Can Dunaden win the Cup with 59kgs?
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Following his impressive win in the Caulfield Cup last Saturday, Dunaden has been penalised one kilogram for his effort and will now carry 59kgs in the Melbourne Cup.
A keen topic of discussion is whether Dunaden is good enough to win the Cup carrying such a relatively huge impost.
In my humble opinion, the short answer is yes.
By most accounts, according to racing experts and even from the stable itself, Dunaden is a superior horse to the one that traveled here one year ago. His impressive win in the 2012 Caulfield Cup is testimony to that.
The question is not so much whether Dunaden can carry 59kgs but the fact that since the Melbourne Cup became a quality handicap, the weights difference between the top-weight and bottom-weight have been significantly compressed.
For example, back in 1969 where we will start our comparative exercise, the equal top-weights Rain Lover (won) and General Command (13th) both carried nine st seven lbs (60.5kgs). The bottom-weight was Wsycan (16th) who carried an even seven st (44.5kgs). This represented a massive variation of 35 pounds, or 16 kilograms.
Now compare this with 2011 where the top-weight Americain (fourth) carried 58kgs (9.2) and the equal bottom-weights Niwot (eighth) and Older Than Time (17th) both carried 51kgs (8.0). This represented a variation of only seven kilograms or 16 pounds under the old scale.
Let’s look at all the horses since 1969 who have carried 59kgs or more and see how they fared. We will rank them in order of highest weight to lowest weight (59kgs) for the purpose of this exercise.:
61kgs (9.8): Battle Heights (1974 – seventh ).
60.5kgs (9.7): Rain Lover (1969 – won), General Command (1969 – 13th), Gay Icarus (1971 – ninth), Gunsynd (1972 – third), Kingston Town (1981 – 20th), Double Trigger (1995 – 17th).
60kgs (9.6): Super Impose (1991 – fourth), Vintage Crop (1994 – seventh).
59.5kgs (9.5): Dayana (1973 – 12th), Fury’s Order (1975 – 14th).
59kgs (9.4): Kingston Town (1982 – seconnd), Better Loosen Up (1992 – 12th), Vintage Crop (1995 – third), Jeune (1995 – 15th), Vinnie Roe (2002 – 4th), Yeats (2006 – seventh).
So all these horses carried the same weight or slightly more than Dunaden. They include just one winner, Rain Lover (1969), one second, Kingston Town (1982), one third, Vintage Crop (1995) and one fourth, Vinnie Roe (2002).
Incidentally, six horses – Ben Lomond (1969), Think Big (1975), Hyperno (1980), Sydeston (1990), Drum taps (1993) and Septimus (2008), each carried 58.5kgs (9.3). Think Big won his second Melbourne Cup carrying this weight while Ben Lomond was third. Also for the record, another 11 horses have carried 58kgs from 1969-2009, the same weight that Americain carried in 2011 and again in 2012.
The only other horse this century to carry the same weight as Dunaden was the impressive Vinnie Roe in 2002 when he finished fourth. Even Makybe Diva was “only” allotted 58kgs for her third successive victory. in my humble opinion the handicappers “went to water’ when allotting her that weight!
Contrary to a popular conception it is my belief that the compressed weights actually help the better horses. I believe a horse of the quality of Dunaden can carry his weight better than say a horse weighted at 51kgs.
The history of the Melbourne Cup is littered with winners who carried akin to a feather on their back. In perhaps one of the most unjust examples, back in 1903 Lord Cardigan beat the mighty mare Wakeful.
Wakeful was the daughter of the great Carbine and in my opinion was a superior mare to Makybe Diva. She was asked to lug a whopping 10 stone (63.5kgs) and she did a mighty job beating all bar Lord Cardigan who carried the feather-weight of 6st 8lbs (42kgs). Wakeful carried 21.5kgs more and ran to within a length of Lord Cardigan! If Maybe Diva had been asked to carry 63.5kgs in her third attempt in 2005 she would probably have run last.
And Lord Cardigan was in fact a very good horse who had fooled the handicapper in 1903 (although he was only three). The following year he returned and under the very good horse’s weight of nine st six lbs (59.5kgs) and ran second to Acrasia.
Dunaden will need the breaks to go his way all the same. He does have the form jockey on his back – Craig Wiliams. And having missed the winning ride last year because of suspension, Williams will be mightily motivated to ensure Dunaden is first past the post again.
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