The 2015 Australian Cup field has been released and 16 talented gallopers are set to contest the Group 1 event at Flemington on Saturday.
Protectionist has been included in the Australian Cup field and will have the opportunity to join the likes of Let’s Elope (1992), Makybe Diva (2005) and Fiorente (2014) as horses that have completed the Melbourne Cup/Australian Cup double in the same season.
The Monsun entire returned to racing with a credible sixth place finish behind Mourinho in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on February 28, but he is still an unproven performer over 2000 metres.
Red Cadeaux finished second behind Protectionist in the Melbourne Cup and he will have the chance to turn-the-tables on his rival in the Australian Cup.
The veteran stayer will be having his fifth race start in Australia this weekend, but amazingly will be having his first start in Australia outside of the Group 1 Melbourne Cup after finishing second in the race in 2011, 2013 and 2014.
Another horse that adds some international flavour to the 2015 Australian Cup field is Kiwi galloper Puccini, who will be having his first race start in Australia since he finished fifth behind Criterion in the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) last year.
Puccini returned to his best form when he took out the Group 1 Thordon Mile (1600m) at Trentham on January 24, but he finished a disappointing 8th as favourite in the Group 1 Haunai Farm Classic (1600m) at Otaki on February 21.
The Peter Young Stakes is set to be a key form-guide to the Australian Cup and the likes of Mourinho, Happy Trails, Akzar, Spillway, Au Revoir, Lidari and Sonntag will all be backing-up in the $1 million event at Flemington on Saturday.
Mourinho is racing in career best form and he was too strong from his rivals in the Peter Young Stakes, but Happy Trails has an excellent record at Flemington and he has previously won the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) and Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) over the track and distance of the Australian Cup.
One of the most interesting runners in the 2015 Australian Cup field is The Cleaner and the popular galloper is likely to take up the running in the early stages of the race.
The Cleaner returned to racing with a surprise defeat to Admiral in the Listed George Adams Plate (1600m) at Launceston on February 25, but trainer Mick Burles believes that the Savoire Vivre gelding has taken plenty of benefit from the run heading into the Australian Cup.
Godolphin galloper Harntell was not included in the Australian Cup field and will not be making the trip to Melbourne for the race, but leading Sydney trainers Gai Waterhouse and Chris Waller will still be represented.
Greatwood returned to winning form with a tough win in the Listed Parramatta Cup (1900m) at Rosehill Gardens on February 21 and will represent Waterhouse in the Australia Cup, while Waller-trained Foreteller is taking good form into the Group 1 event after finishing sixth behind Contributer in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Warwick Farm on February 28.
The 2015 Australian Cup final field is rounded out by consistent gelding Extra Zero, imported stayer Big Memory and Team Hawkes-trained Entirely Platinum.