Melham to end close calls in Caulfield Cup

Ben Melham is chasing his first Caulfield Cup win after riding placegetters in the race for the past three years.

Jockey : BEN MELHAM
Jockey : BEN MELHAM Picture: Racing Photos

Ben Melham has his battles ahead of him off the track but the jockey insists he is up for the challenge of ending a string of agonising Caulfield Cup defeats.

Melham will face betting charges at the Victorian Racing Tribunal after the carnival but has continued to perform as one of Melbourne's best riders during the spring.

He guided outsider Ranting to win the three-horse Blue Sapphire Stakes on Wednesday and will be aboard the Joseph O'Brien -trained Buckhurst in the Caulfield Cup on Saturday.

Melham rode the Lloyd Williams-owned stayer in a light gallop at Werribee on Thursday.

And gives the entire a great chance of becoming the third straight overseas-trained winner of the $5 million race.

"The horse is in great order, he moves well and his action is great and he's in great condition in himself," Melham said.

"All in all, he's a lovely horse and I'm really happy with the draw.

"He tends to go forward back at home so he should be able to take a prominent position from that draw (barrier eight) and I expect him to run really well."

Melham has gone close to a maiden Caulfield Cup win in the past three years.

He was third on Mirage Dancer last year and was narrowly denied on Homesman for Williams in 2018.

Melham combined with Williams for another third placing with Johannes Vermeer in 2017.

Japanese stayer Mer De Glace won last year's Caulfield Cup while Godolphin won with Best Solution in 2018.

Godolphin hasn't sent an international squad to Melbourne for the spring due to COVID-19 issues making international travel extremely difficult.

Instead, the global stable will rely on the locally trained Avilius, who was an acceptor for the Caulfield Cup after up to 20mm of rain was forecast for Melbourne.

Avilius has raced in the past two Cox Plates but trainer James Cummings has prepared the seven-year-old for the Caulfield Cup this season.

Interestingly, Avilius has only had three 2400m runs in his career for a win and a third in the past two Tancred Stakes in Sydney and a second to European star Cracksman in a Group Two race in France in 2017.

Australian-based Irish jockey John Allen has the Caulfield Cup ride on Avilius.

He secured the ride when Hugh Bowman took the mount on last year's Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck.

COVID-19 protocols and the clash with Sydney's spring carnival have created more chances for local jockeys to ride in the Melbourne features.

And Allen isn't complaining about the situation.

"It has given up plenty of opportunities but you have to take those opportunities, I suppose, and make the most of them," Allen said.

"He (Avilius) definitely appreciates a soft track and he has a big weight but he's a class horse.

"I'm sure he'll make a good account of himself."

Bookmakers can't see Avilius living up to Allen's assessment, posting the gelding as a $31 chance but betting agencies are much more cautious about Buckhurst, rating him an $11 shot.

Turnbull Stakes winner Verry Elleegant is the $5 favourite after the Chris Waller-trained mare drew barrier 10.