Japanese raiders eye Cup again

MASTER trainer Bart Cummings is preparing a strong team in his quest for his 12th Melbourne Cup but fears the Japanese contingent could again prove the biggest hurdle for local stayers this year.

First nominations for Australia's most famous race closed yesterday with Cummings' team of nine entries headed by Chairman's Handicap runner-up Prince Arthur and four-year-olds Empires Choice and Sirmione.

But he is wary of the threat posed by the Japanese who dominated last year's Melbourne Cup when the Katsuhiko Sumii-trained Delta Blues defeated stablemate Pop Rock by a half-head with Maybe Better managing best of the locals another 4-1/2 lengths away third.

While an anticipated influx of Japanese horses failed to eventuate this year, both Delta Blues and Pop Rock are again entered while Tosho Knight is the only other Japanese stayer nominated.

Cummings believes they will again pose a mighty threat. "I think so. They're getting stronger, they've got good facilities for their horses over there and they're an up-and-coming (racing) country," Cummings said.

Cummings said it was too early to single out his best prospect of claiming another Melbourne Cup to add to his record 11, but reported his team was shaping up well.

However, given the number of international nominations he fears that simply getting starters in the race will be a battle.

"They seem all right at this stage but it depends what imported gallopers are nominated for the race and whether we can get a run," Cummings said.

There are 18 nominations from Great Britain, 10 from Godolphin in Dubai, eight from Ireland, three from Hong Kong and two each from America, Canada and France.

Japan's Tosho Knight is well credentialled having beaten Caulfield Cup placegetter Eye Popper when winning the Group Two Copa Republica Argentina (2500m) in November last year.

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