STRAIGHT-shooting owner and respected form analyst Luke Murrell has shot holes in all of the top chances for the Melbourne Cup at Flemington.
Murrell's Australian Bloodstock goes into the race with the well-exposed Big Duke and the more lightly raced import Red Cardinal. Previously they have won the race with Protectionist (2014) and also unearthed the freakishly talented Lucas Cranach, which ran third in 2011 despite a hoof injury.
Murrell isn't approaching this year's race with the same confidence he did with Protectionist, but feels there are many rivals that simply "can't win".
"I think there's a lot in the race you can put the pen through," he said.
"No doubt the horse with the best rating in the race is Humidor, but if you look at (Humidor's sire) Teofilo's record of getting 2400m horses, it's atrocious and he's had a few goes at getting 2400m and done nothing.
"He scares me because of that last run and Weiry's a freak, but not for me.
"Hartnell's a no, Almandin's a no, Tiberian's a no, Johannes Vermeer definitely won't run the trip."
He's also not glowing about the chances of new favourite Marmelo.
"I was a bit different to everyone else. I didn't think Marmelo was as good as others did (in the Caulfield Cup)," he said.
"It was a mad fence day and for 2000m of the 2400m he stayed on the fence. No disrespect to Single Gaze, but he still couldn't get past her after the post.
"Look, he's a nice horse and the way the field is, he's obviously a top-four or five chance."
Murrell believes Red Cardinal is capable of turning around the six lengths margin between the pair when they met in the Kergolay.
"Given what we know about Red Cardinal's issues with the skin disease that day, I'm pretty confident to say with even luck we will be beating Marmelo," he said.
But there is a horse from left field he's giving a lot of respect to.
"Normally it's rubbish form, but I would give the Ebor winner (Nakeeta) some hope. He ran a record that day," he said.
Red Cardinal is likely to go right back in the field from barrier 24.
"There looks a lot of pressure in the race and we know he will be really strong through the line," he said.
Our bloke has a lot of upside. If we got a drop of rain I would be warming to say he's a guaranteed top-three chance.
"Big Duke, if he runs up to Sydney run, he will run top three, but Darren (Weir) is not 100 per cent sure just how good he is going.
"I really think this year it will be down to the fittest horse."
FRANKIE READY TO BREAK CUP HOODOO
FRANKIE Dettori touched down in Melbourne on Monday keen to erase the demons of Cups gone by and make the most of his late call-up for defending champ Almandin in the $6.2 million feature at Flemington.
Dettori's Cup mission dates back to 1993. He has always felt 1999 was the one that got away. That year he rode Central Park into second, but only after Godolphin's top seed Kayf Tara was sidelined by injury.
Two years ago he was a fast-closing second on Max Dynamite.
"This race has eluded me for so many years so the chance to ride the favourite is very exciting," he said.
"It is up there with the very best (races in the world).
"The Melbourne Cup has grown in stature over the last 20 years. Horses from all over the world, it's the one every jockey wants to win and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to win it, so I'm going to try again.
"I managed to get 10 hours' sleep on the plane. The adrenaline has already kicked in, I'm so excited. It's going to be a great race and let's hope we can break this hoodoo."
He described Almandin's last-start fourth in the Bart Cummings as "a good prep race".
"If he could do it twice, it would be absolutely amazing," he said.
Dettori is one of the world's most flamboyant riders but even he has been taken aback by what he has seen at Flemington during his Melbourne Cups visits.
"It's absolute mayhem," he says.
"One year someone stuck a broom on some sort of inflatable doll and started waving it in front of my horse.
"You see all sorts of masks and crazy things out there. We try to concentrate, but it's part and parcel of the Melbourne Cup carnival. It's all good banter and it's very exciting."
Dettori rates Marmelo the best of this year's imports and also has respect for Rekindling after his solid three-year-old season in Europe.
"The last run of Marmelo was pretty impressive. He looks like he needs two miles. He has had time to acclimatise, so he would be my No. 1 of the Europeans," he said.
Asked to compare his Arc winner Enable with Australia's champion Winx, Dettori said he would stick with the European filly.
"Take nothing away from Winx. She's won 22 races in a row, she's your phenomenon," he said.
"Who knows if it will happen or not (a clash between the two), but I would stick with mine."
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