Sydney’s Melbourne Cup Day program at Royal Randwick is headlined by the second edition of the $3 million The Big Dance (1600m) where the Matthew Dunn-trained top-weight Cepheus is set to start favourite.


Cepheus is favourite to carry the top-weight to victory in the 2023 The Big Dance at Randwick on Sydney’s Melbourne Cup Day program. Photo: Steve Hart.

Looking to take some of the attention away from Victoria’s time-honoured Group 1 $8.41 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m), which runs for the 163rd time on Tuesday at 3:00pm (AEDT) as Flemington Race 7, is The Big Dance 2023 race for Country Cup winners in New South Wales.

Heading the capacity 20-horse The Big Dance field for this year’s race is Sea The Stars seven-year-old Cepheus who is the $4.60 favourite through Ladbrokes to cart the 62kg to victory.

Nash Rawiller has the ride on the in-form chestnut who jumps from barrier one chasing his third win on the trot.

He comes off back-to-back Rosehill victories in the Group 2 Shannon Stakes (1500m) and the $1.5 million The Alan Brown (1400m) with Rawiller aboard for both wins.

Saturday he is up to a mile and up in weight but remains the horse to beat according to the bookies.

“Cepheus went to Rosehill last Friday, and he looked really good when finishing second in a barrier trial,” Murwillumbah trainer Dunn told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“With his high rating, he’s going to have a big weight to contend with in the Big Dance, but Nash knows him well and we can hopefully draw a good gate to give him his chance.”

There are three other last start winners in this year’s The Big Dance field including the airborne $6.50 second elect Iknowastar for Bjorn Baker.

The four-year-old Star Witness gelding is out to extend his winning streak to five straight and is drawn to get a charmed run from barrier three with Tyler Schiller coming aboard.

Iknowastar looks well weighted with 53kg and is undefeated with a five-from-five mile record coming into Tuesday’s multi-million dollar showdown.

That weight will have him flying late after he carted 61kg to a 1.56 length win in race record time over 1550m at the Kensington track last time out on October 18.

Baker has a strangle-hold on The Big Dance field numbers-wise in 2023 saddling-up a total of four runners.

His other contenders are Hollywood Hero out in gate 19 with Jason Collett to ride, Highlights in gate five, and fellow 52kg lightweight Wategos who is a single-figure fancy at $9.50 tipped to improve on his eighth in the $1 million Five Diamonds Prelude at the track from a wide gate with more weight a fortnight ago.

The other runners coming off a confidence-boosting lead-up win meanwhile are the Team Hawkes-trained Superium ($14) and King Of The Castle ($12) for The Everest winning trainer Joseph Pride.

Chris Waller then saddles-up the last of the runners at single-figure The Big Dance odds with Wicklow ($9) in gate two with Tommy Berry on the winter’s Wagga Wagga Gold Cup winner.

The Big Dance 2023 is set to jump at 2:20pm (AEDT) as Randwick Race 5 on the 10-race Melbourne Cup Day card in Sydney on November 7.

2023 The Big Dance Field & Barriers  

No Last 10 Horse Trainer Jockey Barrier Weight Probable Weight Penalty Hcp Rating
1 1023421511 CEPHEUS (GB) Matthew Dunn Nash Rawiller 1 62kg 111
2 1112x19x00 BANJU Lyle Chandler Jean Van Overmeire 15 58kg 100
3 72761141×4 ATTRACTABLE Sara Ryan Regan Bayliss 7 56.5kg 97
4 25x45137x3 WICKLOW (IRE) Chris Waller Tommy Berry 2 55.5kg 95
5 08795×9631 SUPERIUM Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes Adam Hyeronimus 10 55kg 94
6 0x54131x00 COMMANDO HUNT Cameron Crockett Reece Jones 21 54.5kg 93
7 52x18711x7 AKASAWA Paul Messara & Leah Gavranich Chad Schofield 20 54kg 87
8 1119×41111 IKNOWASTAR Bjorn Baker Tyler Schiller 3 53kg 90
9 8x56251x06 CAMAGUEY Kim Waugh Tom Sherry 22 53kg 78
10 x912624312 HOLLYWOOD HERO (NZ) Bjorn Baker Jason Collett 19 53kg 76
11 4544534717 FULL PRESS Brett Dodson Adin Thompson 17 53kg 70
12 1917322×81 KING OF THE CASTLE (NZ) Joseph Pride Ms Kathy O’Hara 16 52kg 88
13 416×411128 WATEGOS Bjorn Baker Jay Ford 8 52kg 87
14 438910×517 SUPER HELPFUL Barbara Joseph, Paul & Matt Jones Andrew Adkins 11 52kg 85
15 3380351×57 PRINCE OF HELENA Craig Weeding Jake Duffy 6 52kg 82
16 78304×5272 HIGHLIGHTS Bjorn Baker Brock Ryan 5 52kg 79
17 32120×0050 HIGH COURT Rodney Northam Grant Buckley 12 52kg 78
18 57001740×0 UNAMERICAN Richard & Will Freedman Ms Anna Roper (a), (late alt) 18 52kg 68
19 195234×003 CRACKALACKA Theresa Bateup Ms Molly Bourke (a) 4 52kg 66
20 140×663567 MANDERBOSS (NZ) Barbara Joseph, Paul & Matt Jones Quayde Krogh 9 52kg 66
21e 5501844×04 PEPPER’S GHOST Brett Cavanough 24 52kg 66
22e 139×225325 KNIFE’S EDGE Garry Lunn 14 54kg 65
23e 743×707130 JUST A BROTHER Terry Croft 13 54kg 64
24e x80020x506 LION’S ROAR (NZ) John O’Shea 23 56.5kg 97

Table Credit: Racing Australia.

About The Author

Lucy Henderson

Lucy is an experienced horse racing journalist that has been a crucial member of the team for the better part of a decade. She has taken great delight in covering champion mares Black Caviar and Winx throughout their careers and always has a soft spot for a winning filly.