Melbourne Cup: The Aussie battlers taking on the international raiders

Melbourne Cup: The Aussie battlers taking on the international raiders

The dominance of overseas horses in the Melbourne Cup comes as part of the package when you take Australia’s greatest race to a global market.

The door was opened when Irish trainer Dermot Weld showed it was possible to bring a horse from Europe to win the famous Australia race.

Then as the prize money was increased, more and more came, welcomed with open arms by Racing Victoria at the state of the art quarantined Werribee training facility.

Some Australian trainers and breeders became disgruntled as the opportunities to get local stayers into the historic race started to dry up. Others convinced that European stayers were superior, have shopped overseas for a potential Cup horse.

The Australian families synonymous with Cup victories, like Cummings and Freedman, gave way to global operators like Godolphin and O’Brien.

But winning the Cup remains instilled in Australian folklore and for a small-time trainer like Paul Preusker from country Victoria it is something he always dreamed of.

The Surprise Baby team taking on the international raiders with their $5500 horse. Source: Racing Photos/Getty Images

Preusker bought Surprise Baby at the New Zealand sales for a mere $5500 and he trains him on his Horsham property.

Getting a horse to the Cup is a bucket list item for the 47-year-old, and he admits to having a few nerves ahead of Tuesday’s race.

“I’m getting real toey,” he said.

“Once we get the horse to the races, we’ll switch off then.”

Surprise Baby, the Adelaide Cup winner in March, has raced only 10 times. But Preusker, who says his horse has freakish ability, thinks his bargain buy can upstage the international raiders chasing the Cup.

Vow and Declare – ‘every bit Australian’

Surprise Baby is one of just three horses in this year’s Cup to have done all its racing in Australia.

Vow and Declare, trained by Danny O’Brien, is every bit Australian and has done most of his training at the team’s Barwon Heads beachside training facility in Victoria.

He is owned by an Australian, trained by an Australian and ridden by an Australian," O'Brien said.

"Every part of him is Australian.

"It would be nice to turn the tide back a little bit on what's been going on for the last decade and show we've still the ability to have a Melbourne Cup horse born, bred and trained in Australia."

Vow And Declare has been given a familiar Cup build-up, finishing fourth in the Turnbull Stakes and runner-up to Japanese Mer De Glace in the Caulfield Cup.

But his longer-term preparation has been less traditional.

Trainer Danny O'Brien says his horse Vow and Declare is every bit Australian. Source: AAP

After a Queensland winter campaign yielding a Derby and Tatt's Cup victory, O'Brien opted not to spell Vow And Declare, instead using a more European philosophy.

"I guess it's a more similar preparation to what the European horses have," O'Brien said.

"They race through their summer there in June, July, August and get down here with that residual fitness.

"We didn't really want to stop with him after Queensland, he was in great form then, so we just kept going."

Vow And Declare will be ridden by Craig Williams who is bidding to join an elite group of seven jockeys to have ridden the winners of the big four races in Australia - the Golden Slipper, Cox Plate and Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.

Bart the Cups king still having an impact

Chris Waller was born in New Zealand but has adopted Australia as home and he will have two runners, Youngstar and Finche, as he strives for his first Cup win.

Instead of trying to prepare his duo for the Cup based on trending European methods, Waller instead has drawn on the successful methods of Australian Cups king, Bart Cummings.

Cummings was a believer in using racing during the spring to get training miles into the legs of his stayers – 10,000m was the benchmark – before preparing them to peak on Melbourne Cup day.

It was a method that won Cummings 12 Melbourne Cups.

“Bart was the master at this race, and you learn and follow someone like him,” Waller told the Age.

Waller, who guided the career of the incomparable Winx has broken all sorts of training records and recently became the first Australian trainer to win four Group One races on a single afternoon.

Finche, a horse bought from overseas by Waller, is the more favoured of the two and the horse that has the stable most bullish.

With AAP