As Hugo Palmer attempts to become the first British trainer to win the Melbourne Cup, two familiar faces will be saddling up rival runners at Flemington.
Tuesday’s $6 million Melbourne Cup has been 12 months in the planning with the Palmer-trained Wall Of Fire and the horse pressed his claims with an eye-catching second in the Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield in his first Australian start.
Palmer’s education in racing before becoming a trainer in his own right included a stint with champion trainer Gai Waterhouse in Australia for about a year.
That came after he was an assistant to Hughie Morrison in England.
Both Morrison and Waterhouse have runners in this year’s Cup.
Marmelo is considered a leading chance for Morrison while the Waterhouse-trained Cismontane earned his spot with his Lexus Stakes win on Saturday.
“I was Hughie Morrison’s assistant for three and a bit seasons,” Palmer said.
“So it’s quite weird how the world goes, that here we are both in the same race with horses in the same colours too.
“And it’s quite fun, we’ve drawn next to each other as well.””
Both Wall Of Fire (barrier 15) and Marmelo (16) race in the colours of their part-owner Aziz Kheir.
Palmer had been worried Wall Of Fire would be stranded one spot outside the field limit of 24 but was relieved on Friday when his place was confirmed.
“At the barrier draw someone said ‘how do you feel about barrier 15? I said ‘it was looking like we could have been 25 a week ago’,” Palmer said.
The Newmarket trainer was in Melbourne for Wall Of Fire’s slashing Herbert Power run and has liked what he has seen since arriving back in town for the horse’s final Cup preparations.
“I think he’s really developed and muscled up. With a horse like him who’s been in work for so long, it’s just about keeping him fresh. And I think we’ve done that,” he said.
Palmer, Morrison, and Scotsman Iain Jardine who saddles Nakeeta, are vying to become the first British trainer to win the Cup after several near misses.
“Obviously it would be thrilling to be the first, but I’d just love to win a Melbourne Cup,” Palmer said.
“I want to win it this year, but if I win it in 20 years time and I’m the tenth British trainer, it will be no less thrilling than being the first.”