Aidan O’Brien believes Bondi Beach ticks all the boxes to win Australia’s biggest race, the Emirates Melbourne Cup, run at Flemington in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Bondi Beach was well beaten in this race 12 months ago at the end of a busy first campaign, but, since then, O’Brien has always had his eyes on a return visit.
A stronger horse this year and having a good draw in stall five, the omens suggest Bondi Beach has a big chance and will be ridden by the in-form Ryan Moore for the first time.
“The draw seems fine and we’re looking forward to it,” said O’Brien.
“He’s a very strong traveller, he goes through his races very well.
“He probably doesn’t want to be in front too long, but that’s the way he’s always been.
“He stays well and has a lot of class.”
Lloyd Williams, one of Bondi Beach’s co-owners, has been impressed with the way the trainer has handled the horse’s preparation.
“The horse has matured a bit from last year,” he said.
“Aidan seems to be pretty happy with him and the vibe with him is they are happy with him.
“Aidan O’Brien’s attention to detail, to run a business as big as his, I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
While Bondi Beach fared well with the draw, the two other Irish challengers, Heartbreak City and Wicklow Brave, have had no luck, being posted out widest of all in stalls 23 and 24 respectively.
Wicklow Brave’s trainer Willie Mullins accepts the draw is out of his control but the horse is in peak condition for the severe test.
“The draw is obviously not ideal, but there’s nothing we can do about that and we’re just focusing on the positives,” said County Carlow-based Mullins.
“David Casey (assistant) has been very pleased with the horse and he did a lovely bit of work on Saturday morning after I arrived.
“He’s in great shape, Frankie (Dettori) obviously knows the place well and we’ll see what we can do.”
Tony Martin is expecting a big run from Heartbreak City, who has been kept fresh for this race after winning the Ebor at York in August.
“Deep down, I think my horse will give a really good account of himself. I’d be disappointed if he doesn’t give a really good show,” said the County Meath handler.
“Everything Willie runs in a big race, you just have to respect, and he (Wicklow Brave) is coming here with the right credentials.
“He won an Irish St Leger – that one of Aidan O’Brien’s probably didn’t run up to form on the day, Order Of St George – but his runs prior to that I think were excellent.”
The Michael Bell-trained Big Orange ran a massive race last year when fifth and looks favoured by being placed in stall seven.
“Big horses take time to mature and fill their frame,” said the Newmarket handler.
“I n theory, he should be a better horse this year and the formbook suggests he is.
“He has to buck a trend for English horses in this race and he’s got top weight so he’s got to be significantly the best horse to win the race.”
Jockey Jamie Spencer rates Big Orange as the best stayer in Europe and is bullish about his chances.
“This year we’re going into the race off a different preparation,” he told At The Races.
“We know he runs well fresh – he was second in Dubai after a break.
“We’re going into it off the back of a couple of wins and I’m told he travelled down a lot better this year than he did last year.
“He’s a big horse that takes a bit of time to get into his stride.
“He’s shown he’s the best stayer in Europe, he’s a good horse and looks to be improving.
“I wouldn’t swap Big Orange for anything.”
Godolphin have no fewer than five runners in their quest to finally lift the Melbourne Cup.
Heading their team is the former Mark Johnston-trained Hartnell, now based Down Under with John O’Shea.
“I think that his form warrants for him to be head of the market,” said O’Shea.
“There are horses with less form who have started shorter in Melbourne Cups and been very effective.
“So I think he’s entitled to be somewhere near the top of the market.”
Saeed bin Suroor’s Secret Number and Beautiful Romance and Charlie Appleby’s pair of Oceanographer and Qewy make up Godolphin’s strong squad.
Appleby was delighted with Oceanographer’s win in the Lexus Stakes that secured his place in the line-up.
“Kerrin (McEvoy) gave him a great ride in the Lexus and the guys over here did a great job freshening him up after the Geelong,” he said.
“It’s very alien for us Europeans to back one up as quick as this over this sort of trip, but he deserves to take his chance now.
“We got a nice draw in stall 11 and Qewy’s got 15, so they’re two nice draws.
“Qewy looks in great order. He did a piece of work on Friday and everyone was pleased.
“He’s kept his coat well and has had a nice little break between the Geelong and the Melbourne Cup.
“I’m surprised what a big price he is. I’d put him in with a live shot.”