There may be no more informative guide to the level of European challenge for this year's Emirates Melbourne Cup than the GAIN Irish St Leger at the Curragh. Final declarations have not yet been named for the 2800-metre Group 1 (0.50am Monday, local), but at this stage there could be as many as half a dozen Flemington prospects on show.

Leading the way are Royal Diamond and Red Cadeaux, a couple of gallopers who have made a late detour to County Kildare rather than contesting the BMW Caulfield Cup

The former, trained and ridden by Johnny Murtagh, is defending his crown here and has excelled during the Irish summer, most recently winning last month's trial over course and distance.

Both Murtagh and Red Cadeaux's trainer Ed Dunlop have advised Racing Victoria that they will not be travelling to Caulfield and will instead finish their preparations for the Cup itself at the Werribee quarantine centre.

Rain at the Curragh has eased ground to around officially good, which has encouraged Dunlop.

Red Cadeaux, so close to glory when second in 2011 and eighth in the Spring Racing Carnival highlight, has only just started to show some signs of life after a handful of dismal efforts.

The veteran chestnut looked to be turning a corner when second to live Melbourne chance Royal Empire in the Geoffrey Freer (2600m) at Newbury.

"His last run was much better and we just thought that he would get more suitable ground at the Curragh," said Dunlop.

"The danger is it would be faster at Caulfield, and that would mean he would be having two runs quite close together on quick ground. We'll look to Australia after this."

Far higher in the Melbourne Cup betting with British bookmakers is last year's Irish Leger third Brown Panther, but his participation has suddenly been thrown into doubt.

Trained by Tom Dascombe and Bred and part-owned by retired star footballer Michael Owen, Brown Panther produced a career-best in a competitive Goodwood Cup (3200m).

However, Owen tweeted on Thursday : "Desperate news. Just got off the phone to @TomDascombe who informs me that Brown Panther has a temperature and hasn't eaten anything today.

"Tom and our vets will monitor him in the next few hours but his participation in Sunday's Irish St Leger looks in doubt."

Cup legend Dermot Weld has two possible travellers in Voleuse De Coeurs and Pale Mimosa but the dual winner's lips were sealed as to their chances of making the journey as he wants to see how they fare here.

The same comment applies to Aidan O'Brien over his likely Curragh starter Ernest Hemingway.

Godolphin are set to run Ahzeemah, the ultra-consistent stayer who was runner-up to Brown Panther at Goodwood and then bested Simenon in a terrific finish to the Lonsdale Cup (3200m) at York.

Their racing manager Simon Crisford said: "The plan is to run him in Ireland and he is in good form.

"He has been really progressive for us but we will see how he gets on this weekend before making plans.

"He is a possible for the Melbourne Cup but we have a few in the mix and Royal Empire would appear to be the main candidate for Australia at this stage." (racingvictoria)