Dettori tips Absurde for Cup, Oliver clears hurdle

Shayne Hope |

Champion jockey Frankie Dettori has tipped the heavily backed Absurde to upset long-time Melbourne Cup favourite and stablemate Vauban in the race that stops a nation.

Dettori’s selection comes with his old friend and rival jockey Damien Oliver poised to take his final Cup ride on Tuesday after his mount Alenquer passed a precautionary veterinary examination.

Mike Moroney-trained Alenquer had shown signs of soreness in the near fore hoof after trackwork on Sunday and will be inspected again on course at Flemington.

Dettori’s winning ride on Absurde in August’s Ebor Handicap booked the Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old’s spot in the Cup field.

Absurde carried 60.5kg to victory at that race in York, England, but drops to 53kg for the Cup; which was too low for Dettori to maintain the partnership.

Australian jockey Zac Purton has instead been booked to ride Absurde, who will jump from barrier eight.

“He’s got a good weight, he’s got a good draw,” Dettori said.

“This is a Melbourne Cup, it’s always wide open, but if I had to pick one I’d pick him.”

Vauban set tongues wagging when he left Absurde in his wake during a scintillating piece of work at Flemington last week.

Absurde was also second to Vauban by seven-and-a-half lengths in the Copper Horse Handicap at Royal Ascot in June, but Dettori is undeterred.

Punters appear to agree. Absurde has been sensationally backed, firming from $21 after Saturday’s barrier draw to around $9 on Monday, while Vauban eased slightly to around $4.60.

“The distance and ground is ideal for him … and the bridge is not too far,” Dettori said.

“The thing is, the Melbourne Cup is a handicap and one’s got 55kg, the other has 53kg. Two kilos is a big difference.

“I’ve never rode the favourite but I’ve rode Absurde and I’m sticking with it.”

Happy with Vauban’s preparation, Mullins is equally bullish on Absurde’s chances.

“He’s not far away. He ran a terrific race in the Ebor, winning it,” Mullins said.

“His race in Royal Ascot when Vauban won, it was a very difficult ride that day for Frankie and he got left out of the race a little bit early on.

“He made up huge ground to get second place, and if he gets a fair break (on Tuesday) he has every chance.”

Milan-born Dettori has won just about every major accolade over 35 years in the saddle, but the Melbourne Cup has so far eluded him.

The 52-year-old had planned to retire this year, but has reversed that decision and hinted he might still have one last shot at Flemington glory left in him.

“It’s something that is really missing on my CV,” Dettori said.

“Unfortunately I’m not participating this year, but who knows? Maybe this time next year I’ll be in the line-up and try one more time.”

On Monday, a relaxed Oliver said Moroney had been “quietly confident” Alenquer would recover in time to take his place in the 3200m handicap.

“It’s out of my hands,” said Oliver, a veteran of 31 Melbourne Cup rides.

“I want to be there riding a horse that can run close to his best.

“If he’s not well, I’m past just going there to make up the numbers and ride in a race for the sake of it.”