10/29/2016 2:51PM

Big Orange, Hartnell square off in Melbourne Cup


Big Orange was fifth in the 2015 Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse in Australia, beaten 2 1/2 lengths by the 100-1 shot Prince of Penzance. Big Orange was 60-1 and certainly outran his odds in a 24-horse field over two miles.

Since then, Big Orange, 6, has won two Group 2 races in England to enhance his reputation. The success has made him the 126-pound joint highweight in Tuesday’s $4.55 million Melbourne Cup at two miles on turf.

The race drew its customary field of 24, with runners from throughout Europe, Australia, and a starter from Japan. The race has a post time of midnight Eastern on Tuesday, or 9 p.m. Pacific on Monday.

As of Saturday, Big Orange was a 12-1 shot in the future book in a race led by Hartnell, who has been outstanding in recent starts in Australia for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Racing. Trained in Australia by John O’Shea, Hartnell, who was assigned 123 pounds, won the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on turf at Flemington on Oct. 12 and was second to the immensely popular Winx in the Group 1 Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on Oct. 22.

The Cox Plate, which was Winx’s 13th consecutive win, is Australia’s top weight-for-age race. The Melbourne Cup is the nation’s most popular race and its leading handicap.

Big Orange shares the high weight with Our Ivanhowe, who was 10th in the 2015 Melbourne Cup and won the Group 1 Doomben Cup in Australia last May.

Godolphin Racing has five of the 24 runners, including Qewy, who ran over hurdles without success in the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival in England in March. Qewy won the Group 3 Geelong Cup at 1 1/2 miles on turf in Australia on Oct. 19.

Hartnell was 4-1 in early betting on Saturday, a slight choice over 9-2 Oceanographer, a Godolphin-owned runner who won the Group 3 Lexus Stakes at 1 9/16 miles on turf at Flemington on Saturday and makes a rapid turnaround for the Melbourne Cup.

Other contenders are Jameka, who won the Group 1 Caulfield Cup at 1 1/2 miles on turf Oct. 15 and was second to Hartnell in the Turnbull Stakes, and Bondi Beach, who was 16th in the 2015 Melbourne Cup and third in the Group 3 Enterprise Stakes at Leopardstown, Ireland, in September.

Bondi Beach will be ridden by Ryan Moore, who is scheduled to ride the Breeders’ Cup program at Santa Anita on Nov. 4-5.

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