Melbourne Cup preview and tips
Our racing experts preview the 2012 Melbourne Cup at Flemington.PT0M0S 620 349
WHO would have thought one measly millimetre could attract so much attention - not to mention emotional torment. That tiny margin has haunted my last 12 months, and the day for redemption has arrived.
Cast your mind back to last year's Melbourne Cup. UK invader Red Cadeaux was lining up in the $6 million event. He was unheralded at the time, but that was about to change. Expertly trained by Ed Dunlop, Red Cadeaux belied his big odds to run one hell of a race in the gruelling two-mile test at Flemington.
Only problem was, he finished second, and it's something that can't be erased from the memory.
On the nose: Dunaden wins from Red Cadeaux in last year's Melbourne Cup.
Everywhere I look at the moment there seems to be something reminding me of that classic encounter - the huge spring carnival advertisements that feature the Melbourne Cup finish, the constant promotional ads that show the same thing, over and again.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Just when Red Cadeaux loomed up to win, it was the French stayer Dunaden who managed to kick on strongly and win by the narrowest of margins - a nose.
The minutes ticked by as I awaited a result with Dunaden's jockey Christophe Lemaire, a flurry of emotions coursing through my mind and body.
And because we finished the most famous second in the history of the world's richest handicap, the demons have remained ever since.
Could I have done something different on Red Cadeaux? Should I have had him in another spot in the running? And did I push the go button too early?
There's no point beating yourself up over things, it won't change the result. But if I had my time over I probably would have saved his finishing sprint until just a few strides later.
In the wake of the defeat I mentioned Red Cadeaux showed me a turn of foot I wasn't expecting. I also said it would have been easier to handle a half-length second rather than being beaten by that tiny millimetre.
Today is my chance to avenge things. The chance to win a second Melbourne Cup, something I've craved since scoring on my old mate Efficient back in 2007.
No jockey in the race will be able to escape some sort of pain this afternoon. Most of us will be physically exhausted after the race, having put our all into trying to win.
When I won in 2007 on Efficient, I remember that I felt almost spent with a mile to go. Efficient was a tough horse to ride sometimes as he pulled hard, and he was up for a fight that day. At about the halfway mark, I was looking for the pause button.
But you train so hard for this moment that you go on, and then victory becomes a possibility and you surge again and you don't stop until it's over. The pain subsides quickly when your number goes in the frame, but last year it was just absorbed by overwhelming disappointment.
Despite all that, Ed Dunlop has stuck solid, engaging me to ride Red Cadeaux again today. Hong Kong-based owner Ron Arculli has been loyal as well. For that I'm extremely grateful. The motivation is clearly there to go one better, and we only need to find that extra millimetre to make it happen.
Dunaden has returned to Australia and franked the strength of last year's Melbourne Cup form with his emphatic Caulfield Cup victory. In Red Cadeaux's favour is the fact he meets Dunaden two kilograms better at the weights for last year's heartbreaking loss.
I've been to Werribee, where Red Cadeaux has been in training since his arrival in Australia, for just the one spin on him in a workout this spring. It was an easy time for him, the same thing we did last year in his Melbourne Cup preparations.
Ed didn't want to change things too much as it was an all-but-perfect formula last year. Better to stick with the devil you know. Ed tells me Red Cadeaux is going even better than last year and that's enough for me. He's a great trainer who has enjoyed worldwide success.
Seeing Red Cadeaux in the flesh, and having that sit on him, only boosted my confidence in the horse. Just being on him, I could feel underneath that he is wider, but in a strong, athletic way. He is glowing in the coat, eating well, working well.
Now it will come down to luck on the day and, of course, me getting the job done. That's why Ed has put me on. Now I just have to repay the faith.
When I drew the barrier for Red Cadeaux on Saturday night, I wasn't overly thrilled with gate 18. But Ed was unfazed, pointing out that we had barrier 16 last year.
We ended up getting a great run 12 months ago, slotting over to be one off the rails pretty quickly. He travelled well within himself and then improved into the race when I asked him to, and got to the outside to unleash that sprint that I now know he possesses.
Ed and I haven't discussed the tactics for today's race yet, but a quick look at the field and barrier draw suggests that there should be a bit of pressure up front early. That would suit Red Cadeaux, as it should allow us to be able to find a nice position again. I'd love to get a run as good as we had last year, and then it will be up to me to time that winning charge.
Sure, it does look to be a strong Melbourne Cup - the last two winners of the race are in there, Dunaden and Americain - but Red Cadeaux has proven he can match it with them, and his form since last year has been first class.
The scene is now set. A year's worth of pain could evaporate in an instant. It's just a matter of pushing that button - at precisely the right time.