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.
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.