CAN the Charlie Appleby-trained Cross Counter go back-to-back and win the 2019 Melbourne Cup at Flemington on Tuesday?
The imposing stayer claimed the 2018 honours over 3200m at the expense of runner-up Marmelo and third-placed Prince Of Arran.
But, despite that victory, our local racing experts have discounted Cross Counter's claims this time around, leaning towards visiting galloper Mer De Glace and Chris Waller's hope Finche on November 5.
So, who will take out the "race that stops a nation"?
Muswellbrook Race Club general manager Duane Dowell is opting towards Mer De Glace, Southern France and Prince Of Arran, with Youngstar the "roughie".
"Mer De Glace is a Japanese horse, which won the Caulfield Cup a couple of weeks ago," he said.
"And, they [Japanese horses] have been so dominating this spring.
"Southern France boasts good form lines for this race, running third in the Irish St Leger last start.
"It also drops 5.5kg in weight for this.
"Prince Of Arran is peaking at the right time after recently winning the Geelong Cup.
"Don't forget, he ran third in the Cup last year, too."
Scone Race Club CEO Heath Courtney has targeted the likes of Downdraft, Finche, Constantinople and Vow And Declare.
"Although his form is B-grade overseas compared to some in this field, Downdraft is a winner," he said.
"He'll not know himself with 53.5kg.
"He goes well on all types of ground and two impressive Australian runs will have him primed for his grand final.
"Finche is a lightly-raced six-year-old with arguably the best long distance jockey on board in [Kerrin] McEvoy.
"He ran well in last year's Cup and just has a sense of timing about him.
"I also don't mind Constantinople.
"It produced a flashing light run in the Caulfield Cup and is weighted to win this, however the distance and potential soft ground are unknown elements.
"Vow and Declare has come back terrific this preparation.
"He'll get back from the gate, which suits him, and no weight will again see him closing quickly late - but, has he got the class to win a Cup?"
ACM Muswellbrook correspondent Grahame Timbrell is eyeing off Finche, Mer De Glace and Youngstar.
"I'm tipping Finche to win the Cup given he ran fourth last year on a limited preparation," he said.
"This time, he's had Chris Waller to weave his magic.
"And, Waller says he has given both Finche and Youngstar Bart Cummings-style preparations.
"I will go with the Japanese stayer Mer De Glace for second while I'll throw in Youngstar to run third and add plenty of value to trifecteas and first fours."
As for Sky Thoroughbred Central's Gary Harley, a regular visitor to both Muswellbrook and Scone tracks, he's focusing on Finche, Mer De Glace and Youngstar.
"Finche finished fourth in 2018," he said.
"He's drawn a perfect barrier - and is more seasoned now.
"I spoke to Kerrin [McEvoy] last week at Wyong and he admitted if Finche drew inside eight, which he did (four), he'd go close to winning.
"Chris Waller has never won a Melbourne Cup - it's his time.
"As for Mer De Glace, she's won five straight and she'll go well.
"Youngstar, on the other hand, loves the string out of the ground, so she's in the mix now, too.
"She's back to her best and, I believe, a real chance.
"With Tommy Berry on board, and carrying 52kg, the distance won't be a problem."