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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Bloom calculating the odds as he decides whether to stick or twist with Withhold

Tony Bloom: will decide whether to run Withhold in the Geelong Cup or not
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Tony Bloom is calculating the odds. Withhold is 37th on the order of entry for the Lexus Melbourne Cup, with 24 places available, and his owner has two options: run beforehand to try guaranteeing a spot or wait.

Perhaps it lacks the complexity the Asian football markets specialist and one-time poker star is used to but, given the near-£75,000 he has spent flying the gelding halfway around the world for the A$7.3 million (£3.94m) Melbourne Cup, the stakes are certainly high enough.

The original plan was to wait and the logic was simple: do not compromise Withhold's chance by the effort of getting there.

Melbourne Cup card and betting

Withhold has run just three times in the last two years and his entire campaign has revolved around the Melbourne Cup. Running over a mile and a half just 13 days before the main event could well hamper him.

The temptation to run is similarly obvious. Connections need a rather sizeable 13 to come out of the race, provided no others leapfrog them, and 15 of those above them are horses who have travelled a similar distance to be here. The pool of likely defectors is not that large and while Bloom has undoubtedly suffered bigger losses it is unlikely he stood by and let them happen when there was something that could have been done about it.

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It all means a run in the bet365 Geelong Cup – in an attempt to move up the list – has become more likely. As trainer Roger Charlton explained: "It is an option that is being considered by the owner, it's not my decision. It is an option as we don't have many other alternatives. We'll decide nearer the time I guess, but it is more of a possibility now than it was. We don't want to run, but we may have to."

Withhold powers clear of his rivals to win the Cesarewitch

As for how the five-year-old has acclimatised to Australia having travelled with the first wave of horses in quarantine, Charlton added: "He's settled in very well, I'm very happy with his training and progress. He's in a nice routine, we've got him eating and he's getting used to the environment. My son Tom's down there with him and he's doing everything we want him to do."

Cross Counter impresses under Buick in the Gordon Stakes

While one team reconsider another have made up their minds – Charlie Appleby will go straight to the Cup with his two fancied runners. Cross Counter, who is all but guaranteed a run at 19 on the list, is a best-priced 10-1 while Hamada, who is just four spots higher than Withhold at number 33, is a 16-1 shot.

"Our two Melbourne Cup runners, Hamada and Cross Counter, are already down there," said Appleby. "They've travelled well and settled into their surroundings well. They're not going to have a prep run, they're going to go straight into the Cup.

Cross Counter: an impressive winner of the Gordon Stakes

"Cross Counter's got his slot, Hamada will be touch and go but it looks as if things are going the right way and hopefully he'll get his run. Either way he won't have a prep run, he'll either run in the Cup or he won't."

Appleby also has Emotionless, who is 21 on the list and was due to run in the Caulfield Cup on October 20. He added: "Emotionless was the other and we were hoping to run in the Caulfield Cup, but he's met with a setback earlier in the week so we'll have to take it quiet with him for the next week."

He is due to have a scan on Monday before connections decide whether to list him among the acceptors for the Caulfield Cup. He is currently restricted to light walking duties at Werribee.

Head to the international section of the Racing Post website for all Stuart Riley's updates from Melbourne

We don't want to run, but we may have to
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