Yucatan will look to provide leading owner Lloyd Williams a historic treble as owner of the Cup winner in three successive years, after the 2016 and 2017 winners have both carried the silks of Williams to victory. Yucatan arrived in Australia off a similar campaign to Johannes Vermeer in 2017, with that O’Brien/Williams combination going within a half-length of Cup victory. Both claimed the 2000m G3 International at The Curragh, Yucatan claiming the 2018 edition by one length. Yucatan then went to the G3 Ballyroan at Leopardstown and carrying 62kg over the 2400m trip finished 2.6 lengths from the winner to claim 3rd- (Johannes Vermeer 2nd in 2017). Arriving in Australia, Yucatan was first-up in the Herbert Power with his performance ranked higher than any of his European efforts with plenty of petrol still in the tank after the 1.25 length victory when eased down on the line. Taking a weight penalty for the win, the last horse to claim the Herbert Power/Melbourne Cup double was back in 1999 when Rogan Josh was able to achieve the feat. Yucatan is the well-supported favourite with the performances justifying the favouritism. The concern is gate 23- with no winner jumping from that wide in the past 30 years.
The Godolphin team has been in great form this Spring and Best Solution is one of those, winning his past 4 starts, 3 of those at Group 1 level. Best Solution will carry the same weight as he did when taking the Caulfield Cup in impressive fashion, fighting hard in the closing stages after making a sustained run. Best Solution had a four-start campaign early in the year in Dubai that returned a 2435m handicap victory and then a mid-field finish behind Hawkbill in the G1 Sheema Classic. Returning to his English base, the entire scored a first-up win at 2400m in the G2 Princess Of Wales Stakes. Taken to Germany second-up he claimed the G1 Grosser Preis Von Berlin, again at 2400m defeating the local and fellow Melbourne Cup aspirant Sound Check. His last run prior to coming ‘down-under’ was again at the mile and a half in the G1 Preis Von Baden when carrying 60kg to victory. Pat Cosgrave has ridden in each of his past 4 victories and will look to add further success on Best Solution who will race at 3200m for the first time with Cosgrave also riding in his first Cup.
Chris Waller has been entrusted with the British International Finche and the master trainer went with a Geelong Cup warm-up run for the 5YO. Carrying the top-weight of 59kg in that race, there was plenty to like about the way he finished off the 2400m feature when finishing 1.5 lengths from the winner Runaway. The chestnut arrived in Australia a last-start winner after claiming the Group 3 Prix De Reux at Deauville in France under 60kg, where he defeated 2017 Melbourne Cup contestant Tiberian in a smart front-running effort. The 5YO son of the undefeated champion Frankel, has raced in top company since winning on debut at Deauville. At just his 4th career start in September of 2017, Finche was 3rd behind the star Cracksman, with fellow Cup hopeful Avilius finishing 2nd. Resuming in 2017 in G2 company when 2.5 lengths from the winner before again taking on Cracksman when second-up. Sent for another break he was first-up when claiming the Prix De Reux. Dropping back to 54kg for the Melbourne Cup for his first race beyond 2500m will certainly aid his chances and should take great benefit from the Geelong outing.
The Cup in 2018 has very few runners that have Flemington experience, which gives the nod of track specialist title to Ace High. The 4YO has raced on two previous occasions at the home of the Melbourne Cup returning a G1 win in the 2017 VRC Derby and a 5th in the G2 VRC Sires as a 2YO. Second-up this campaign his run was an eye-catcher at the mile when 2nd to Unforgotten in the Chelmsford and two starts later claimed the 2000m Hill Stakes. Ridden against his pattern when sent to the front in the Caulfield Cup, the wide gate might work to his benefit in being able to settle back in the pack. The son of High Chaparral will step out to the two miles for the first time, however with a win at 2500m in the VRC Derby and the narrowest of 2nds in the ATC Derby over 2400m against his name, Ace High has always suggested that the distance should be no issue. If successful, Ace High will become the first horse since Phar Lap to claim the VRC Derby at 3YO and return to win the Cup one year later.
Dubbed the race that stops a nation, this $7.3m Handicap, over 3200m dates back to 1861, when won by Archer. He was also successful the following year. Australia’s ‘great race’ had a great trainer – the legendary Bart Cummings. With a record 12 wins on the first Tuesday in November, James Bartholomew Cummings well and truly earned the nickname of ‘Cups King’. If JB Cummings is the Cups King, then Makybe Diva is the ‘Cups Queen’ having won the two-mile classic a record three times (2003/04/05). She carried a mares’ record of 58kg to victory when completing the ‘triple treat’.