59kg: The weight of history to stop Dunaden winning the Melbourne Cup
French horse Dunaden (right, yellow silks) ridden by Christophe Lemaire gallops to victory. AAP Image/Julian Smith
The win of Dunaden in the 2012 Caulfield Cup was freakish, but to do it again in the 2012 Melbourne Cup will make him one of the greats.
At Caulfield on Saturday, to overcome a wide barrier and the hefty impost of 58kg was something quite spectacular, proving him to be one of the classiest stayers we’ve seen contest the Cups in recent times.
Racing Victoria’s chief handicapper Greg Carpenter agrees, having given him a 1kg penalty for the Melbourne Cup this morning.
“Dunaden again proved himself one of the most gifted 2400-metre horses in the world on Saturday winning the BMW Caulfield Cup with 58kg in what was an outstanding performance,” Carpenter said.
“Given the quality of field he beat and the manner in which he won the race the victory demanded a review of his Emirates Melbourne Cup handicap and I have penalised him 1kg thus rising to 59kg.”
Dunaden will be aiming to become the 12th horse to win the famed Cups double – the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups in one season – and the first to win two Melbourne Cups and a Caulfield Cup.
“Only Rising Fast in 1955 with 9st 5lb has carried a weight rivalling the 59kg allocated to Dunaden when completing the Caulfield-Melbourne Cup double,” Carpenter told Racing Victoria.
The weight of history is firmly against the French galloper.
No horse has carried more than 58.5kg to win the Melbourne Cup since the introduction of metric weights in 1972, although Makybe Diva carried the equivalent of 60.5kg when she won her third Cup in 2005.
16 horses have carried 59kg or more since 1972, including some of the greats of the turf – the likes of Gunsynd (3rd, 1972), Kingston Town (20th, 1981/2nd, 1982), Better Loosen Up (12th, 1992), Super Impose (4th, 1991/15th, 1992), Vintage Crop (7th, 1994/3rd, 1995), Vinnie Roe (4th, 2002) and Yeats (7th, 2006).
In Dunaden’s favour, though, is that the weight spread – the difference between those at the top of the weights and those down the bottom – has reduced over the years.
When Gunsynd ran third in 1972, he was giving the winner Piping Lane 12.5kg and the runner-up Magnifique 8kg. There was a total weight spread of 17kg, an incredible amount.
When Kingston Town was controversially beaten in 1982, he gave the winner Gurner’s Lane 3kg – not a huge amount. But he gave third placegetter Noble Comment 9.5kg, and there was an 11kg weight spread.
Even when Super Impose ran a remarkable fourth in 1991, he gave 9kg to the winner Let’s Elope. There was a 12kg weight spread.
Slowly, this spread has been reducing. Last year, for example, there was a 7kg spread.
This year, the cutoff may even be as high as 52.5kg, not including the winner of the Lexus Stakes. That means Dunaden only has to give horses up to 6.5kg, not a large amount by any standards.
The challenge will come from those who are very generously weighted to Dunaden compared to recent clashes.
Red Cadeaux was only beaten a nose by Dunaden last year, when he carried 1kg less. This year, Red Cadeaux will carry 3.5kg less than Dunaden, therefore meeting him 2.5kg better. That’s a huge difference given the miniscule margin that separated them on the line last year.
Americain should arguably have won last year’s Melbourne Cup, while he was three wide all the way on Saturday and still finished fourth. He will meet Dunaden 1kg better for their Caulfield clash, but he meets Dunaden a whopping 4.5kg better on last year’s Melbourne Cup.
Then there is a horse like Brigantin, who beat Dunaden by the barest of margins in May last year. They carried equal weights that day, but at Flemington, Brigantin will carry an incredible 6kg less than Dunaden.
I was quick to dismiss Dunaden at Caulfield, believing too much was against him. I was left with egg on my face.
After Saturday’s performance, it would take a brave man to suggest he couldn’t carry the extra weight and win.
But the task that confronts him is massive. Some of the more fancied Melbourne Cup chances did not run in the Caulfield Cup, meaning the Melbourne Cup will be a new challenge altogether.
If he was to win, he would join Archer, Peter Pan, Rain Lover, Think Big and Makybe Diva as multiple winners of the great race. And given the task that confronts him, he’ll need to be as good as any of them to record a historic second victory.
I will definitely be risking egg on the face for the second time with Dunaden by looking elsewhere in two weeks time. Perhaps Wednesday’s Geelong Cup will reveal the next French contender, with Brigantin and Tac de Boistron both considered strong chances of emulating Americain and Dunaden.