Weight of money has pushed Anthony Van Dyck, the topweight and Caulfield Cup runner-up, into outright favouritism after Aidan O’Brien’s charge drew well in barrier three, the TAB said on Sunday afternoon, while his stablemate Tiger Moth drifted out to $8.50 after drawing barrier 23.
The ex-Irish Sir Dragonet (trained by O’Brien until being bought by Australian owners earlier this year) won the Cox Plate last month and is now a $9 chance.
The trainer son of Aidan, Joseph O’Brien, has Master Of Reality (placed last year), who is a $26 chance, and Twilight Payment, which has tightened marginally into $31. Both are owned by Lloyd Williams.
Only Willie Mullins galloper Stratum Albion is rated a long shot, having drifted out to $51.
It has been 28 years since Irish trainer Dermot Weld broke the Melbourne Cup mould by sending out Vintage Crop to become the first overseas galloper to land Australia’s greatest race. Since then Weld (Media Puzzle in 2002) and Joseph O’Brien (Rekindling in 2017) have added to the tally.
TJ Comerford, Aidan O’Brien’s Werribee foreman, said both Anthony Van Dyck and Tiger Moth – a northern hemisphere three-year-old – are primed to run big races to give their famous trainer his first win in the race.
“Anthony Van Dyck has probably a better draw, Tiger Moth is drawn the one from the outside. It’s better that way around than Anthony Van Dyck being out there again [as he was in an outside stall in the Caulfield Cup]. But I still think that Tiger Moth has his chance from out there. It’s not the end of the world.
“To have one runner is great, to have two in it is better again. It’s a great race. We’ve always run well in the race, our horses have competed well.
“The ground seems all in their favour as well. They’re two good chances [and] I wouldn’t like to separate them. Anthony Van Dyck is a class horse but he has to give a lot of weight away to Tiger Moth.
“We probably don’t know enough about the three-year-old, really, but I do know that he’s going well enough while here and he’s doing everything right and he’s enjoying himself – he’s fresh and he’s well and he’s fit.”
Mark Power, representing the Joseph O’Brien stable, said his two runners were “perfect”.
“Couldn’t be any happier. Happy with the draws yesterday. We’ll probably roll forward from there. We probably couldn’t ask for a better draw,” he said.
He believes the Ballydoyle duo offers the most threat to Joseph’s Williams-owned pair.
“You’d have to think that Anthony Van Dyck would have a great chance. He’s the class horse in the race even though it is a race with plenty of depth in it. Tiger Moth being a northern hemisphere three-year-old, they’re two of them to fear.
“Three-year-olds from the northern hemisphere, they seem to be taking some beating lately. Rekindling, Cross Counter and Il Paradiso (an unlucky placegetter in 2019) – I suppose they have a great record in the race.
David Casey is a regular visitor to Melbourne with Mullins raiders and he thinks Stratum Albion is coming good at the right time.
“We’ve been delighted with him, very good. He did his last work yesterday [Saturday], delighted with him. He’s got a decent enough draw.
“I think in the last week he’s come on plenty. Barrier nine is good, gives us options and there’s a couple of fancied horses around him. Anthony Van Dyck isn’t far away, so is Surprise Baby, that’ll give us options to go forward or go back.
“Anthony Van Dyck deserves to be favourite – he’s an English Derby winner and he ran so well in the Caulfield Cup. The likes of Prince Of Arran has brilliant form here. His [Stratum Albion] form doesn’t stand out for a lot of it – mixing with jumping as well. We don’t mind being the underdog.”
Michael Lynch is The Age’s chief soccer reporter and also reports on motor sport and horseracing