Favourite Yucatan pulls horror gate as invaders fare badly in Cup draw
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Favourite Yucatan pulls horror gate as invaders fare badly in Cup draw

They won't quite start from the car park - but many of the overseas invaders in Tuesday's Melbourne Cup might feel as though they are.

Race favourite Yucatan immediately drifted in the market after pulling  barrier 23 at the draw on Saturday night, meaning he will start  from the second stall from the outside in the 24 runner field.

Seven of the runners who's trainers are based overseas will start from double-figure barriers in the $7.3 million marathon, although a handful - headed by Caulfield Cup winner Best Solution, fared quite well.

The punters are staying with Yucatan in the Melbourne Cup despite the favorite's outside barrier.

The punters are staying with Yucatan in the Melbourne Cup despite the favorite's outside barrier.Credit:AAP

Aidan O'Brien's Yucatan will have to virtually cross the entire field from gate 23, while his stable mate Rostropovich, a lightly-weighted three-year-old whose profile resembles last year's winner Rekindling, goes from gate 21.

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The other O'Brien trained galloper The CliffsofMoher, fared a bit better, and he will get out from barrier nine under Ryan Moore.

Nick Williams, in whose father Lloyd's navy blue and white silks Yucatan will run, said ''barriers are not that important, it's a long straight and it does not matter that much. If they are good enough they will get their chance to win,'' he said, joking that he would now sack himself from picking barriers for his Cup hopes.

The last winner to start from a barrier in the twenties was the 2009 hero Shocking, from gate 22, while 2000 winner Brew also came out of stall 22 in a 22-runner field. For those who are statistically minded, the Australian galloper Ace High will start from stall 22 this year.

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For those following Yucatan, the last winner to come from stall 23 was Van Der Hum, in 1976.

The Saeed Bin Suroor-trained top weight Best Solution will jump from gate six, which will give jockey Pat Cosgrave plenty of chance to take a cosy position close to the fence should he get away smartly.

But his Godolphin stablemate Cross Counter did not do so well. The Charlie Appleby-trained northern hemisphere three-year-old will have to come out of gate 19.

Another heavily-backed English challenger is Magic Circle, owed by the irrepressible Dr Marwan Koukash and trained by Ian Williams. He will start from gate 17.

''Its not perfect, but we are happy enough with it. He's not the sort of horse who would want to get out and lead anyway.''

Gai Waterhouse's Runaway has become a flag bearer for local hopes in the past couple of weeks, ever since his Geelong Cup victory.

Gai Waterhouse-trained Runaway has drawn barrier 12 in the Cup.

Gai Waterhouse-trained Runaway has drawn barrier 12 in the Cup.Credit:AAP

He has drawn barrier 12 - which, says his owner, Anthony Mithen, gives him every chance.

''Its perfect for us. Stevie (jockey Steve Baster) requested eight to ten, we have given him 12. I reckon he will get plenty of options from there.''

Hughie Morrison, who trains Marmelo - who started favourite last year - was happy enough with gate 10.

''We can't complain. We are not wide, and we are not too low. It will give Hughie every chance to get into the right position.''

This was a Cup field that changed shape on myriad occasions during the day.

A cloud had hung over Red Verdon, the English challenger trained by Ed Dunlop, ever since it was revealed he had spread a plate at Werribee before exercising on Thursday.

His connections were confident that he would come through and be passed by Racing Victoria vets, but on Saturday afternoon they knew their fate, and he was withdrawn.

It was disappointment for Dunlop - who had come agonisingly close to winning the Cup on three occasions with Red Cadeaux - and for Damien Oliver, the former champion, who had taken the ride. He will now partner outsider Red Cardinal.

Earlier in the day another English challenger, A Prince of Arran, had won his way into the great race with an impressive victory in the Lexus Stakes, the golden ticket route into the $7.3 million Cup.

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His victory, under the Melbourne-based Kiwi rider Michael Walker, franked the form of Cup favourite Yucatan who beat him easily in the Herbert Power Handicap at Caulfield, and got him straight into the field. Walker will take the ride on Tuesday.

There were great expectations that the Cup might this year feature a promising staying three-year-old in the shape of Thinkin' Big.

Gai Waterhouse had declared in the lead-up to the $2 million Victoria Derby that if her colt proved too good for his rivals in the 2500 metre classic, he would back up three days later in the Cup.

But in a brutally run affair, when the David Hayes-trained Sebarate and the Darren Weir-prepared Savoie went off at a fast pace, Thinkin' Big faded badly in the final 400 metres to finish only 12th.

Thus with all the drama the outsiders Zacada (last year's NZ trained Sydney Cup runner-up) Sir Charles Road (another Kiwi) and Nakeeta, the Scottish-trained galloper who finished fifth in the Cup last year, sneaked into the field.

With Peter Ryan

Michael Lynch, The Age's expert on soccer, has had extensive experience of high level journalism in the UK and Australia. Michael has covered the Socceroos through Asia, Europe and South America in their past three World Cup campaigns. He has also reported on Grands Prix and top class motor sport from Asia and Europe. He has won several national media awards for both sports and industry journalism.

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