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Thursday, 15 November, 2018

Mullins hoping all three runners can pay their way in 'open race'

Thomas Hobson: Ascot Stakes winner is one of three contenders for Willie Mullins
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Watch out Flemington, an Irish invasion is coming. A quarter of the Melbourne Cup field hail from Ireland and Dermot Weld has already proved it can be done after sending out Vintage Crop (1993) and Media Puzzle (2002) to land the most prized race in Australia.

Willie Mullins almost followed in the footsteps of Weld in 2015 when Max Dynamite was narrowly denied by Prince Of Penzance. Ireland's champion jumps trainer is back for more and so too is Max Dynamite, one of his three runners.

Mullins has arrived in Melbourne and is hoping that the expense of sending such a big army to the world's richest handicap will pay off.

He said: "The Melbourne Cup is such an iconic race. It's a target I've set and hopefully we might do it some year but it's such an open race and probably more open this year. I'm hoping we can catch a cheque with one, maybe two and if not all three, but it's going to be very tough.

"We didn't get as many runs into Max Dynamite as we'd have liked and didn't run him in high-profile races on purpose. I just hope that doesn't all backfire on us."

Max Dynamite: Willie Mullins' assistant David Casey says the 2015 Melbourne Cup runner-up lost less weight travelling over than he did two years ago
Thomas Hobson has managed to sneak into the race at the 11th hour following the late withdrawal of Jon Snow due to lameness, but stall 21 will make life difficult for Joao Moreira and the Magic Man will need all of his powers to win from such a wide berth. 

"Joao gave Heartbreak City a fantastic ride from 23 last year, so he knows what to do in these circumstances. He's the right man for the job from that draw. It's a huge relief that he got into the race. That is a victory in itself. He seems to be in very good form and David [Casey] has been happy with him."

Wicklow Brave was drawn widest of all in stall 24 last year but he will come out of stall eight this time and Mullins admitted there can be no excuses now with the versatile eight-year-old, who has won at the highest level over hurdles as well as on the Flat.

“Wicklow Brave has finally got a good draw and you'd like to think he has every chance from that draw. I'm delighted to book Stephen [Baster] to ride. He's the man in form down here at the moment.


THE IRISH INVADERS

Johannes Vermeer (trainer: Aidan O'Brien) 10-1
Max Dynamite (Willie Mullins) 16-1
Rekindling (Joseph O'Brien) 14-1
Thomas Hobson (Willie Mullins) 14-1
US Army Ranger
(Joseph O'Brien) 66-1
Wicklow Brave
(Willie Mullins) 66-1


David Casey, Mullins' assistant, has been based in Werribee for the last month and is in a better position than most to judge the Closutton trio.

"It's a case of so far, so good and we've not had any issues with any of them," Casey said. "Wicklow Brave was unlucky in the Caulfield Cup and has been fine since, while Max Dynamite and Thomas Hobson have been good.

"Max travelled over better than he did two years ago, which is a very good sign, and his work has been just as good as it was going into the race two years ago. Thomas Hobson is so laid-back that he's almost horizontal but he has been fine from day one and we're just looking forward to the race now."

Third time lucky for Vermeer?

With more luck on his side Johannes Vermeer could have been trying to complete the unthinkable treble in the Melbourne Cup. 

Aidan O'Brien's four-year-old flew home late to get within a head of Gailo Chop in the Caulfield Stakes and got caught in traffic jams the following week when a close third to Boom Time in the Caulfield Cup. After those two near-misses in Group 1s, could it be a case of third time lucky?

"Johannes Vermeer has done nothing wrong since he's been in the country. It was there for all to see in the Caulfield Cup, where he was pretty unlucky, and before that he had a pretty good pipe-opener in the Caulfield Stakes," said Nick Williams, son of owner Lloyd. 

He added: "There seem to be doubts around the place about whether he'll see the two miles out but certainly there are none from within the stable. He's drawn perfectly and we expect a solid run. I know Aidan is very keen on him."

Johannes Vermeer: just denied by Gailo Chop in the Caulfield Stakes

Rekindling represents Classic crop

Rekindling has been a revelation since joining Joseph O'Brien from the retired David Wachman at the end of last season. 

The three-year-old has been on the go since early April when he won the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown and held his own against Order Of St George and then Capri in the St Leger at Doncaster, where he was beaten only two lengths into fourth. 

His form stacks up but the concern is that at his age this may prove one battle too many.

"He's a three-year-old with pretty good form and he's competed at pretty much the highest level for most of the season," said Nick Williams, son of owner Lloyd.

"If you look at his form through Defoe, Stradivarius and Order of St George, I'd say on face value his form is as good as any in the race. We’re confident about his chances but obviously the issue is that he’s a three-year-old and that’s a risk because not many have run in it."

Joseph O'Brien has also thrown US Army Ranger into the mix, but the recent form of the 2016 Epsom Derby runner-up would struggle to get even Lee Evans excited. 

"US Army Ranger obviously came to me in the hope that he can regain his spark. We've completely changed his routine and Melbourne is a change of scenery for him, so hopefully it will have the desired effect. The lads said he travelled over well and they're happy with him," O'Brien said. 

Joseph O'Brien with Rekindling, the sole three-year-old in the field


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Joao gave Heartbreak City a fantastic ride from 23 last year, so he knows what to do in these circumstances. He's the right man for the job
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