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Melbourne hoping Latrobe heads down under but Williams concerned with weight

Joseph and Donnacha O'Brien alongside Latrobe, owned by Lloyd Williams, who has a rich affinity with the Melbourne Cup
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Joseph O'Brien took Australia by storm in last year's Melbourne Cup and officials in Victoria are hoping the country's biggest race will attract another powerful European challenge.

O'Brien Irish Derby hero Latrobe has been quoted as a general 25-1 shot for the race that stops a nation, although owner Lloyd Williams has expressed trepidation over his participation due to weight, while the weekend featured another possible high-profile challenger when Withhold ran out a ready winner of the Northumberland Plate to stake a claim for a flight to Australia.

Leigh Jordon, executive general manager of Racing at the Victoria Racing Club (VRC), said on Monday: "There would certainly be great interest in seeing Latrobe come to Flemington and I heard Lloyd Williams on the radio this morning doing his best to convince the handicapper not to give him too much weight."

Williams, speaking on RSN 927's Racing Pulse show, said of Latrobe: "I would be surprised if you see him but I'm always keen on a Melbourne Cup."

The six-time winner of Australia's most famous race explained: "Latrobe is only a three-year-old so to bring them out here they have to be down at the bottom of the weights because they are conceding time to the other horses.

"If they gave him some sort of opportunity of being competitive in the race at the weights I would obviously consider bringing him out but there's a big question mark at the moment."

Rekindling was rated 114 when finishing fourth in the St Leger, running to a Racing Post Rating of 117, on his final start prior to winning at Flemington, while Latrobe was rated 103 when recording a famous success at the Curragh on Saturday, also achieving an RPR of 117.

O'Brien said on Sunday at the Curragh regarding a possible tilt at the Cup: "I really don't know. He's probably going to have a good bit more weight than Rekindling had last year so it could be a big ask."

Jordon said of the enthusiasm surrounding O'Brien's previous Australian success: "Joseph winning last year was just the most unbelievable thing at his age. We'd obviously love to see him come back again and it'd be a great story should Latrobe line up in the race, ridden by Donnacha and taking on Aidan – it would just be fantastic."

He added: "I think everyone is keen on the international participation here and we all love the Irish. If you see the parade before the Cup you'll understand the affection people have for the international connection surrounding the race."

Withhold is the 16-1 ante-post favourite for Flemington after winning off a mark of 99 at Newcastle, and Jordon added: "Roger Charlton actually sent me an email back in February saying that Melbourne will be the aim of the horse for the whole year and the Northumberland Plate was the first step on the road.

Withhold: heads the Melbourne Cup market after Northumberland Plate victory
"He probably needs to run in a good Group 3 or Group 2 – something like the Geoffrey Freer Stakes or the Lonsdale Cup."

Another British-trained runner towards the head of the market for the November feature is Ian Williams' Magic Circle, whose owner Marwan Koukash has made an interesting promise to Australian officials should his six-year-old triumph at Flemington.

"I know Marwan pretty well, it would be a great story" said Jordon. "He's been here before and when he came out with Mount Athos in particular he had the whole crowd in the palm of his hand."

He added: "Marwan has already threatened things over the phone to me that if he wins he's going to strip naked in the presentation and all that sort of stuff but I'm going to guarantee that he'll at least hold off until after the presentation!"

Jessica Harrington's Torcedor produced an excellent performance in defeat at Royal Ascot to finish third in the Gold Cup and Jordon's eye has been caught by the strong staying six-year-old.

Torcedor: Jessica Harrington's runner is another possible for Melbourne
"I'm really keen on Torcedor coming over after his brilliant run in the Ascot Gold Cup and I reckon that he was the one to take out of that race" he said. "I think he'd be ideal for the Cup.

"We'd obviously love to see Stradivarius and Vazirabad here too but it'll surely depend on what weight they get and what other targets they have in mind."

Harrington told the Racing Post on Monday: "He'll be under consideration for the race but no decision has been made as of yet."

Jordon added: "Kew Gardens is a three-year-old I'd love to see here in November. He was brilliant in the Queen's Vase and wouldn't it be great to see Aidan travel with Flag Of Honour after winning the Curragh Cup on Sunday?"

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If they gave him some sort of opportunity of being competitive in the race at the weights I would obviously consider bringing him out
E.W. Terms