LEADING jockey Craig Williams says he will hold Dunaden in higher regard than three-time Melbourne Cup champion Makybe Diva if the French raider can carry his hefty weight to back-to-back Melbourne Cups at Flemington today.
Williams is confident Dunaden can give him his first Melbourne Cup and defy history by becoming the first overseas-trained stayer to win the race with more than 56 kilograms.
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Dunaden, who will lump 59 kilograms today, must set a modern weight-carrying record to defend his crown.
Think Big won the second of his Cups with 58.5 kilograms in 1975, while champion mare Makybe Diva lumped 58 kilograms when she won her third straight Cup in 2005.
''In my eyes, it would put him above Makybe … in my eyes,'' Williams said of a potential Dunaden win.
''He's special to me. He [would be] my first Melbourne Cup, and he's special. You can't take anything away from Makybe Diva, she was a champion, she won it three times.
''[But] if this horse can do it two times, with that weight, he's a champion, without a doubt.''
In addition to her three Melbourne Cups, Makybe Diva also won a Cox Plate, a BMW Stakes and an Australian Cup in a career that yielded 15 wins from 36 races and earned connections more than $14 million - making her the highest stakes-earner in Australasian horse racing history.
Dunaden, with Williams on board, won the Caulfield Cup last month to boost his record to 10 wins from 34 starts for more than $7 million in prizemoney.
That figure would jump closer to Makybe Diva's benchmark if he claims the lion's share of the $6 million purse today.
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The man who steered Makybe Diva to those Melbourne Cups, champion jockey Glen Boss, will be aiming for his fourth Melbourne Cup victory when he rides Lexus Stakes winner Kelinni.
He was quick to defend Makybe Diva and shoot down any comparison between Dunaden and Makybe Diva. ''Nothing is as special as Makybe,'' he said on Monday.
Boss said he not only wanted to join legendary jockeys Bobby Lewis and Harry White as four-time Melbourne Cup winners, but surpass them. ''If I can win tomorrow, and then pull out another win before my time is up, then that will give me the record for the most Melbourne Cups won by a jockey. That's what I want to be remembered for.''
Meanwhile, as jockeys were jostling to promote their mounts before the big day, punters were snapping up the early odds at the Call Of The Card.
The best-backed runner was mare Lights Of Heaven, who was backed to win $1.2 million with Betstar's Alan Eskander.
Eskander offered odds of $21 about the Caulfield Cup placegetter, which was quickly snapped up by two of Australia's biggest punters, Sean and Kingsley Bartholomew, who forked out $25,000 and $15,000 respectively to back the five-year-old Zabeel mare.
Surprisingly, few punters wanted to back the past two Cup winners - Americain and Dunaden - although one punter had $50,000 on Dunaden at $8.
Corporate bookmakers are not permitted at the Call Of The Card, but they too were reporting plenty of action on Monday, and the focus was English stayer Mount Athos. The Luca Cumani-trained stayer was the medium of a sustained plunge and he now shares the top line of betting with Americain and Dunaden.
"We've written more tickets on Mount Athos today than any other runner in the race and the volume has been enormous," Sportingbet Australia's chief executive Michael Sullivan said.
"Of the three equal favourites, Mount Athos is the most likely to start favourite tomorrow if this late money is any indication."