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Fiorente carries Oz hopes as favourite

AUSTRALIA is a proud sporting nation and one that doesn't take defeat lightly – that's across the board – and while they are very welcoming, they do not want to see the Melbourne Cup leave their country, writes Niall Cronin.

Unfortunately, they could be disappointed as the European contingent is very strong, both numerically and in terms of form.

As the only Irish-based journalist down here, it would be easy to get caught up in the Simenon hype, but I can assure you it wasn't me that saw him collapse from a price of 20/1 to 9/1.

I do genuinely think Simenon can win the 2013 Emirates Melbourne Cup. However, long before I touched down on the runway at Melbourne Airport, I thought the race was set up for him to play a major part once he got in.

Simenon's prep run in the Herbert Power over 1m4f is there for all to see. So too are his gallant efforts in some of the top staying races in Europe. That all proves that he has the speed to run in the Melbourne Cup and the stamina to see out the trip.

Mount Athos had been impressing in his work and, considering he is off the same weight as last year when he probably could have won with a clearer passage, he still looks to have strong credentials – even if the barrier draw went against him and sees him race from stall 22.

Tom Dascombe's Brown Panther caught the eye of Gai Waterhouse amongst others with his eye-catching gallops at the international base, while the Marco Botti-trained Dandino has always been prominent in the betting.

A third French winner wouldn't be a major surprise as Alain De Royer-Dupre saddles the Aga Khan's first runner Verema, and previous winner Dunaden is back too.

But as strong as the European challenge is, the likely favourite for the race is Gai Waterhouse's Fiorente.

The trainer has been second in the race three times and also has a strong chance with French acquisition Tres Blue, but Fiorente is all the rage after he finished third in the Cox Plate just over a week ago.