Published by Trevor Marshallsea, 5th November 2018 on foxsports.com.au
YOU’VE done your research, consulted your gut, and picked your horse. Good news — here’s why it can win the Melbourne Cup. Bad news — here’s why it can’t win the Melbourne Cup.
1. BEST SOLUTION (Barrier 6) Approx win/place odds: $15 / $4.
WHY: The handicapper’s done a lot of homework, and that’s why this stallion has topweight. It’s all about class. He has the highest international rating of any horse in this race. He’s won three Group 1s at his past three starts, two in Germany before a tough Caulfield Cup win that was as stirring and gritty as Steve Waugh with a bee in his bonnet. Has drawn a great barrier, and has the clout of Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin behind him.
WHY NOT: Those three wins were all over 2400m, and that’s the furthest he’s gone to date. Will need to be every bit as tough as he looks, and then some, to go the extra 800m here.
2. THE CLIFFSOFMOHER (9) $15 / $4.
WHY: Has one of the world’s best trainers in Aidan O’Brien and one of the world’s best riders in Ryan Moore, and drawn well to boot. Worked home well for third in the Caulfield Cup.
WHY NOT: Like Best Solution, this is also his first go beyond 2400m. And while he’s a classy animal, having competed in some of the world’s best races, he doesn’t actually win that often, with three from 17, or just 18 per cent.
3. MAGIC CIRCLE (17) $9.50 / $3.
WHY: You know he’ll get the distance. In fact at 3200m he’s just getting warmed up. He bolted in in the Chester Cup two runs back over 3749m, running through the line like it was a 1200m sprint. Has Corey Brown on his back, who’s won it twice, including last year on Rekindling, and was unlucky not to win a third when Bauer was beaten a lip by Viewed in 2008, despite actually setting a faster time. The GPS tracker in his saddle cloth was ahead of Viewed’s, but Viewed had the longer neck.
WHY NOT: Barrier 17 is the obvious worry. They don’t often win the Cup from that wide out. Also, he hasn’t run since May.
4. CHESTNUT COAT (4), $51 / $12.
WHY: He’s a Japanese stallion and they can breed a tough stayer over there, like Delta Blues who fought hard when looking beaten all the way down the straight to win the Cup in 2006. Came a close-up fifth in Japan’s big 3200m test, the Tenno Sho back in May. Has the same barrier as last year’s winner Rekindling.
WHY NOT: It was his stinker of a run in the Caulfield Cup. Just showed nothing that day, trotting in in 13th place, 10 lengths behind the winner, worse still fading from fifth. Will need a stunning form reversal.
5. MUNTAHAA (13), $11 / $3.
WHY: From the stable of outstanding English trainer John Gosden, who has the likes of Cracksman, and Enable, who won at the Breeders Cup in America on Saturday, so the stable’s on fire, like it always is. Won the Ebor Handicap at York last start, often a good lead-up race for this. Will wear ear muffs pre-race so hopefully won’t get stirred up by the big crowd. Not a bad barrier, in the middle.
WHY NOT: Hasn’t been to 3200m yet. The Ebor is 2816m, and his longest run was fourth over 2917m.
6. SOUND CHECK (16), $41 / $10.
WHY: Won a 3200m Group 2 in Germany four starts ago, so will get the trip. Trained here now by Mike Moroney, who won the Cup with Brew in 2000.
WHY NOT: Has drawn badly in 16, and would want to have done more than his poor lead-up effort when 12th in the Caulfield Cup to allay the attendant fears about that.
7. WHO SHOT THEBARMAN (18), $51 / $12.
WHY: Is a remarkable 10-year-old, having his fourth run in this race, which would be a staggering five if not for his late scratching last year. Came third in 2014, and won the 3200m Sydney Cup as a nine-year-old last autumn. Worked home alright when fourth in the Moonee Valley Cup last start.
WHY NOT: He’s a 10-year-old. They just don’t win this race. It’s not like hanging around till it’s your turn, like John Howard. On top of that, has the worst barrier in Cup history, with no winners having jumped from 18.
8. ACE HIGH (22), $81 / $20.
WHY: Won the Victoria Derby last year, and Efficient did that in 2006 before winning the Cup a year later. Will appreciate a dry track after his Caulfield Cup flop last start, and won over 2000m at Randwick the start before, on the dry.
WHY NOT: That Caulfield Cup run. Slow track or no, he was very disappointing, leading then fading right out of it, like a horse who won’t exactly relish an extra 800m on Tuesday. Also will need lots of hard work, or luck, but probably both, from barrier 22.
9. MARMELO (10), $18 / $4.
WHY: Disappointed last year as co-favourite, after impressive, fast-finishing seventh in the Caulfield Cup. But the word is he didn’t recover well from that in time for Flemington. This time he comes straight into this race without an Australian lead-up. Omen seekers might like his dual Hugh factor: trainer Morrison and jockey Bowman, the man who of course rides Winx. Informed turf students like that combination too. Nice barrier. Strong place rate of 75 per cent.
WHY NOT: Well, the Cup run last year was worrying, when ninth, beaten 10 lengths. And while he’s won two of his past three in England and France, he was a well beaten short-priced favourite last start over 3000m in France.
10. AVILIUS (11), $13 / $4.
WHY: Cummings. That’s a good name for a trainer to have in this race. James, grandson of Bart, knows what he’s doing, and has some quality horseflesh from his Godolphin bosses to work with. Also has the most successful barrier in Cup history, with eight wins. And has the second-best win rate in the race, at 50% from 12 starts, or one in two. So having not won last start …
WHY NOT: While he won his first four Australian starts before a creditable last-start fourth in the Cox Plate, he has been past the 2500m of his win the start before, and was veering about a bit at the end of that.
11. YUCATAN (23), $4.80 / $2.
WHY: His last-start super impressive win in the 2400m Herbert Power Stakes, when he toyed with them, leading by eight lengths into the straight before easing down. That’s why he’s favourite.
WHY NOT: Favourites have an ordinary recent record in this race, winning just one of the past 10 (Fiorente in 2013), and 34 of the 156 Cups ever run. Plus, the Herbert Power was his furthest trip to date, and he has barrier 23 to cope with here.
12. AUVRAY (1), $126 / $30.
WHY: Um, he has barrier one, so he’ll cover less ground than most.
WHY NOT: You need to look hard and long to try to figure out how the eight-year-old got into the field, and then you’re still not sure. Ran sixth in weaker class his past two starts.
13. FINCHE (15), $31 / $8.
WHY: Impressed at first Australian start when third in the Geelong Cup, working home nicely in a way that suggests the extra 800m here won’t hurt. Has master trainer Chris Waller, and a gun jockey in Hong Kong premiership-winning Australian Zac Purton,
WHY NOT: Has the second-worst Cup barrier, with only one winner coming out of it, back in 1973. Hasn’t raced past 2500m, and until you see them do it on raceday, 3200m is a worry.
14. RED CARDINAL (5), $101 / $25.
WHY: Has Darren Weir as a trainer, and he wins everything. Has Damien Oliver as a jockey, and he’s the most successful Cup rider of modern times, with three wins and a couple of seconds. Has blinkers on this time.
WHY NOT: Might need more than blinkers. The form’s pretty dodgy. They don’t often come from an 11th in the Moonee Valley Cup to win this.
15. VENGEUR MASQUE (2), $67 / $15.
WHY: Another with Mike Moroney, he’s usually doing his best work at the finish, and won the Queen Elizabeth over 2600m at this track last November. Good barrier, and gets a sheepskin nose roll on for this, which look cool, and help keep a horse settled and focused.
WHY NOT: Might suck you in a bit with the way he ends off, since he hasn’t placed in all six runs this year. Also hasn’t gone to 3200m yet. Also has gate two, which has only hatched two winners of this race.
16. VENTURA STORM (7), $31 / $8.
WHY: Won the Moonee Valley up last start, the race in which Prince of Penzance came second before winning the Cup for Michelle Payne in 2015.
WHY NOT: That was first win in 17 mostly frustrating starts in Australia since coming from Europe. So can he go back-to-back? Also has failed in two 3200m runs out here.
17. A PRINCE OF ARRAN (20), $16 / $4.
WHY: Was an early Cup favourite, has won over 3200m in Dubai, and surged into contention with a clinical win in the Lexus Stakes at Flemington on Saturday. Shocking did that before winning the Cup in 2009. Has pre-race ear muffs added to keep him calm.
WHY NOT: No horse has won the Lexus and the Cup since Shocking in 2009. The back-up is hard, and he has one of the worst Cup barriers in 20 (two wins ever).
18. NAKEETA (3), $126 / $30.
WHY: Ran very well to get fifth in this race last year, and went OK when seventh in Muntahaa’s Ebor Handicap at York two starts back. Barrrier three helps.
WHY NOT: Followed that Ebor with a poor 13th in the Moonee Valley Cup, finishing behind even Red Cardinal.
19. SIR CHARLES ROAD (14), $101 /$25.
WHY: Best thing you can probably say is barrier 14 is the second most successful barrier in Cup history, with six winners. Came third in the Bendigo Cup last week. Has placed at 3200m in native New Zealand.
WHY NOT: Third in the Bendigo Cup? When beaten by a $71 pop? No thanks.
20. ZACADA (24), $201 / $50.
WHY: Is in the field, and history has shown you just cannot win this race if you’re not in the field.
WHY NOT: Why is he in the field? Form’s very ordinary last four starts, though he was second in the 3200m Sydney Cup last autumn. But that was to Who Shot Thebarman, who was nine at the time. Worst strike rate in the field at 11 per cent. Oh, and even better, has the widest gate there is.
21. RUNAWAY (12), $41 /$10.
WHY: Has Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott training, and they know how to turn out a tough, front-running stayer, and Gai won this with one such, Fiorente, in 2013. Led throughout to take the Geelong Cup, which often holds the winner of this race. Has a light weight, and won the 2800m St Leger here earlier this year.
WHY NOT: First go past 2800m, and leaders don’t often win this tough race. Also, if you’re superstitious about testicles, he only has one to speak of. This means he’s not a stallion, or a gelding, but that rare commodity known as a “rig”.
22. YOUNGSTAR (8), $19 / $4.
WHY: Has the Chris Waller touch, top jockey Craig Williams, is a classy, staying-four-year-old mare, has a tiny weight, and won the 2200m Queensland Oaks last May, and worked home well for seventh in the Caulfield Cup. Has third-most successful barrier of this race, with five wins.
WHY NOT: Hard for four-year-old mares to win this race, the last one being Ethereal, who won the Caulfield-Melbourne Cup double in her outstanding 2001 year. But still, this might not be the strongest Melbourne Cup on record either.
23. CROSS COUNTER (19), $11 / $3.
WHY: England-based Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby has a great strike rate in Australia, and Kerrin McEvoy is a masterful lightweight jockey who’s won this race twice, including on Almandin two years ago. And that light weight! Just 51kg. Set a course record at Goodwood over 2400m two starts back carrying 57.5kg, (like all the males in that set-weights three-year-old event). Has the best win rate in the race, at 57%.
WHY NOT: Hasn’t been past 2400m, has barrier 19, and is he seasoned enough? He’s still just a three-year-old by northern hemisphere time (he’s classed as a 4yo here), and that win rate comes from four wins in only seven starts. Still, they said the same about Rekindling last year.
24. ROSTROPOVICH (21), $26 / $5.
WHY: Aidan O’Brien, and a classy reputation, which is why O’Brien took the unusual step of running him in the Cox Plate for his lead-up. Won in tough style at Leopardstown, Ireland, last start over 2400m.
WHY NOT: Another who’s a doubt at the trip, having not gone beyond 2400m, and has an awful barrier to contend with, especially as he often leads.