Melbourne Cup 2023: Tom Collins previews the race that stops the nation

6 November 2023

Thrilling international flat racing continues as we head to Flemington on Tuesday morning for the 163rd Melbourne Cup just two days after the Breeders’ Cup took the world by storm.

A maximum field of 24 runners will take part in the two-mile contest that offers a phenomenal prize fund of £4.3million, with just over half going to the winner. Plenty of familiar names will line up with runners from Ireland, Japan and Australia, while jockeys Ryan Moore and Hollie Doyle have made their way across from California to take part.

Two previous winners are back again for more this year in the form of Vow And Declare (2019) and Gold Trip (2023). The latter is bidding to become the first back-to-back Melbourne Cup victor since Makybe Diva, who won three consecutive renewals between 2003 and 2005 for trainers David Hall and Lee Freedman. The trends suggest it’s a difficult task, but his build-up couldn’t have gone much better.

The same can be said for former Simon and Ed Crisford trainee Without A Fight, who has won three of his first starts in Australia and plundered the Caulfield Cup last month. A total of 11 horses have won that race and the Melbourne Cup in the same season, but the last to do so was Ethereal back in 2001. 

With statistics firmly hinting that it could be a struggle for the two Aussies high up in the betting, perhaps this year’s edition of the race that stops the nation will go to a European challenger - and there’s a very good one in Vauban. After all, Europeans have won three of the last six Melbourne Cups.

Vauban has travelled 17,283km from Willie Mullins’ Closutton base in Ireland to Melbourne for this early winter (or summer if you’re using local seasons!) target, but he seems to have settled in nicely despite the differing climate if his morning track breezes are to be believed. He thundered by the grandstand ahead of stablemate Absurde in a work out just a few days ago and seems to be firing on all cylinders.

Acclimatising to Australian conditions after such a long journey has to be the only major concern when it comes to Vauban. Although he is best known for his hurdling exploits, this five-year-old is an excellent talent on the level and has won four of his six starts, which includes a romp in the Copper Horse Handicap at Royal Ascot earlier this year. 

He dominated that contest from the outset and never looked like being beaten, and it was pretty much the same story in the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes when he was last seen. Mullins has freshened him, he has a great draw in stall three, and Ryan Moore is the best rider in the world right now. Although he’s relatively short in the market, a strong case could be made for him being even skinnier.

Vauban is by far the most logical winner, but I will also have an each-way bet on Ashrun at huge odds. Kerrin McEvoy’s mount ran to a good level when formerly trained by Andreas Wohler - he finished third in the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Bayern in 2019 - and performed better than his eventual position suggested when he took 10th in this contest last year. 

He broke from a terrible draw (stall 23) that time around and had to close from miles off the pace. Fortunately, he has fared better in the post position stakes this time around by being awarded stall 11 and I thought he ran pretty promisingly in the Geelong Cup when last seen. Fingers crossed he runs home powerfully to grab a place.

Melbourne Cup 2023 Tips

Vauban (4.00am Flemington, Tuesday) @ 7/2
Ashrun (4.00am Flemington, Tuesday) @ 40/1 EACH-WAY

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