We're back! It's the race that stops the nation, and in 2022, it's going to be an absolute classic.
Not sure who to back? Not to worry, as we take you through the best selections and some value runners in Tuesday's 10-race card at the glorious Flemington racecourse.
RACE 1 - Darley Maribyrnong Plate (1000m)
Just two of these horses have racetrack experience, the favourite Zulfiqar winning at this track and distance in the Maribyrnong Trial, beating home an underwhelming Krakarib. Zulfiqar found the rail that day and hit the line strongly when under pressure in the closing stages, but notably it was a good track and he'll have to back it up in wet conditions. Stablemate Diabelli, a son of Fastnet Rock who won four of its six wins on soft going, recently jumped out well alongside the favourite. Exposition comes in with a leading trainer/jockey combination, while Hellish and Awestruck also looked impressive in recent trials. A tough race with so many debutants.
RACE 2 - The Macca's Run (2800m)
Undefeated import White Marlin defeated Derby winner Manzoice at Rosehill two starts ago on a Good 4 and Peninsula Cup winner Keats on a Heavy 8 second-up. He's a versatile type who can settle back or run on pace and appears ready to tackle 2800 metres. Caboche and Themoonlitegambler both come out of the Evergreen Turf Handicap at Caulfield, will handle the wet ground and should be competitive off that run, the latter unlucky when stuck three-wide and having too much to do mid-race. He looks well over the odds after beating Saracen Knight three starts ago.
RACE 3 - Resimax Group Subzero Handicap (1400m)
Struck By was a fantastic winner first-up at Morphetville, leading the trip on a Soft 7 and kicking on strongly when challenged at the top of the straight. He maps to get another run on speed if he jumps well from barrier two and has a strong second-up record and strike rate (seven wins from 17 starts) to indicate he's a key chance here to topple the favourite. The Maher-Eustace-trained Ascension will handle the wet and showed drastic improvement when winning as a $41 chance last start on a Heavy 10. Criminal Code looks a danger as a heavy track winner in the past and gets James McDonald in the saddle.
RACE 4 - Tab Trophy (1800m)
It's hard to knock the form of the favourite Quang Tri who has only missed a place once in seven career starts. She was an exceptional first-up winner on a Caulfield slop and will relish the step up in distance. She did run second at this track and distance back in July but did it the hard way when three-wide without cover, so was admirable in a narrow defeat. Dashing steps down in class from a Group 2 Drummond Golf Vase at the Valley when sound finishing fourth to subsequent Derby favourite Berkeley Square. The step back in distance and weather definitely suits.
RACE 5 - The Schweppervescence Plate (1000m)
Tuesday's sprint for the three-year-olds could be the hardest race to pick a winner, and there is value everywhere you look. We've got Alpha Flight on top here who has finished no worse than second in his previous six starts, and he's a genuine swimmer with serious pace to burn, evident when powering past rivals in his last start win at Morphetville. Lascars steps back down in class after failing to threaten in a Blue Sapphire Stakes last start, but does have form around Everest winner Giga Kick four starts ago. Crosswinds had the pattern against him when settling back in a Group 3 McNeil Stakes and running the quickest 400-200m split of the race before being held off, but his Jacquinot and Nanagui form is strong.
RACE 6 - Furphy Plate (1800m)
Noname Lane's run in the Group 1 Toorak behind Tuvalu has to be respected. He's already beaten several of his key rivals here, should settle near the speed from barrier one and will be given every chance by Linda Meech. Dynasties is over the odds and strips fitter third-up, While Bermadez, who has five wins on soft tracks, has started favourite in his past three runs without winning but deserves another chance, and enjoys Flemington. Just Folk was strong against Cascadian last start and will appreciate the wet, but has to carry top weight.
RACE 7 - Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m)
Despite winning a maiden just five starts ago, English stayer Deauville Legend is the raging favourite for this year's race that stops the nation. He presents with the ideal profile for a Melbourne Cup winner as a progressive, lightly-raced northern hemisphere three-year-old in the mould of recent winners Rekindling (2017) and Cross Counter (2018). The difference? The handicappers haven't missed him, the James Ferguson-trained galloper carrying 3kg and 3.5kg more than the aforementioned duo did. He comes into the race with exceptional form, winning the Group 2 Great Voltiguer Stakes at his last start, beating home El Bodegon who franked the form with a third-place finish in this year's Cox Plate won by Anamoe. The query is a wet track but there is nothing to suggest he won't handle it.
Without A Fight has remained over the odds since the field was finalised. Another international raider who'll race on pace, this five-year-old has been specifically set for this race from a long way out, twice winning impressively at York this July and he has saluted on soft tracks before, but he might need to get through a heavy deck that he's yet to see. He'll run the trip and should feature in the finish.
Hoo Ya Mal is another European three-year-old who has form around the favourite, finishing third alongside Deauville Legend in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes after his jockey dropped his whip approaching the final furlong. He's a mystery horse given he finished seven lengths off the winner at his next start, but he brings perhaps the most x-factor in the race.
In a weak field, the class should prevail, and both Gold Trip and Montefilia have just that. Gold Trip was outstanding running second in a Caulfield Cup and unlucky in a Cox Plate when he couldn't find a run in the straight and got caught behind a slowing Zaaki. He loves it wet, but it's not often a horse can carry the top weight over two miles and win. Montefilia's run in the Caulfield Cup was also excellent, flashing home after being checked with the fastest last 200m of the race. History suggests for a mare to carry a big weight and win this race you have to be named Verry Elleegant or Makybe Diva, though it is worth noting the five-year-old for David Payne did beat home last year's Melbourne Cup winner in the Ranvet Stakes back in March.
If the internationals don't show up or handle the inclement skies that are projected for Cup day, then this could become the most open race of the day.
Without A Fight
Hoo Ya Mal
Realm of Flowers
RACE 8 - In Memory Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth li (1400m)
Munhamek was an impressive first-up winner against the likes of El Rocko and Cardinal Gem before posting the fastest last 200m of his most recent run this prep and finishing third behind a rising Ascension when jumping from the widest gate. A better run in transit this time from barrier four gives him another strong chance. Minsk Moment is a class runner with an electric turn of foot, and Green Fly is a French import who likes the wet, jumps from a nice barrier and looks worthy of an each-way bet coming off a spell.
RACE 9 - The Hong Kong Jockey Club Stakes (1400m)
The weather forecast puts Literary Magnate on top of the favourite Promise of Success. The former was a great winner first up at 1200m but will be better suited by an extra furlong, while it wouldn't shock to see the latter win this but a heavy track won't be preferred. Heresy was lightning quick from the back of the field in The Nivision at Randwick and didn't stop hunting the line. She's got strong third-up from and If William Buick can switch her off early she'll be storming home.
Promise of Success
RACE 10 - Mss Security Sprint (1200m)
Najmaty has two from three career first-up wins and should be cherry ripe resuming after three jump outs. She was far too good when thundering past her rivals and winning at Caulfield in April, then continued her strong winter campaign in Queensland with another win and a second in a Group 2 Dane Ripper. If she runs anywhere near that level she should have this race covered, but the wet might be a query. The Neds Village Stakes is the key form race with the winner Gravina well-backed in the Rising Fast Stakes on Derby day, won by Argentia. Nicolini Vito and Zethus both placed behind Gravina and can handle soft going.