

"Hes very laid back, doesnt worry about anything but he comes to life in a race so were very happy. We wouldn't change a thing going into the race."

Barring Arctic Owl, the European entries faired well in the crucial barrier draw.

Enzeli is perfectly placed in lane six, as is Far Cry in 10. Lightning Arrow in 14 will need luck, but they all do in two mile (3,200 metres) races with 24 runners.

Arctic Owls Newmarket trainer James Fanshawe said he was "not too disappointed" with the horses draw in barrier 21.

"Theres a long run to the first turn at Flemington so he has plenty of time to get into a position," he said.

While Fanshawe was concerned at the horses lacklustre temperament early last week, it worked strongly Sunday morning and was "much brighter now and more like his old self."

Enzelis Epsom Derby winning mentor, John Oxx, said his horse had not been flashy in his workout but he was still happy.

He did though sound a note of warning on the task ahead: "In these days of international competition in racing, to come halfway round the world and win this race is a much bigger task than people realise."


Melbourne property developer and former casino owner Lloyd Williams bought Enzeli last month from the Aga Khan for an undisclosed six figure sum, and promptly engaged local jockey Greg Hall for the Cup ride.

"We would normally have brought over Johnny Murtagh," Oxx said. "But Greg Hall is retained by Mr. Williams and he has the local knowledge.

"There is always a debate about who might be best -- the jockey who knows the horse or the jockey who knows the track. But the Melbourne Cup is a unique race, a tough race and Im not sorry to see Greg on the horse."

Godolphin stable manager Brad Marzato was bristling with confidence over Lightning Arrows prospects: "He has really picked up in his work and I couldnt be happier."

However, the five-year-old lacks the class of his fellow travellers and is the least fancied of the international runners.

Certainly he is rated inferior to Godolphins runner last year, Central Park, which ran a mighty race for second behind Bart Cummings 11th Melbourne Cup winner Rogan Josh.

Incredibly, Cummings will be without a runner this year after Oxford Dollar was balloted out of the race on Saturday night.

No Northern Hemisphere raider has been successful in the worlds greatest two mile handicap since Vintage Crops courageous Cup victory for Dermot Weld in 1993.

Every year international runners such as Double Trigger, Oscar Schindler, Arabian Story, Faithful Son and Travelmate have been touted as vastly superior to the home breds, but almost every year the local heroes win.

This year the John Hawkes trained Freemason will carry the Australian hopes.

Other local runners to attract betting support are Diatribe at 7- 1, and New Zealand's Kaapstad Way at 8-1, which will not run if the track is severely rain affected.

But after drying winds in Melbourne over the weekend, the track is likely to be in good order for "the race that stops a nation."

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First published by Agence France-Press