Melbourne Cup: Hartnell heads contenders for Australia’s "race that stops a nation"

Hartnell enjoys a washdown after a training session

Hartnell enjoys a washdown after a training session

Hartnell heads a maximum line-up of 24 runners for the Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse on Tuesday.

The horse, trained in Australia by John O’Shea, will bid to give Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin team their first win in the “race that stops a nation”.

Big Orange, for Michael Bell, seeks to become the first British-trained victor in the contest’s 156th running.

More than 100,000 fans are expected at the track on what is a public holiday in the state of Victoria.

Hartnell only finished 15th last year but won the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington last month before finishing runner-up in the Cox Plate.

Godolphin have four other runners trained in Britain – Saeed bin Suroor’s Secret Number and Beautiful Romance and Charlie Appleby’s pair of Oceanographer and Qewy – with prize money of AUS $6.2m (£3.86m) up for grabs.

“It’s a race that every owner would love to win. We want to win it, His Highness wants to win it,” Appleby said. “It’d be a huge feather in anyone’s cap.”

They are among nine international hopefuls, with Bondi Beach, Wicklow Brave and Heartbreak City travelling over from Ireland, while Japan will be represented by Curren Mirotic.

Jameka is the only Australian-bred runner in the two-mile race, which saw history made a year ago when Michelle Payne, on Prince Of Penzance, became the first female jockey to triumph.

Payne did not get a mount in the 2016 edition after sustaining injuries in a race fall in May that limited her preparation.

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