Melbourne Cup weights: Who won, who lost

Tristan Rayner Editor

By , Tristan Rayner is a Roar Editor

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    Almandin is a great chance to go back-to-back in the Melbourne Cup. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

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    Greg Carpenter had a big day yesterday, releasing Melbourne Cup and Caulfield Cup weights together for the first time since 2010, to throw open a shuffling of winners and losers from the handicapper’s weightbook.

    Let’s take a look at how the Melbourne Cup, just 55 days away, is now shaped.

    » Full Melbourne Cup nominations list

    Winner: Order Of St George (58kgs)
    A dual Irish St Leger winner by nine lengths, a third in the 2016 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and a favourable treatment from the handicapper.

    No horse has won carrying 58kgs or more since Makybe Diva (58kgs) in 2005, with Think Big (58.5kgs) in 1975 the last winner before the great mare. But we haven’t seen a horse with the quality of Order Of St George’s overseas record in some time.

    Carpenter explained himself, but I’m not entirely sure I agree.

    “As a three-year-old, he won the Irish St Leger by 11 lengths and I gave him 54 kilos in 2015, which is the equivalent of 1.5kg below weight-for-age, which is the equivalent of an older horse at 58,” Carpenter said.

    “Last year he won the Ascot Gold Cup and was beaten in the Irish St Leger and he took his weight at 58kg. This year, he was second to Big Orange in the Ascot Gold Cup and won the Irish St Leger on Sunday by nine lengths from Torcedor.

    “Most people would look at the Irish St Leger and the winning margin and think that the horse has probably put in a career-best performance.

    “In actual fact, in the Ascot Gold Cup, where he ran second to Big Orange, Torcedor was nine-and-a-quarter lengths behind him and on Sunday he reduced that margin slightly to nine lengths.”

    From a replay of that race, it’s clear Order Of St George was pulled up well before the line with the race easily in his bad. Had jockey Ryan Moore punched him out, it could’ve been 12 lengths or more. Irish eyes must be smiling – including part-owner Lloyd Williams in that!

    Will he come or will he take on the Arc instead? Carpenter said he’d be disappointed if connections didn’t take up the challenge after three years in the nominations. At 58kgs again, I firmly believe he’s thrown in and could’ve been given 59kgs.

    Loser: Humidor (56kgs)
    Poor Humidor. With just one Group 1 win to his name over 2000m, he is lumped with 56kgs, just two kilograms short of multiple Group 1 winner Order Of St George. That’s quite the treatment, especially considering the beating he copped after that win to Jameka when they stepped up to 2400m in Group 1 BMW-Tancred Stakes.

    “Humidor was outstanding when winning the Group 1 Australian Cup at Flemington, where he beat Jameka and Exospheric, and was then second to Jameka in the BMW – Tancred Stakes over 2400m on a heavy track,” said Carpenter.

    The only minor detail missing there is that he was second to Jameka by 6.5 lengths. I’m ruling him out completely unless he shows a stunning spring turnaround. And even then, history shows how hard it is to win with 56kgs or more.

    Winner: Red Cardinal (55kgs)
    One of the early favourites for the race, the Group 2 winner in Berlin and the Group 3 Belmont Invitational Cup winner (3219m) looks a little light at 55kgs. He didn’t do much in the Group 2 Prix Kergorlay but it appears that the track was shifting too much for him. The Prix Kergorlay winner, Marmelo, also received 55kgs, which is about right.

    Horses in the straight at Flemington racecourse

    AAP Image/Julian Smith

    Mixed bag: The Kiwis
    Gingernuts lugged with 55kgs won’t do him any favours. He was compared to Mongolian Khan, who won the Caulfield Cup with 56kgs as a four-year-old but The Khan had won more at the same time.

    Jon Snow, a New Zealand compatriot, received 54.5kgs, while Bonneval appears to be thrown in with the mare’s allowance leaving her with just 52.5kgs. That’s such a good handicap for a promising horse, Murray Baker will probably now be plotting a way to avoid any significant penalties while getting her fit enough.

    Keep Lizzie L’Amour (51.5kgs) safe for now – she had atrial fibrillation last start when many thought she’d go past Bonneval in the Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) and is now 1kg better off.

    Depends on your world view: Japanese horses
    Admire Deus (56kgs) and Albert (55.5kgs) are the two likely Japanese runners.

    There’s an argument here both ways – Admire Deus hasn’t won since 2015 so it would appear to be hard to give him more than 56kgs. Albert actually beat him in December 2016 over 2500m, and appears to be a real marathon specialist with Group 2 and 3 wins over 3600m and 3400m respectively. He’s seen by some as the better horse.

    But here’s where facts can hide performance. Admire Deus was fourth in the Group 1 Tenno Sho (3200m) behind Kitasan Black, with Albert behind him in fifth. It’s a hot formline, with Kitasan Black one of the world’s best. It’s very possible this is a gift, with Albert the best hope out of the two.

    Depends on your world view: Hartnell (57.5kgs) versus Almandin (56.5kgs)
    Last year’s third-placer and last year’s winner are both up in weights, as you’d expect. Hartnell climbs 1.5kgs from 2016, while Almandin jumps 4.5kgs off his 52kg win. Going up 4.5kgs on a seven-year-old doesn’t help much, but here’s why – Carpenter again:

    “I decided to give Hartnell a slight discount in the Melbourne Cup weights to reflect his 3200m record.

    “He finished 15th in 2015 and was a distant third last year. His only other run in Australia over 3200m was in the 2015 Sydney Cup, when he finished fourth.

    “Almandin, meanwhile, is an outstanding stayer who has run just three times at 2200m and further – and won every time. While his margin of victory over Heartbreak City last year was narrow, they dominated the rest of the field with more than four lengths back to Hartnell in third.”

    I’m firmly in agreement here.

    But there’s another way to look at things too. Almandin beat Hartnell by 4.5 lengths last year, with a 4kg weight difference. This year, Hartnell still meets him heavier, with a 1kg difference. That comparison appears to be quite generous to Almandin, who is likely the better stayer over 3200m, even if Hartnell is the weight-for-age star.

    Still, there’s not a lot Carpenter could’ve done.

    Winner: Mathematical permutations from rule changes and complexities
    One of the interesting factors was a rule change by Carpenter, who has decided that under the new rules, the winner of the Caulfield Cup will not be penalised any further for the Melbourne Cup, if that horse already held a handicap of 56kg or more.

    In short, that invites the likes of Hartnell, Almandin, Admire Deus, and Humidor a free crack at the Caulfield Cup, where they can win without fear of hurting their chances on the first Tuesday of November.

    Furthermore, the second part of the rule change is that if the Caulfield Cup winner holds a Melbourne Cup handicap of less than 56kg, the penalty issued for the Caulfield Cup victory will not push its Melbourne Cup weight above 56kg.

    One more rule permutation
    One of the key rules of the race is that the topweight must be 58 kilograms – says so right in AR 103.

    Now, if Order Of St George doesn’t come, Hartnell will be pushed to topweight, and the entire field will be shuffled up 0.5kgs. If Hartnell doesn’t run – he looks more of a 2400m horse at best – then Almandin will lug topweight of 58kgs, and the likes of Gingernuts will be carrying 56.5kgs.

    Tristan Rayner
    Tristan Rayner

    Tristan is a writer, consultant, racing enthusiast and former Editor of The Roar who has turned the Melbourne Cup into a year-round study via racingtalk.com.au.