There is a pot of 5 million euros to be won over 3,200 metres of Australian turf. After three days of rain, the ground could be soft and make fresh demands on the bodies of horses who have been put through the wringer this season.
But there are two French horses well suited to this marathon configuration: Dunaden, the holder, and Americain, winner in 2010.
Dunaden could benefit from the good advice of his trainer, Mikel Delzangles, fresh from his successful trip to California for the Breeders’ Cup, where Flotilla won the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Dunaden is on the up, though some pointers give cause to question whether this is a nailed-on victory.
Dunaden and Christophe Lemaire, his favourite jockey, will have to shed the couple of pounds put on since their last win in the Caufield Cup, the warm-up to the Emirates Melbourne Cup.
What is more, no horse has won the Caufield-Melbourne Cup double since 2001, when Sheila Laxon, riding Ethereal, became the first woman to win this Aussie event.
This extra weight could benefit Americain, trained by Chantilly’s Alain de Royer Dupré. He is after revenge for the defeat of Shareta in the Breeders’ Cup, and will enter Americain, no longer ridden by Gérard Mossé, but by the very popular Australian, Damien Oliver, who is mourning the death of his brother Jason, also a jockey.
Damien Oliver has tasted victory twice on this course: in 1995 on Doriemus and in 2002 on Media Puzzle. In this particularly tightly-packed race, enthusiasts will also be keeping a close eye on André Fabre’s Brigantin who, despite disappointing recent results, has never really fulfilled his potential over this distance.