Worth a massive $420,000 to the winner, the race has been won by some of the greatest canines the sport has seen, with less than 30 seconds separating one dog and greyhound racing immortality.
The favourite heading into this year’s decider is champion greyhound Zambora Brockie at $2.20 with William Hill.
Trained by Anthony Azzopardi, the black dog won his heat of the series in a flying 29.06 last week and will jump from box three in the decider.
Despite being the class runner of the field with five group wins under his belt, Friday’s race will be no walk in the park for Zambora Brockie.
Also in contention for the title is Outside Pass (box six) which will be joined in the final by fellow Queenslander Tripum (box four).
Both chasers are in excellent form, with Outside Pass the second favourite with bookmakers following her stunning 29.13 heat victory last week.
New South Wales will be represented by Group 1 Vic Peters hero Ando’s Mac (box five) which is sure to improve off his 29.64 qualifying triumph, whilst South Australian also have a finalist courtesy of Cameron Butcher’s brindle powerhouse, Worm Burner.
A winner of the Group 1 National Sprint Championship at Angle Park where he defeated Zambora Brockie, the son of Oaks Road and Little Looper will jump from box two on Friday night.
After a disappointing fourth in the Group 2 Shootout earlier this month, Worm Burner bounced back to form last week with a sizzling 29.30 heat win.
It was his first victory outside of South Australia and a pleasing effort for his trainer.
“He’s finally won a race in Melbourne so the monkey is off our backs,” Butcher told Greyhound Racing Victoria.
“I was tossing up whether to even enter him in the Melbourne Cup heats because I thought he was dismal in the Shootout.
“He went poor in the Shootout from a wide draw after a lot of people thought he was suited out there. He has drawn box two tomorrow night, and if he can get around the first bend near the front, he’s in with a chance.
“He’s got such a big following back at home. Every punter in South Australia knows him and they will all be cheering for him in the Cup.”
Barton Bale will be aiming to give leviathan owner-breeder Paul Wheeler his third consecutive win in the Cup, having won the race with Dyna Villa (2014) and Dyna Double One (2015) in recent years.
The black dog will start wearing the red stretch vest and is sure to put himself in the final as he is armed with dazzling early speed.
Jesaulenko, a dual track record breaker, will exit box eight, a draw which was pleasing to his trainer Terri Morris when speaking to Australian Racing Greyhound earlier this week.
“He has been boxing beautifully so it didn’t really worry me what box he got,” Morris said.
“With that being said I am very happy with box eight. There is a lot of pace on the inside, so being on the outside I am hoping he gets a clear run.
“He loves to run in a straight line and drop down around the first turn.
“If you asked every trainer the same question I think we would all answer the same way, but I am confident with him.”
Rouding out the field is Matt Machine for Jamie Ennis. The son of American sire SH Avatar and Love To Rock was impressive in winning his heat in 29.39 last week, but looks poorly boxed out wide on the track this Friday.
The Group 1 Melbourne Cup is race eight on the card this Thursday and is set to jump at 9:08pm.
Group 1 Melbourne Cup – runner statistics and best odds
Box One – Barton Bale
Black Dog – 36.3kg – March 2014
Vee Man Vane x Darya Bale
Prize money: $23,580
Trainer: Blake Shillington
Career: 11: 8-2-0
Box: 0: 0-0-0
T/D: 3: 2-1-0
T/D Best: 29.45
Career Highlights: WON Geelong 25.48
Best odds to win the Melbourne Cup: $8.50 with Bet365
Box Two – Worm Burner
Brindle Dog – 31.4kg – December 2013
Oaks Road x Little Looper
Prize money: $216,225
Trainer: Cameron Butcher
Career: 54: 34-8-4
Box: 5: 1-1-2
T/D: 2: 1-0-0
T/D Best: 29.30
Career Highlights: WON 2016 Group 1 National Sprint Championship, 2015 Group 3 Brian Johnstone Memorial, 2ND 2016 Group 1 Adelaide Cup, 3RD 2016 Listed SA Sprint Championship, FINALIST 2016 Group 1 Topgun, 2016 Group 2 Shootout
Best odds to win the Melbourne Cup: $13 with Luxbet
Box Three – Zambora Brockie
Black Dog – 30.8kg – September 2013
Nitro Burst x Flying Liddy
Prize money: $431,133
Trainer: Anthony Azzopardi
Career: 45: 28-4-5
Box: 6: 3-2-0
T/D: 7: 4-0-2
T/D Best: 29.06
Career Highlights: WON 2015 Group 1 Vic Peters Classic, 2016 Group 1 Winter Cup, 2016 Group 2 Shootout, 2016 Group 2 Warrnambool Cup, 2016 Group 2 Horsham Cup, 2ND 2016 Group 1 National Sprint Championship, FINALIST 2016 Group 1 Paws of Thunder, 2016 Group 1 Temlee, 2016 Group 1 Topgun
Best odds to win the Melbourne Cup: $2.20 with William Hill
Box Four – Tripum
Blue Brindle Dog – 29.6kg – March 2014
Collision x Surin’ Sal
Prize money: $129,825
Trainer: Darren Russell
Career: 42: 19-7-4
Box: 5: 2-1-0
T/D: 2: 2-0-0
T/D Best: 29.33
Career Highlights: WON 2016 Group 2 Lismore Cup, Casino 23.11TR, FINALIST 2016 Group 3 Townsville Cup
Best odds to win the Melbourne Cup: $19 with Bet365
Box Five – Ando’s Mac
Fawn Dog – 31.2kg – June 2014
El Grand Senor x Brook’s Doll
Prize money: $136,388
Trainer: Jason Mackay
Career: 28: 15-4-1
Box: 2: 2-0-0
T/D: 2: 1-0-0
T/D Best: 29.64
Career Highlights: WON 2016 Group 1 Vic Peters Classic
Best odds to win the Melbourne Cup: $13 with Sportsbet
Box Six – Outside Pass
Black Bitch – 30.3kg – August 2013
Head Bound x Tina’s Show
Prize money: $126,273
Trainer: Tony Apap
Career: 35: 15-6-2
Box: 5: 1-0-0
T/D: 5: 2-2-0
T/D Best: 29.13
Career Highlights: 2ND 2016 Group 1 Winter Cup, 2016 Group 2 Shootout, 2016 Group 3 Speed Star, FINALIST 2016 Group 1 National Sprint Championship, 2016 Group 2 Richmond Oaks
Best odds to win the Melbourne Cup: $6 with Bet365
Box Seven – Matt Machine
Black Dog – 34.9kg – September 2014
SH Avatar x Love To Rock
Prize money: $36,280
Trainer: Jamie Ennis
Box: 0: 0-0-0
T/D: 19: 8-5-4
T/D Best: 29.39
Career Highlights: WON Sandown Park 29.39, The Meadows 30.07
Best odds to win the Melbourne Cup: $51 with Sportsbet
Box Eight – Jesaulenko
Black Dog – 32.3kg – October 2013
College Causeway x Elite Fairy
Prize money: $107,070
Trainer: Terri Morris
Career: 50: 25-6-7
Box: 7: 3-2-2
T/D: 9: 4-0-3
T/D Best: 29.13
Career Highlights: WON Traralgon 29.84TR, Sale 24.32TR, FINALIST 2016 Group 2 Traralgon Cup
Best odds to win the Melbourne Cup: $7 with Crownbet