Australia’s most prestigious thoroughbred race has been decided in the stewards’ room with State Of Rest winning the $5 million WS Cox Plate after surviving a protest.
The last time I backed Cavalryman to win the Melbourne Cup was in 2012. Ridden by everyone’s favourite international jockey Frankie Dettori he duly finished 12th to Green Moon at odds of 30/1.
Undaunted, I look carefully through the form guide again in this year’s Melbourne Cup.
History may repeat itself on Tuesday, except for Green Moon read Fawkner or, raced in the same interests, even outsider Sea Moon.
Still, there are few worse feelings in race-watching than changing lanes and seeing the other lane move faster. In other words, for my self-respect, it is probably better to lose again on Cavalryman than to risk him winning without me.
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There are some reasons for renewed optimism with Cavalryman. The main one is that Craig Williams is riding, not Frankie Dettori. I like the way Williams rides at Flemington.
The early market says I am dreaming. Cavalryman is 30/1 again. Racing never lets you have your turn. It does not work that way. Sometimes you just get lucky.
So the fact that a top jockey such as Williams, still at the top of his form, has never won a Melbourne Cup is no guarantee that he will ever win one.
You know the stories. Scobie Breasley never won a Melbourne Cup. Darren Gauci hasn’t ridden one despite near misses. George Moore, Geoff Lane, the list is long.
Ron Hutchinson was one of our all time greats, but never got his turn to win the Melbourne Cup. He famously decided to give up his regular mount Macdougal just before the Queensland horse won the 1959 Cup.
Craig Williams was certainly unlucky when he missed out on the winning Melbourne Cup ride, through suspension, on Dunaden three years ago, in the season when he had already taken the Caulfield Cup (Southern Speed) and Cox Plate (Pinker Pinker).
It does not mean it is his turn to win a Melbourne Cup now. But he does have the skill and the motivation, if the horse can do his part.
Trainer Saeed Bin Suroor has been trying to win a Melbourne Cup for a long time too, for the stable now officially known as Godolphin Management Company. They have had several near misses, but that’s not to say that it will be their turn this year.
The other Godolphin horse worth watching is Willing Foe, who is only eight. Again the stable has gone for local riding talent and has engaged James McDonald who will give the horse every chance.
Like Americain, winner in 2010, Willing Foe is a son of the late Dynaformer, himself a son of the famous English Derby winner Roberto. Dynaformer was a top sire in the US, boasting 2006 Kentucky Derby hero Barbaro among his progeny.
By coincidence I found myself as a tourist at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky on the day when they were giving a ceremonial burial to the old sire Dynaformer who’d reached the fine age of 27.
His strapper was in tears, and had tucked a rose into the door of his stall. That’s a stupid reason for me to back a horse, but I suppose I will have to include Willing Foe among my selections.
What about Red Cadeaux – twice the unluckiest placegetter in a Melbourne Cup?
Alas this is not about fairness or taking turns. Don’t worry too much that nine-year-olds have never won a Cup. Red Cadeaux is only eight when he is north of the equator. So is Cavalryman for that matter.
Red Cadeaux faces a much worse history hoodoo than any other contestant on Tuesday. Horses have won Melbourne Cups after two or more previous failures if unplaced – but none has ever won after two or more minor placegettings.
Shadow King is the most famous example. He never got his turn. Third to Phar Lap, second to White Nose, third to Peter Pan and second to Hall Mark.
Another perennial placegetter from the same era, the 1930s, was Sarcherie. Two seconds and a third in four years. Never a win.
Quite a few horses have been twice placed in a Melbourne Cup. None has ever gone on to win the race.
As The Roar correspondents like to point out, Cup records are there to be broken. Ask Makybe Diva.
And why haven’t I mentioned Ryan Moore yet after giving him the big write-up before the Cox Plate? This weekend, he is in California trying to bring home more winners at the rich US Breeders Cup meeting at Santa Anita.
Then he is going to get back on a plane and return to Australia to ride Protectionist in the Melbourne Cup. He has done this jet-setting before but I’ve been around for long enough to think it is a bit unhealthy.
Put it this way: he is not doing Protectionist or himself any favours with this preparation. Ryan Moore is a racing ironman and will surely be close in the finish, but it makes me nervous.
So this is a cop-out, but the only expert advice I can give is that the 2014 Melbourne Cup, as is so often the case, is a lottery when you look at it a day or two ahead.
It must be someone’s turn but I’m not sure whose. We’ll know after the event.
Back or barrack for a horse or jockey who you would like to see win, a trainer or even an owner. If that means Bart or Zac or Moody and Nolen, if it means Danny Weir, or Waller, or Red Cadeaux, or Boss or the Scholfields, Lucia or Brambles or Hughie Bowman, then just go for it.
Enjoy the privilege of seeing many of the world’s best stayers, best jockeys and trainers, competing on our home turf.
Just don’t put the house on it. It’s the Melbourne Cup, not science. The best horse doesn’t always win.