JAPANESE star Fame Game has grabbed the Melbourne Cup spotlight following his controversial Australian debut in the Caulfield Cup.
Stewards hauled both jockey Zac Purton and trainer Yoshitada Munakata in for questioning after the horse came from last to finish a slashing sixth behind Kiwi Mongolian Khan, weaving between runners over the final 300m and hitting the line better than any other runner.
A warning was issued, and bookmakers reacted immediately by cutting Fame Game's Melbourne Cup odds from $8.50 to $5 to repeat the victory of fellow Japanese stayer Delta Blues who carried the same colours to victory in 2006.
With the first of the big Cups out of the way, Preferment, Criterion and classy import Highland Reel can make a statement in Saturday's weight-for-age Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley.
Wonder mare Winx, one of three Chris Waller runners, faces her biggest test to date around the tight Valley track in a race where the speed will be intense from the 800m. She shares favouritism with Criterion at $5.50 after he returned to win the Caulfield Stakes (2000m) nine days ago.
Quality act Highland Reel, to be ridden by globetrotting superstar hoop Ryan Moore, is breathing down their neck in betting at $6.
Moore, who rode a brilliant race to win last year's Melbourne Cup on Protectionist, was suspended at the Ascot meeting in England at the weekend but will still be able to take the ride on the Aidan O'Brien-trained Highland Reel, regarded as an outstanding galloper in Europe.
O'Brien and Moore combined to win the Cox Plate last year with Adelaide, and Highland Reel has followed the same path.
Two starts back the son of Galileo blitzed his rivals in the Group One Secretariat Stakes (2000m) in Arlington, the same race Adelaide won before coming to Australia.
Criterion looks a great chance after having no luck when seventh in last year's Cox Plate, beaten less than one-and-a-half lengths.
A similar case can be made for the Waller-trained four-old Preferment ($13) who beat Royal Descent and Set Square in the Group One Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington after a strong win in the Hill Stakes at Randwick, also over 2000m.
Waller, who will have a big say in the race, has booked Glen Boss for his other star runner Kermadec, which is rated a $7 chance.
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