Having finished a luckless third in 2017 and an agonisingly close second 12 months later, star jockey Ben Melham is warming to his chances of winning the Caulfield Cup for the first time.
Melham was third on Johannes Vermeer before going down in a photo finish to Best Solution aboard Homesman in 2018.
He has pinned his hopes in Saturday’s $5 million handicap on import Mirage Dancer, with the well-performed former Sir Michael Stoute-trained horse to run for new trainers Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young for the first time.
Mirage Dancer has drawn barrier 13 in a capacity field of 18 plus four emergencies but will jump from gate nine if the reserves don’t gain a start and Melham has been impressed after riding the horse in trackwork a couple of times.
“The Caulfield Cup has been a race that has eluded me the last couple of years running third and then second, so I’m certainly looking to go one better,” Melham said.
“He’s the right horse. He’s a genuine winning chance and it will come down to luck in running.
“I’m happy enough with his draw. He’s got a bit of speed. I haven’t assessed the race properly yet but the draw didn’t really phaze me too much.
“He’s a pretty straight-forward horse.
“If he runs to his work he will be hard to beat.”
Mirage Dancer was $15 after the draw with the Chris Waller-trained import Finche easing from $5 to $6 after drawing 19.
Finche retains favouritism over Japanese horse Mer De Glace who has gone from $7 to $8 after drawing 21.
“We just have to accept it,” Mer De Glace’s trainer Hisashi Shimizu said through an interpreter.
“It’s better than drawing inside.”
Mustajeer, Constantinople and Mr Quickie share the third line of betting at $9.
The Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Wolfe was the last horse to clinch a place in the field after earning a ballot exemption for winning Wednesday’s Coongy Cup (2000m) at Caulfield.
Beau Mertens has picked up the ride at 50kg and Waterhouse believes the stayer is capable of winning from barrier five.
“He’s lightly weighted and that’s very important in these big handicaps,” Waterhouse said.
“He’s racing in great form and every time he has run in Melbourne he’s just kept improving.”
At the other end of the weight scale is top weight Hartnell who runs with 58kg and has drawn 17 and will come in to 13 if the emergencies don’t gain starts.