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Master Sydney horseman and dual country Hall of Famer Chris Waller is sweating on a kind Melbourne Cup 2019 barrier draw for his well-supported import Finche when gates for the ‘race that stops a nation’ are declared on Saturday evening.
Post the Victoria Derby Day racing action, the official barrier draw for the Group 1 $8 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) takes place following final acceptances and the Hotham Stakes results revealing the 24-horse line-up for the world’s richest handicap.
Waller is best known for his historical run with four-time Cox Plate champion, the now retired super mare Winx who stole the hearts of racing fans worldwide during her illustrious career that included a 33-straight winning streak and record 25 Group 1 wins.
The Kiwi expat was already a household name long before Winx came along having dominated the Sydney racing scene for many years.
He is yet however to prepare a Melbourne Cup winner despite having been saddling-up horses in the two-mile classic since 2009.
Waller’s first Melbourne Cup runner was Warringah who ran dead last (23rd) behind Shocking, who was the last Australian-bred Melbourne Cup winner.
“If you win the Melbourne Cup, the horse becomes instantly a household name around Australia because it is the race that everybody watches,” Waller told RSN 927 this week.
“People that speak to me about being a horse trainer, they say, ‘Have you won the Melbourne Cup?’ I tell them no and they say, ‘Well, obviously you are not very good then’.
“To tick the box of everybody in Australia, knowing who the horse is, who the trainer is, who the jockey is, you have to win the Melbourne Cup.”
This year Waller currently has two confirmed Melbourne Cup horses with last year’s fourth place-getter Finche and quality mare Youngstar getting in on 54kg and 52kg respectively.
An upset in Saturday’s Group 3 Lexus Hotham Stakes (2500m) by Patrick Erin could see the 46-year-old saddle-up three Melbourne Cup chances with the winner of the Derby Day race gaining an 11th hour slot in the Cup.
Finche is the one of the best in pre-field Melbourne Cup betting paying $11 through Ladbrokes.com.au.
The import, who ran fourth to Cross Counter in the race last year at just his second start down under from a wide barrier 15 draw, follows only Constantinople ($7.50) and the Japanese-trained Caulfield Cup winner Mer De Glace ($8.50) in the Melbourne Cup odds.
“It is pretty tricky. It is a race like no other. It is a marathon race of thoroughbreds and we don’t get too many goes at it and you have to get it right,” Waller explained.
“The Cox Plates, your weight-for-age races, they all carry the same weight.
“That is the easiest thing from that point of view and the best horse wins the race.
“A handicap is a little bit tricky. You have to have a little bit of luck in the running and your horse has to stay two miles, a tough two miles.”
Finche looks a more furnished stayer for his second shot at the ‘Loving Trophy’.
The six-year-old son of Frankel has had four runs this preparation including a Group 3 Kingston Town Classic (2000m) win at Randwick and close second to stablemate Kings Will Dream in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m).
He was last seen finishing fifth when making up ground to cross just 1.6 lengths off Mer De Glace in the Caulfield Cup over the mile and a half.
“He is a much better horse,” Waller said.
“He is a year older, a lot more tractable now and he has had the benefit of 12 months in Australian warmth and weather, and he has had the right preparation – last year was a stop-start type of approach.
“He had to run in the Geelong Cup and then he ran very bravely in the Melbourne Cup from a wide draw finishing fourth.”
Finche also had a wide gate (15) in the Caulfield Cup and Waller is hoping the horse’s barrier luck changes for the 2019 Melbourne Cup.
“Let’s hope the barrier draw gods are in our favour on Saturday night,” he said.
Jockey Kerrin McEvoy is back in the saddle having won the Kingston town on the lightly raced British import.
McEvoy chases a record equaling fourth Melbourne Cup victory following his victories aboard Brew (2000), Almandin (2016) and last year’s winner Cross Counter (2018).
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