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Can British raiders end 156-year hoodoo in Melbourne showstopper?

Nakeeta and Iain Jardine: could this be the team to end the British hoodoo in the Melbourne Cup?
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Red Cadeaux came closest. He could not have got any closer. Losing out by a nose to Dunaden in 2011 remains the tightest finish in the race's 156-year history. He was also runner-up in 2013 and 2014 and was without doubt the bravest British soldier ever to go to war in the world's richest handicap.

But those were moral victories and the harsh reality is that he never mastered the Melbourne Cup. The even harsher reality is that Flemington has foiled every one of the British challengers thus far.

Since 2010, 40 British-trained horses have tried and failed to win the Melbourne Cup. None of their predecessors did any better. Take Red Cadeaux out of the equation and the closest any horses got to the holy grail this decade were Jakkalberry and Mount Athos, who finished third in 2012 and 2013 respectively. None of the others were placed, which means almost 90 per cent of British-based runners this decade have been unplaced. That is not a statistic to be proud of.

And there was you thinking that England, Scotland and Wales's wretched World Cup record was something to be embarrassed about. At least the Three Lions have 1966 to shout about. This is far more serious. This is a 156-year drought which needs to end and end now.

The biggest British army this decade arrived in 2011 when they had nine of the 24 runners. Red Cadeaux was cruelly denied in that famous finish but Manighar was the only one of the remainder to finish in the top five. 

Hughie Morrison is the one burdened with most British hopes this year. He trains Marmelo, the shortest-priced of the Brits following an eye-catching effort in the Caulfield Cup, and he now understands the magnitude of the task facing him.

"Before you get down here you are surprised that no British horse has ever won it. But when you get here you realise the mammoth task that is involved in trying to get a horse to win the Melbourne Cup," Morrison explains. 

He adds: "You have to factor in so many things. You have to take into account the conditions, the weights and all the travelling. It is not easy, let me tell you. Everything needs to go right and you need a lot of luck."

The Fairy Story Partners and Christophe Soumillon celebrate after Marmelo's win in the Darley Prix Kergorlay

On Marmelo, Morrison said: "Everything is perfect with him and I'm very happy with him. It is a case of so far, so good."

If you were told three years ago that Iain Jardine would be the one to break the British hoodoo in the Melbourne Cup and that Nakeeta would be the horse he would do it with, you would have laughed hysterically at the suggestion. 

But Jardine, based just outside Dumfries in Scotland, has established himself as a very successful trainer in recent years and Nakeeta has transformed himself from a 67-rated maiden in the summer of 2014 into an Ebor hero now rated 108. Stranger things have happened. Much stranger. 

"It would mean the world to me to win it. I would be over the moon. We would do some partying," says Jardine with a smile that says more than a thousand words, before adding: "We went for a drink down the end of the street here the other night and a guy stopped me and asked what horse had I brought over. The Aussies absolutely love their racing."

And how is the stable star? "Nakeeta is very, very good. He seems nice and fresh after his Ebor win. He came out of the race very well and we have kept him ticking over. He travelled over very well. 

"We have a very similar profile to Heartbreak City [2016 Ebor winner who was runner-up in last year's Melbourne Cup] and it was him who gave us the incentive to come out here. Here's hoping we can go one better."

Then there is Wall Of Fire. The progressive four-year-old who followed up his fine second to Defoe in the Geoffrey Freer at Newbury by chasing home Lord Fandango on his Australian debut at Caulfield last month. That Herbert Power Stakes form could not have worked out better with Boom Time [fourth] winning the Caulfield Cup next time. 

Craig Williams, who has been booked to ride by Hugo Palmer, made his way to the international quarantine centre in Werribee on Wednesday morning to sit on the son of Canford Cliffs.

Williams said: "Wall Of Fire is an extremely healthy and happy horse right now and he is very fit. They are just keeping him ticking over and the stable are very happy with him. He is a very straightforward horse to ride. 

"He is not overly big and there is no doubt that having 53kg on his back will be a big help having carried 58kg last time. I am enjoying the way he is preparing. I am starting to understand his mannerisms. The more time I spend with him, the more I am understanding him."

Wall Of Fire: pictured winning the Mallard at Doncaster last year

Is the Melbourne Cup hoodoo going to be broken by one of the aforementioned talented trio or could last year's fourth Qewy, who battled his way to victory in the Bendigo Cup on Wednesday, be the one to make history?

Whether Qewy turns up on Tuesday is not yet known but in Marmelo, Wall Of Fire and Nakeeta, Britain have three genuine Melbourne Cup contenders capable of ending the curse. Could 2017 be the year? It might just be, you know.


BRITISH RECORD THIS DECADE

2016
Qewy (4th)
Beautiful Romance (7th)
Big Orange (10th)
Oceanographer (12th)
Secret Number (21st)

2015
Trip To Paris (4th)
Big Orange (5th)
Quest For More (9th)
Sky Hunter (22nd)
Snow Sky (23rd)
Red Cadeaux (pulled-up)

2014
Red Cadeaux (2nd)
Willing Foe (5th)
Seismos (9th)
Gatewood (12th)
Ambivalent (17th)

2013
Red Cadeaux (2nd)
Mount Athos (3rd)
Dandino (5th)
Brown Panther (8th)
Royal Empire (14th)
Ruscello (23rd)

2012
Jakkalberry (3rd)
Mount Athos (5th)
Red Cadeaux (8th)
Quest For Peace (10th)
Cavalryman (12th)

2011
Red Cadeaux (2nd)
Manighar (5th)
Lost In The Moon (6th)
Fox Hunt (7th)
Drunken Sailor (12th)
Moyenne Corniche (15th)
Saptapadi (16th)
Jukebox Jury (20th)
Modun (23rd)

2010
Holberg (6th)
Manighar (7th)
Illustrious Blue (9th)
Campanologist (16th)


If you are interested in this, you might also like:

Nakeeta and Rodriguez deny favourite in Ebor

Five things we can adopt from Australian racing

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Before you get down here you are surprised that no British horse has ever won it. But when you get here you realise the mammoth task that is involved
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