Melbourne Cup 2014: Fawkner poised to repel international invasion

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Fawkner is clearly the best performed Australian runner in Tuesday’s $6.2 million Emirates Melbourne Cup and is poised to follow the path of last year’s winner Fiorente and repel the international invasion.

Both Fawkner and Fiorente went into the Cup on the back of top Cox Plate runs, great form for a handicap and the lead-in Cup run for the past two winners as Green Moon (2012) also contested the weight-for-age race.

With the wave of internationals – they have 11 of the 24 runners – Australian owned and trained horses are in danger of being overwhelmed when it comes to our iconic race.

The raiders have won the two majors so far this spring, the Caulfield Cup to Japan’s Admire Rakti and the Cox Plate with Adelaide to Ireland.

But suddenly the local contingent is shaping up with a strong Melbourne Cup hand.

Fawkner is exclusively Australian – bred, owned, trained and ridden – while Signoff is English bred with a Brazilian jockey but Aussie owned and trained.

Fawkner’s owner Lloyd Williams is an old hand at winning the Melbourne Cup – he’s part-owned four winners – while Signoff’s trainer Darren Weir prepared 2003 runner-up She’s Archie when he was an emerging trainer from Ballarat. Now he’s the state’s leading trainer.

While Fawkner (No 3) ran a brave, strong-finishing sixth in last year’s Melbourne Cup when connections were critical of the ride and is the class horse, he pays the penalty with 57kilograms.

That’s where Saturday’s Lexus winner Signoff  (No 24) comes into contention as he has just 51kilograms, or 51.5kilograms as jockey Joao Moreira will ride a half kilo overweight.

It’s no more than he deserves on his record to date but there is a sense of timing eerily reminiscent of Shocking who won the Cup in 2009.

They have followed almost identical paths into the Cup running well in lower key handicaps without winning and therefore keeping their weight down and relying on a Lexus win to force their way into the Cup field.

Weir shrewdly held back blinkers until Saturday and the booking of world class jockey Moreira is a plus.

Of the internationals Admire Rakti was hugely impressive in the Caulfield Cup but the query is can he back up that supreme effort 17 days later against a better class field?

Also history says the 58.5kilogram is a stopper, the last Cup winner with that weight was Think Big in 1975.

If Signoff is a significant player so must be the German raider Protectionist, lightly raced and with his best still to come.

Protectionist impressed the way he powered home for fourth in the Herbert Power Handicap where Signoff ran second.

The fact he has had a lead-up run is significant.

It’s a proven formula for international Cup winners.

Media Puzzle (2002), Delta Blues (2006), Americain (2010) and Dunaden (2011) all had a preparatory run in Australia before going on to win the Cup.

Betting strategies for backing the Cup winner are many and varied – form analysts rely on speed maps, times, weights, jockeys. Once-a-year punters might prefer lucky numbers, favourite colours, or quirky names.

Exotic bet types – quinella, exacta, trifecta and first fours offer huge value with the option of flexi bets (a percentage of a $1 unit) ideal for a modest outlay.

Often a roughie fills a place in a Melbourne Cup (last year’s runner-up Red Cadeaux was $61). So for your exotics include Gatewood (No 10), Mutual Regard (No 11), Opinion (No 20), Araldo (No 21)  and how could you leave out the marvel Red Cadeaux (No 4) in his fourth Cup start.

SUGGESTED BETS for $50: Fawkner (No 3) $20 to win, Signoff (No 24) $10 to win; $20 first four flexi bets (5.95 per cent) 3 and 24 to win, 1, 3, 5 and 24 for second, with 1, 3, 5, 10, 11, 20, 21, 22, 24 to run third and fourth.

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