Pulling apart the 2017 Melbourne Cup

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    Another Melbourne Cup run and won. Another Lloyd Williams trophy in the cabinet at Macedon Lodge.

    They say money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy horses good enough to win the race that stops the nation, as the leviathan owner went back-to-back with Rekindling following on from Almandin last year.

    Barriers are always a tricky thing to assess. Many a trainer has scratched their horse after drawing too wide, preferring to wait for something easier. The Hawkes camp are notorious for complaining about bad barriers.

    On the other hand, plenty of punters enjoy backing horses that have a poor gate, figuring they get over the odds. Some races, like the Doncaster Mile and Oakleigh Plate, often provide winners that have drawn wide.

    In a Melbourne Cup, they are as often irrelevant as they are a key to the outcome.

    More 2017 Melbourne Cup
    » Race report: Rekindling wins
    » Who came last
    » Complete finishing order
    » Watch video highlights replay
    » Re-live the race with our live blog
    » Regal Monarch’s horror fall
    » Winning trifecta and quinella
    » Winning exact and first four

    Take last year’s edition, for instance. Almandin and Heartbreak City fought a memorable war down the straight, after drawing barriers 17 and 23.

    Of the first six home, Hartnell in third drew the most-inside gate, with 12. Qewy, Who Shot Thebarman and Almoonqith finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, from barriers 15, 20 and 19.

    This year, it was a different story.

    The first four home, Rekindling, Johannes Vermeer, Max Dynamite and Big Duke, all drew next to each other in barriers, four, three and two respectively.

    They each enjoyed the cosiest possible runs, ensuring they had enough energy at the end of two miles to accelerate when other horses were tiring or had endured tougher runs.

    The horses that finished fifth, sixth and seventh weren’t so lucky at the barrier draw. Nakeeta jumped out of 19, Thomas Hobson out of 20, while Tiberian had to make his way from gate 22.

    Thomas Hobson settled last out of the home straight the first time, with Nakeeta not far in front of him. They were jagged to the tail straight out of the barriers, with their jockey’s looking to conserve energy early in the race.

    They ran at least as well as some of the horses in front of them, but were never a winning threat the way the race panned out, after taking their positions at the tail.

    Poor old Tiberian was given one of the worst rides in the great race’s history, at the hands of his usual jockey Olivier Peslier. Here was exhibit A for why many international connections like to use local riders.

    There can’t have been many horses cover as much ground as Tiberian was forced to. He was never closer than four wide, and was asked to move around the field mid-race despite a steady tempo being set.

    To still have the gall to run seventh after spending a couple of furlongs wading through the Maribyrnong River was an outstanding performance, and he might well have been in the finish if he had drawn one of the inside barriers.

    Rekindling’s win also dispelled the notion that international runners must have a run in Australia in order to take home the Melbourne Cup. Such thinking has always been overplayed, even if Vintage Crop in 1993 was the last horse to do it.

    Last year, Heartbreak City went down by a nose. The year before, it was Max Dynamite running second. Red Cadeaux ran second three times – in 2011, 2013 and 2014 – without having a run in the country beforehand.

    This year, five of the first seven horses home were internationals having their first run in the Australia. It should be the result that dispels that particular myth for what it is.

    This Melbourne Cup did seem to lack the lustre of previous years.

    Partly, it might have been down to Winx’s third Cox Plate dominating the latter stages of October, meaning the race that stops our nation didn’t have its usual build-up.

    Perhaps fatigue of the Lloyd Williams’ domination has set in, given he seems to own a quarter of the annual field or more. The Melbourne Cup has always been the people’s race, but the Williams team aren’t exactly easy to identify with.

    The familiar names and older characters weren’t there. Bart Cummings and his charisma is gone. Lee Freedman, always quick with a quip, isn’t a player anymore. Damien Oliver wasn’t riding due to suspension. The current names that are familiar to genuine race fans simply don’t resonate with the wider public. The sport is more niche that it ever has been.

    Inside barriers in the main race were the story of the day. Lloyd Williams winning is becoming the story of the Melbourne Cup in a historical sense. Where racing sits in the Australian landscape these days is the question for the immediate future.

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (51)

    • November 8th 2017 @ 7:20am
      Pedro said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:20am | ! Report

      Track bias. All the proceeding races suggested that the superior ground was close to the fence. Pretty tough to fly your horse half way round the world and be presented with a “good” track which was anything but.

      • Columnist

        November 8th 2017 @ 8:09am
        Cameron Rose said | November 8th 2017 @ 8:09am | ! Report

        The rail looked hot early, but they started sweeping into the race as the day went on. The last sprint race, the grandstand was the place to be. I thought it was okay in the end.

        • November 8th 2017 @ 8:48am
          Razzar said | November 8th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

          I think the area of concern is between the 1400 and around 2000. These races even with reasonable tempo, backmarkers coming wide aren’t making much ground. So in these races, in the main, rail hugging is an advantage.

          Saturday, The Myer with good tempo, had midfielders bearly getting going, with Shoals hanging on, on the preferred Inside ground. Plus the two races prior to that had rail hugging victors.

          All three tracks have been suffering from this of late, but Flemington up until the carvival has been quite even.

          Oaks day appears a day of look how track is racing early, then decide whether how to tackle the card.

          Good luck punters, we probly will need it.

          • Columnist

            November 8th 2017 @ 9:53am
            Cameron Rose said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

            I don’t know what happens at carnival time for the tracks to play this way? They seem to play much fairer during the less important parts of the year!

      • November 8th 2017 @ 11:03am
        Haradasun said | November 8th 2017 @ 11:03am | ! Report

        There was a massive southerly blowing which naturally favours horses closer to the rail. Pretty tough to complain about the track when its the weather influencing conditions

        • November 8th 2017 @ 5:56pm
          Razzar said | November 8th 2017 @ 5:56pm | ! Report

          The wind was nothing like the winds of August & September. The first two days of this Carnival, rails front running, has mostly had the day. The wind has played little or no part, on how the track has raced. It’s defenately not serious bias, but it’s not that fair on backmarkers. 😊

    • November 8th 2017 @ 8:36am
      sheek said | November 8th 2017 @ 8:36am | ! Report

      Hi Cameron,

      This was your most poignant sentence/paragaraph: ” They each enjoyed the cosiest possible runs, ensuring they had enough energy at the end of two miles to accelerate when other horses were tiring or had endured tougher runs”.

      I watched the replay on TV, concentrating on Rekindling & jockey Corey Brown followed the blueprint of a successful Cup ride – get across to the fence well back, tuck in behind cover & go to sleep. Then when rounding the final bend, wake up & move through the gaps into the centre & fly home over about the last 250m.

      Brown seemed to follow the blueprint perfectly. Rekindling was freshest & consequently came home strongest.

      Just as an aside, it was said inaugural hall-of-famer jockey George Moore never won a Melbourne or Caulfield Cup because he was too impatient a rider. Imperious up to 2000m, but beyond that he could be cantankerous.

      I hope not too many internationals ever win first up. You can’t legislate that an overseas horse must have a prior run, but I wish they could, & would. If only to help the local punters out.

      A point on barriers. They are almost inconsequential in a 3200m race, even over 2400m. That so many “experts” continue to bang on about the barrier draw in the Melbourne Cup astounds me. They should concentrate on the how the jockeys should ride.

      The Melbourne Cup is changing, it’s no longer the “everyman’s” race. Like all major international races, it has become the preserve of the very rich & usually famous.

      It’s not even our race anymore, even though its held on Australian soil. Most of the jockeys remain Australian. There are many local owners, but they buy imported horses, who are mostly bred overseas & mostly trained overseas.

      Some might say that’s a good thing but I wonder.

      The only thing propping up our staying races are the imports. Australians have fallen in love with sprints quicker than even the Yanks. Your money doesn’t have to work as hard from breeding to 2yo & 3yo sprints back to breeding.

      The ATC showed their crassness announcing a lift in prize money for The Everest on the eve of the Cup.

      Lloyd Williams has acknowledged a little sheepishly, that although he was won six Melbourne Cups as an owner, which equates to a lot of prize money, he is still in the red overall.

      Both the Melbourne Cup & Caulfield Cups are doomed. 10 years from now the biggest races will be The Everest (1200m), Golden Slipper (1200m), TJ Smith Stakes (1200m), Lightning Stakes (1000m), Blue Diamond (1200m), Newmarket Hcp (1200m) & Stradbroke Hcp (1400m).

      All sprints.

      Most punters don’t care as long as they have something to bet on. Only the purists will suffer.

      We can read about staying races in the history books. Or more likely Wikipedia online.

      • November 8th 2017 @ 9:03am
        spruce moose said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

        What a dissenting High Court Justice you would have made in another life with that jeremiad….

        • November 8th 2017 @ 9:20am
          sheek said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

          Well, at least I learnt a new word this morning!

          • November 8th 2017 @ 10:02am
            spruce moose said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

            🙂

            • November 8th 2017 @ 10:58am
              sheek said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:58am | ! Report

              Spruce Moose,

              On a serious note, it’s disappointing if I only appeal to your base emotions & not your noble ideals. This is almost always my point on my favourite sports – shouldn’t we aim for what is best for the majority?

              When I was first exposed to horse racing back in the mid to late 60s, the people running the sport understood the importance of variety.

              While staying races & handicaps were to the fore, they were not at the exclusion of sprints, wfa or 2 & 3yo classics. They all had their place in the sun.

              Equally important, professionals (doctors, lawyers, builders, businessmen, etc, could own horses outright while the average working man could also own a horse by pooling money with a couple of mates.

              Syndicates were virtually unheard of & also unnecessary since ownership was still in reach of the average Joe.

              Then in the 70s an Englishman by the name of Robert Sangster (married to Susan Peacock, ex-wife of Liberal politician Andrew) came out here & rubbished the Melbourne Cup & our obsession with staying handicaps.

              He obviously got the ear of leading wealthy Australians (Robert Holmes a Court, John Singleton, Gerry Harvey, etc) & told them breeding & sprinting & quick turnarounds (from track back to breeding) were the keys to surefire, rapid wealth creation.

              What we see today started back in the 70s.

              I admire Lloyd Williams for sticking with his love for the Melbourne Cup, while almost anyone else with big money is following the Sangster modus operandi.

              As an aesthetic lover of horse racing, I acknowledge that I’m stuffed. The racing world I aspire to is gone & won’t return in my lifetime.

            • November 8th 2017 @ 11:15am
              spruce moose said | November 8th 2017 @ 11:15am | ! Report

              Sheek,

              Not at all…hence why I called it a jeremiad instead of a rant because of that clear passionate and articulate desire to return to a more ideal driven sport.

              Your words may not be considered in great regard now, but I sense in the future they may carry more weight – as some of the great dissents tend to be!

      • Columnist

        November 8th 2017 @ 9:56am
        Cameron Rose said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        Your point about patience is a good one Sheek. I thought Bowman on Marmelo seemed to get an itchy trigger finger and went far too early. I don’t think it made any difference to the end result, but I knew Marmelo was no chance once Bowman went so early at the top of the straight. I thought he had him too forward too, was hoping he would be settling midfield.

        • November 8th 2017 @ 10:10am
          no one in particular said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:10am | ! Report

          Bowman didn’t go to early, he was left there by the leaders capitulating too soon

          • Columnist

            November 8th 2017 @ 11:46am
            Cameron Rose said | November 8th 2017 @ 11:46am | ! Report

            His actions on the horse indicated to me that he got going while the leaders capitulated.

        • November 8th 2017 @ 10:32am
          sheek said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:32am | ! Report

          Cam,

          The classic “too early” was perhaps Malcolm Johnston on Kingston Town back in 1982. Conversely, Mick Dittman on Gurner’s Lane timed his run perfectly.

      • November 8th 2017 @ 10:09am
        no one in particular said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:09am | ! Report

        Barriers are very important still. Had Thomas Hobson drawn 15 gates in he settles a little worst then midfield and probably runs 3rd. Instead he had to sit last and make a long sweeping run. Had Reklindling drawn 10 he doesn’t win

    • November 8th 2017 @ 8:41am
      MAX said | November 8th 2017 @ 8:41am | ! Report

      Roar Racing is essential reading and kv joef is the Roarer of the Year.

      I can hardly wait for his book.

      • Columnist

        November 8th 2017 @ 9:56am
        Cameron Rose said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        He’s very good, isn’t he Max.

        • November 8th 2017 @ 10:33am
          sheek said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:33am | ! Report

          Yes, I am in awe of kv joef’s racing knowledge.

      • Roar Guru

        November 8th 2017 @ 8:43pm
        kv joef said | November 8th 2017 @ 8:43pm | ! Report

        Thx Max … but no. Concerning the a best-seller … it has already been written 110 years ago. Here are 4 quotes that governed my lucky stab at this year’s Cup …

        1. Successful handicappers know every detail in regard to the horses upon which they are intending to place their money.

        2. Special knowledge is not a talent. A man must acquire it by hard work.

        3. Watch all the horses racing closely. You may see something that will be of benefit later on.

        4. Time enters into the argument under certain conditions but if depended entirely for a deduction it will be found wanting.

        Reading through the comments most have missed the ‘controlling factor’ that determined the outcome completely. I’ll post to the other thread or write another small piece that may explain it to the interested. a little hint … it mainly concerns point (4) but i would have worded it differently.

    • November 8th 2017 @ 8:43am
      andrew said | November 8th 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report

      another lamentable day for those following the ‘vastly superior sydney form’. another 5 syd horses started fave on tues and got beat. the only syd trainer making an impression is gai – and that is essentially with horses who have been campaigning in melb all prep anyway (ie, syd trainer but melb form). the cummings/godolphin poor run continues, their only city winners all ‘spring’ have been badajoz in a hcp on grand final weekend at caul and banish on mv on cox plate day. so far at flem, finishing positions for stable are 14, 15, 20, 2, 8, 5, 4, 8, 5, 5, 7, 16, 3.
      sat was a more ‘even’ day with 5 wins to the vics and 4 to syd.
      ill crunch the numbers in full post sandown to highlight this falsism

      • Columnist

        November 8th 2017 @ 9:58am
        Cameron Rose said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:58am | ! Report

        Great stats as always, Andrew, I’ve certainly been staying away from the blue jackets.

        There’s no doubt Invincibella would have won easily if she hadn’t stayed in the stalls yesterday. I don’t think people have been going on about the Sydney form this year, to be honest.

      • November 8th 2017 @ 10:18am
        no one in particular said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:18am | ! Report

        Sydney form (Metrop) held up in the Cup with Big Duke and Libran against the non-imports. Sydney form won the Derby and the Mile, 2nd, 3rd and 4th in Myer. 1st and 3rd in the Coolmore failed to show anything in Sydney. Wakeful won by Sydney horse. Cox Plate and MV Cup won by Waller

        SF not doing bad considering they are out numbered in every race.

        Maybe when you do your stats you can tell us the stats of Victoria’s leading trainer in Sydney. Hopefully by then the chip is removed from your shoulder

      • November 8th 2017 @ 5:03pm
        Not so super said | November 8th 2017 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

        You are a bore Andrew

    • November 8th 2017 @ 8:46am
      Kangajets said | November 8th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

      Fatigue of international and Lloyd Williams has set in. The cup is not as good as it used to be .

    • November 8th 2017 @ 8:51am
      Rocket Surgeon said | November 8th 2017 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      Great article Cameron.
      This is the first time in 10 years I did not place a bet on the Melbourne Cup.
      1. Hugh Morrison gave signals that Marmelo had bounced. He was going to be on top for mine. [And that kills you theme that an experience Australian jockey is essential. The myth that horses need to run in Australia has been exploded. Had the barrier draws been different in passed races, that myth would have been exposed long ago.
      2. Tiberian had form to show that he was better than Marmelo, have beaten horses that beat Marmelo. And presto, Tiberian, though badly ridden as you point out, beat Marmelo 1.5 lengths.
      3. The the media starting pumping Wall of Fire on the final day.
      4. I liked Nakeeta, who ran 5th from barrier 19, again running cold. Never mentioned.
      5. I liked Thomas Hobson to run a place, and then Joao Moreira gets injured, and is replaced with an apprentice?
      I had normally placed my bets before that, but when that happened I was out of it.
      Had Joao had ridden the race would have had a completely different outcome. Jo was worth 6=8 lengths over the apprentice, and Thomas Hobson was beaten 6-5 lengths. Go figure.
      But the great thing that came out of this race was I learned how to handicap a complex horse race myself, and what is really important in rating horses chances, and I had the sense to know when not to bet.
      Just my opinion.

      • Columnist

        November 8th 2017 @ 10:00am
        Cameron Rose said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:00am | ! Report

        Yeah, Tiberian was clearly the best roughie in the race. His odds were ridiculous. I wonder what he might have done with a cosy run…

        I felt Wall of Fire wasn’t going to get the trip, and so it proved.

        Nice commentary Rocket.

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