Moreira bids for G1 Melbourne Cup first with Constantinople

Hong Kong’s three-time champion jockey Joao Moreira takes centre stage at Flemington on Tuesday when he partners the highly fancied import Constantinople in the famous G1 Melbourne Cup (3200m).

New Zealander Kevin Mackenzie and his Melbourne Cup charge Constantinople
New Zealander Kevin Mackenzie and his Melbourne Cup charge Constantinople Picture: Press Photo

The HK$42 million Cup, one of six races to be simulcast from the Flemington meeting, has attracted 11 northern hemisphere trained runners - including seven trained by either Aidan O'Brien or his son Joseph - plus a further nine competitors who began their racing careers on the other side of the equator but are now with Australian trainers.

The latter group is headed by Constantinople who was formerly trained by Aidan O'Brien but is now with David Hayes, who trains in partnership with his son Ben and nephew Tom Dabernig. The Galileo four-year-old provides Hayes with his final chance to claim a second Melbourne Cup before he returns to Hong Kong next season.

Constantinople, an unlucky and eye-catching fourth in the Caulfield Cup on 19 October, is a three-year-old to northern hemisphere time, as have been the past two Cup winners Cross Counter and Rekindling. Like Cross Counter, Moreira's mount performed well in the G3 Gordon Stakes and G2 Great Voltigeur Stakes immediately before his export to Australia.

"He really reminds me of Americain who won the Cup in 2010," Hayes said of Constantinople, "I didn't train him when he won the Cup but had him later in his career and Constantinople is in the same mould, a big-striding horse who looks a genuine two-miler."

Moreira's best Cup result was his agonising head defeat aboard Heartbreak City, who drew barrier 23 of 24, in the 2016 edition. "I think this horse might even be a better chance than Heartbreak City although he has not raced past 2400 metres," Moreira said of Constantinople who has drawn gate seven.

Japan's Mer De Glace is favourite for the Cup after recording his sixth consecutive win, on debut in Australia, in the Caulfield Cup. He will be ridden by Australian Damian Lane and if successful, Lane would become the first jockey to win the Golden Slipper, Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup in the same year.

British trainers had the first three finishers in the Cup last year and the winner Cross Counter (Charlie Appleby) and third placed Prince Of Arran (Charlie Fellowes) return in 2019, as do the fourth, fifth and sixth placed horses - Finche, Rostropovich and Youngstar.

Joseph O'Brien, with Rekindling, denied his father Aidan - with Johannes Vermeer - in an Irish-trained 1-2-3 in 2017. O'Brien senior's most favoured runner this year appears to be Il Paradiso who is the one other northern hemisphere three-year-old aside from Constantinople. Joseph's strong hand is led by Downdraft who won the Lexus Hotham Stakes on Saturday.

Since Vintage Crop's historic win in 1993 when raiding from Ireland, the internationals not only boast a further seven wins in the race but have also had a further fifteen runners-up, several of whom were either unluckily or narrowly beaten.

Five of the eight international winners had had a lead-up run in Australia en route to the Cup but, last year, Cross Counter joined Rekindling and Vintage Crop as a winner on Australian debut.

Cross Counter faces a huge weight rise on last year and is the sole international for Godolphin which has had 33 runners in the Cup for one win, as well as three seconds thanks to Central Park (1999), Give The Slip (2001) and Crime Scene (2009), plus two thirds with Beekeeper (2002) and Hartnell (2016). 

Surprise Baby and Vow And Declare are the strongest-fancied of the four Australasian bred and trained runners, ahead of Youngstar and The Chosen One.

Hong Kong Jockey Club