OPINION

Favourite Incentivise eyes off cups double

FAVOURITE: Incentivise will go into the Melbourne Cup as the shortest-priced favourite since Phar Lap. Picture: Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images

FAVOURITE: Incentivise will go into the Melbourne Cup as the shortest-priced favourite since Phar Lap. Picture: Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images

Incentivise's rise to stardom in the past seven months has been remarkable as he enters Tuesday's Melbourne Cup as the shortest-priced favourite since the mighty Phar Lap in 1930.

The five-year-old, whose successful run started with a Sunshine Coast maiden in April, has saluted in his past eight races and is set to provide trainer Peter Moody with his first Melbourne Cup winner.

Moody, who walked away from racing and did not train for four years after receiving a six-month ban in 2016, has enjoyed plenty of Group 1 success but has not won a Melbourne Cup.

Incentivise's jockey Brett Prebble knows what it takes to win the great race, having won on the Robert Hickmott-trained Green Moon in 2012.

Prebble is likely to send Incentivise forward from barrier 16 and place him in the first half of the field.

Incentivise possesses a rare trait of being able to work hard at both ends of a race and find something extra.

The gelding would be the first horse to win the Caulfield Cup-Melbourne Cup double since Ethereal did it 20 years ago, but his major challenge is likely to come from second favourite Spanish Mission.

The US-bred stayer has not started since August, but he has been working well at Werribee in preparation for the Cup.

The biggest question is how Spanish Mission will handle Australian conditions, but most of his runs have been over 3000m.

His best form is on good tracks, having been unplaced in only five of his 18 starts.

Spanish Mission always has had an accomplished jockey on board in his races and will be ridden by Craig Williams, one of Australia's best hoops who won the Cup on Vow And Declare two years ago.

Caulfield trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace have four runners in the Cup and all have strong claims to figure prominently.

Grand Promenade was impressive in winning the Bart Cummings at Flemington over 2520m last month and Kerrin McEvoy, a three-time Melbourne Cup winner, will be aboard.

The gelding has won three of his five starts at Flemington and is well weighted at 52kg, although barrier 21 is a concern.

Persan ran third in the Caulfield Cup behind Incentivise and meets him 1.5kg better, but he has to make up five lengths over another 800m to beat the red-hot favourite.

In the five-year-old's favour is that he has won four of his 10 starts at Flemington and ran fifth in last year's Cup.

In-form jockey John Allen is going for a big treble - he won this year's Cox Plate on State Of Rest and last Saturday's Victoria Derby aboard Hitotsu.

On Tuesday, Allen will be on Explosive Jack, who was most disappointing in the Caulfield Cup.

Although the four-year-old's form is better on good tracks, he will have his work cut out.

The other Maher/Eustace hope will be Floating Artist, providing the first Cup ride for apprentice Teo Nugent.

The imported gelding has won three of his past five starts and been placed in the other two, including a narrow loss in the Moonee Valley Gold Cup (2500m) behind Lunar Flare.

Carrying only 50kg, he is one of the best lightweight chances.

Sydney trainer Chris Waller also has four runners and two have strong claims.

Great House was the second of jockey James McDonald's four winners at Flemington last Saturday, settling near the rear in a slowly-run race and being too good at the finish in the Hotham Stakes (2500m).

With McDonald switching to Verry Elleegant, it will be a huge thrill for Michael Dee to ride the five-year-old gelding, who ran an encouraging fifth in the Caulfield Cup.

Despite McDonald being back in the saddle, it remains doubtful that Verry Elleegant can carry her considerable weight of 57kg to victory.

While history is against the topweight Twilight Payment winning successive Melbourne Cups, expect bold showings from lightweights Tralee Rose and Sir Lucan.

Tralee Rose drops 4.5kg from her Geelong Cup win and she has excellent Flemington form (two wins and two seconds from four starts).

Sir Lucan, trained by Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, will be ridden by Glen Boss, who guided Makybe Diva to her three consecutive Cup victories.

Cup tips

Incentivise 1, Spanish Mission 2, Grand Promenade 3, Great House 4.

Flemington comes alive with crowds

With restrictions being eased in Melbourne, Flemington hosted a small crowd for Derby Day and there will be a maximum of 10,000 soaking up the forecast warm sunshine on Tuesday.

BACK ON TRACK: With restrictions easing in Melbourne, Flemington hosted a small crowd for Derby Day. Picture: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

BACK ON TRACK: With restrictions easing in Melbourne, Flemington hosted a small crowd for Derby Day. Picture: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

It won't be packed but at least there will be some atmosphere on the perfectly-manicured lawns and around the course as Melbourne and Victoria spring back to life after months of being locked down.

Hopefully, you will find the Cup winner, but keep your eye on two chances in the next two races at Flemington.

The Chris Waller-trained April Rain (race 8, No. 10) has impressive form in Sydney and will be ridden by Kerrin McEvoy.

In The Darkness (race nine, No. 16) has raced only twice and won her last start at Murray Bridge.

With Craig Williams aboard, the three-year-old filly must have some chance of causing a boilover.

Sebastian The Fox (No. 5), who was an emergency in the Victoria Derby, is another to watch in that race.

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