Connections of last year’s Caulfield Cup winner may have suffered some early disappointment with the withdrawal of Green Moon from this year’s Melbourne Cup but they still have two chances in the classic including the well-drawn Fawkner in barrier nine.
The official barrier draw for Tuesday’s $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) was conducted live from Flemington Racecourse, where the ‘race that stops a nation’ will be held in a few days’ time, on Saturday afternoon.
Gates for all the 24 confirmed Melbourne Cup horses were drawn by the respective connections including barrier nine for the Robert Hickmott-trained Reset seven-year-old Fawkner.
The grey gelding raced in last year’s Melbourne Cup field finishing a brave sixth, six lengths behind Gai Waterhouse’s maiden winner Fiorente.
This year he’s been tracking nicely for another crack at the world’s richest handicap and will go into the race fourth-up.
Two back Fawkner won the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) with owner Lloyd Williams’ godson Nick Hall in the saddle after getting nosed out of the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) first-up at Flemington by Dissident on September 13.
His final Melbourne Cup tune-up was then on Cox Plate Day at Moonee Valley when beaten only a long neck by Irish raider Adelaide in the day’s marquee race over 2040m.
“I think he’s actually in better form than last year even though he’d won the Caulfield Cup,” co-owner Nick Williams told TVN after the Melbourne Cup barriers were drawn.
“This year he’s beaten Happy Trails at weight-for-age…the horse has improved from last year and we’re very hopeful.”
Hall was in the saddle for the Cox Plate and retains the ride again on Melbourne Cup Day shooting for his first ‘Loving Trophy’.
“Being drawn in the middle gives Nick every chance to get the horse to go to sleep and give him a great run into transit,” Williams said talking Melbourne Cup tactics for the November 4 race on everyone’s mind.
Williams’ Macedon Lodge stables meanwhile boast four previous Melbourne Cup wins with: Green Moon (2012) out this year with a cracked hoof, Efficient (2007), What A Nuisance (1985) and Just A Dash (1981).
“I guess we’re fortunate Green Moon’s had his day in the sun,” Williams said.
“We’re hoping it’s only a minor ailment and we’ll see him again this spring.”
Up in distance for Melbourne Cup Day, Fawkner is well fancied in the latest markets at Ladbrokes.
The favourite at $5 remains Caulfield Cup winner Admire Rakti from Japan who was another winner in the Melbourne Cup barrier draw with gate eight.
One on the favourite’s outside is then Fawkner, also at single figures to win at an updated price of $8.
Barrier nine last produced a Melbourne Cup winner back in 2007 with the Graeme Rogerson-trained Efficient who carried 54.5kg to victory, one of Team Williams’ aforementioned past champions.
“I’m of the view that barriers aren’t that important in this race and the historical data shows that,” Williams added.
“All the jockeys get the chance to get into the position they want to get into.”
Fawkner is out to be the next but will carry more weight with 57kg, equal second heaviest along with the Saeed Bin Suroor-trained Cavalryman (barrier three) and dual Melbourne Cup runner-up Red Cadeaux (barrier 15).
Admire Rakti tops the Melbourne Cup weights with 58.5kg, which includes a half-kilo penalty for the Caulfield Cup win – punters having to go back to Think Big in 1975 to find the last winner with that weight.
Williams was also playing the local card saying that as the only Australian-bred, owned and raced horse in this year’s internationally influenced Melbourne Cup line-up he hoped the punters rallied behind him.
“There’s not another race we can say that about so I hope the country gets behind him,” he said.
The stable will also saddle-up Sea Moon from barrier 18 with Tommy Berry aboard.
Barrier 18 is the only Melbourne Cup gate yet to produce a winner, a hoodoo the $151 roughie shot looks a slim to none chance of overcoming in 2014.
Another seven-year-old, the son of Beat Hollow was dead last and beaten over nine lengths in the Caulfield Cup last time out.
Williams admitted it was hard to make a case for him improving enough off that run to win the Melbourne Cup but that he was a class galloper capable of better form.
“It’s hard to make a case but he’s a high class horse,” he said.
“He has the ability to run a great race.
“With the run he put in in the Caulfield Cup it’s hard to have confidence but I wouldn’t be shocked if he was in the finish.”