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Melbourne Cup 2012: Where did it go wrong for the experts?

6th November, 2012
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Green Moon is running here, but Phil thinks he won't fire a shot .AAP Image/Darren McNamara
Expert
6th November, 2012
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Green Moon’s 2012 Melbourne Cup victory was one that slipped under the guard of many form students including myself. So where did it go wrong?

Not only was Green Moon an outsider as the ninth favourite with the TAB at 20/1 but runner-up Fiorente (30/1) and third place-getter Jakkalberry (80/1) were nowhere near most analyst minds.

Now if your form study led you into any of the top three in yesterday’s Cup then I tip my hat to you because you’ve done a better job hundreds of other tipsters, including me.

In fact, I’ve only found two people in the media who rated winner Green Moon a top-four chance. They are ratings wizard Dominic Beirne and TVN presenter David Gately and they both tipped him for second place.

I haven’t come across a single form expert who found a spot in the placings for Fiorente, and I only saw one person put Jakkalberry in their top three.

The Melbourne Cup is the single-most studied horse race in Australia so how could the analysts be so far off? How could the most form-exposed and talked-about race get past guard of the so-called experts?

I think there are three reasons that explain the surprise result in the 2012 Melbourne Cup: no early pace, track bias and the weather.

Probably the most important factor in horse racing analysis is “speed”. And by speed I mean how quickly the early and middle part of a race is run.

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If the pace is quick – like it was in October 20’s Caulfield Cup – horses like Dunaden, Alcopop and Americain come from last to spring the tiring leaders and fight the race out.

But if the speed is slow – like it was in yesterday’s Melbourne Cup – horses in the front half of the field aren’t generally caught by horses in the back half of the field.

When doing the form for a horse race I almost always disregard speed because it is too unpredictable. I find speed prediction to be a nightmare.

Often when a race is meant to be devoid of speed a number of jockeys will change tack and race closer to the lead thereby creating unforeseen pressure.

And when there appears to be an abundance of early pace, often a few of the predicted leaders will settle further back, thereby turning what was meant to be a fast-run race into a leader-dominated affair.

And that’s exactly what happened in yesterday’s Melbourne Cup. Horses that created pressure in the Caulfield Cup like Voila Ici and My Quest For Peace settled midfield and that left jockey Tommy Berry and sole front-runner Glencadam Gold to do as they pleased in the 3200m handicap.

And they dawdled. The middle 800 metres (from the 1800 to the 1000m mark) of the Melbourne Cup was run in a seriously slow 54.44 seconds. That’s probably four seconds (or about 60 metres) slower than normal.

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And that meant the Melbourne Cup developed into a sprint home. If mid-race sectional analysis was possible, you’d have ruled a line through Dunaden and Americain’s winning chances well before the field swung for home.

With 59 and 58kgs on their back respectively they weren’t in any position to be flying home in Black Caviar-like time (which was required) to win the two-mile race from the rear of the pack.

But the Flemington track didn’t help. And this is where reasons two (track bias) and three (the weather) come into play.

There was a clear track bias yesterday and it affected the entire meeting. And the reason for the track bias was the weather.

The track was biased because it favoured horses that raced near to the inside rail. There wasn’t one horse in the seven circle races (i.e. races that included a turn) that came down the centre of the Flemington track to fill a placing.

In the Melbourne Cup, the three placegetters all made their runs in the home straight less than six horse-widths from the inside fence.

The rail position on Melbourne Cup Day was ‘two metres’ meaning the track was two metres narrower than what it is when in its ‘true’ position.

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Horses that raced near to the inside rail were racing on a fresh pad of grass. The rail was moved out because track manager Mick Goodie feared rain (which didn’t eventuate) would make the inside two metres of grass unsuitable for racing after Saturday’s Derby meeting.

The plan to move the rail backfired when the Flemington track was upgraded to a ‘good’ surface at lunchtime.

And that lack of rain played into Green Moon’s favour. He’s a horse that has always performed well on quick surfaces and Green Moon used a good track to his best advantage in the Melbourne Cup.

In the end the horses that fought out the Melbourne Cup had decent form. They were going to figure if luck went their way.

This was described as the strongest ever Melbourne Cup and with so little separating the best 15-18 horses on paper, there was always a chance for an upset result.

Green Moon is a deserving winner of an Australian major. He was purchased by Lloyd Williams in 2010 and made an immediate mark at the last Spring Carnival when finishing second in the Caulfield Cup.

This season he started top pick in the Cox Plate but copped a heavy knock that not only ruined his Moonee Valley chances but threatened to rule him out of the Melbourne Cup.

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Green Moon had a distance query hanging over his head but any horse that starts favourite in the Cox Plate is good enough, and worthy of a Melbourne Cup title. And Green Moon is no different.

Behind Green Moon there were many great runs. I wrote in my preview that Mount Athos could explode with 54kgs on his back. And explode he did, running his last 600m of the Melbourne Cup in a mind-boggling 33.56 seconds. He came from 13th to run fifth and was the easily the best closer in the Cup.

In March’s Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington world-class sprinter Hay List came home in 34.18 seconds to win on a good track. That’s three lengths slower than Mount Athos in the 3200m Melbourne Cup.

My Melbourne Cup Power Rankings (the best eight Cup runs):
1. Mount Athos (fifth)
2. Jakkalberry (third)
3. Green Moon (first)
4. Fiorente (second)
5. Red Cadeaux (eighth)
6. Precedence (ninth)
7. Americain (11th)
8. Kelinni (fourth)

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