The Roar
The Roar


Melbourne Cup: Runner-by-runner guide and tips

Signoff wins the Lexus Stakes to make it into the Melbourne Cup (Photo: AAP)
3rd November, 2014
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November is here, which means only one thing – the Melbourne Cup, the race that stops the nation for three minutes on the first Tuesday in November every year, is back once again.

If you’ve come to this post, I figure you are wanting to know about the horses that will be lining up.

Full 2014 Melbourne Cup results and live blog here

This is the seventh extensive preview we’ve produced, and it just seems to get longer and longer each year. It’s a labour of love, but it’s also something I thoroughly enjoy.

These days I work in Hong Kong racing, but it was the Melbourne Cup which first set me on a path to a career in the industry and it remains a passion.

More 2014 Melbourne Cup:
» Preview and top tips
Alfred Chan’s individual horse analysis and tips
» PREDICTION: Signoff to win the Melbourne Cup
» Full field and odds
» Historical form analysis for 2014 Melbourne Cup
» Latest news, field and odds updates

This Melbourne Cup is a bit disappointing – far from the strongest I’ve seen, and it looks to have a very long tail – but among the live chances there are some fascinating angles.

Will the Japanese win the Cup again? Can Britain finally get the Cup for the first time, or can Germany steal it away? Can one of the 4 nine-year-olds become the first from that age bracket to win the race?

After hours of deliberation and consternation, we’ve finally settled on a top four for the Melbourne Cup. This has changed numerous times, but now this is published, we’re set in stone!


Good luck if you have a bet in the race, whoever you choose – and let’s face it, why wouldn’t you have a bet on Melbourne Cup day?

This year, I’ve tried to add a video for as many runners as possible – I’ve managed to get a video for most runners, but will chase up those for the remainder in the coming days.

To navigate easily to each runner (for stats, colours and a full assessment of each runner), click on the runner’s name below. You can also go to my analysis of the speed, my summary of the entire race and my selections by clicking below. Otherwise, feel free to scroll through the preview!

2. CAVALRYMAN Scratched

Admire Rakti1. ADMIRE RAKTI (8)
Heart’s Cry x Admire Teresa (Helissio), 7yo bay horse

Bred in: Japan
Nationality: Japan
Trainer: Tomoyuki Umeda
Jockey: Zac Purton
Weight: 58.5kg
Career stats: 27:7-6-5
Win/place percentages: 26%/67%
Last 5 starts: 40x20x1
Distances won at: 1 (3400m), 2 (2400m), 1 (2200m), 2 (2000m), 1 (1800m)
Biggest win: Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m), Caulfield, October 18 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $5
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $5
Summary of his chances: Dominant Caulfield Cup winner better suited up in trip at the bigger course and looks hard to beat, despite history saying it is tough with his weight.
Predicted finish: 3rd

Couldn’t have been more impressive in the Caulfield Cup, and comes to Flemington aiming to become just the 12th horse to win the Cups double – the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup – in the same year. He’s attempting to join the likes of Poseidon, Rising Fast, Galilee, Let’s Elope and Might And Power, so it’s no mean feat.

He arrived from Japan as a winner of a sole Group 3, the Diamond Stakes over 3400m at Tokyo racecourse in February 2013, which caused some snickering about the fact he was to be topweight in both Cups.


He did have a fourth to Gentildonna, Denim And Ruby and Tosen Jordan in last year’s Japan Cup over 2400m (finishing ahead of Melbourne and Caulfield Cup winner Dunaden and last year’s Melbourne Cup fourth Simenon), as well as a fourth to top stayers Fenomeno, Tosen Ra and Red Cadeaux in last year’s Tenno Sho Spring over 3200m, so it wasn’t entirely without merit.

However, he showed either how underrated the Japanese horses are as a whole or how weak the Australian crop is at the moment when he produced a barnstorming run to win the Caulfield Cup. He was wide most of the way, albeit with cover for the majority, and was pushed towards the outside fence on the home turn, but wound up very powerfully to run over Rising Romance late.

I always thought Bande, who was scratched from the Caulfield Cup, would be Japan’s best Caulfield Cup chance, with Admire Rakti much better suited at Flemington. That’s why I had a very small wager at 100-1 on him just before the first spring nominations in August. I still think he will be better suited in the Melbourne Cup, which is a frightening prospect for those who oppose him here.

He’s definitely the one they all have to beat, but there are a few statistics against him.

Think Big in 1975 was the last horse to win the Melbourne Cup with 58.5kg. Since then, 19 have carried 58.5kg or more and only two have placed – Kingston Town when second in 1982, when he arguably should have won, and Vintage Crop when third in 1995.

Also since then, the only horses to carry over 56kg to victory were Gold and Black (57kg, 1977), Jeune (56.5kg, 1994) and Makybe Diva (58kg, 2005).

There are a couple of big differences now though. The weight scale, for one. In 1975, topweight Think Big gave 12.5kg to the third placegetter Medici, the bottomweight with 46kg. Nearly 20 years later, when Jeune won, three horses got in on the minimum of 48.5kg. When Makybe Diva won in 2005, two horses scraped in under 50kg.

These days, 50kg is the minimum weight and this year no horse gets in on the minimum. So instead, there is less of a spread of weights and the effort to carry 58.5kg is completely different to the effort required by the likes of Think Big.


So the weight is not a major factor in my thinking – if he does lose, it won’t be the sole factor that stopped him.

He must rank as a major player.

Here is his Caulfield Cup win:

2. CAVALRYMAN (3)Cavalryman
Halling x Silversword (Highest Honor), 9yo bay horse


Bred in: Great Britain
Nationality: Great Britain/United Arab Emirates
Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor
Jockey: Craig Williams
Weight: 57kg
Career stats: 38:10-5-5
Win/place percentages: 26%/53%
Last 5 starts: 12×114
Distances won at: 1(3289), 1(3219), 1(3200), 1(2816), 1(2810), 1(2414), 2(2400), 1(2000), 1(1600)
Biggest win: Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris (2400m), Longchamp, July 14 2009
Best Melbourne Cup effort: 12th, 2012 (one attempt)
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $21
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $26
Summary of his chances: Rejuvenated this season and ran well despite the finishing position two years ago. Chance.
Predicted finish: 5th

The elder statesman of Godolphin’s global team, the now nine-year-old has had a long and fruitful career, and yet is racing in some of the best form he’s seen since his three-year-old days.


As a three-year-old in 2009, he was thrashing the likes of Cirrus des Aigles with ease. He won the Grand Prix de Paris and the Prix Niel, and finished third to Sea The Stars in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe as the fourth favourite.

It was the following season, when he transferred from Andre Fabre to Saeed bin Suroor, that things seemed to go downhill and he looked a shadow of the horse he once was. Indeed, it took him until May 2012, when he was able to get down to a 2800m Listed race, to win again.

In 2012, he was Godolphin’s sole runner in the Melbourne Cup, finishing 12th to Green Moon, beaten almost eight lengths. It doesn’t look flash on paper, but he did sit near the tail of the field in a slowly run race and he produced the fastest final 1000m of any runner.

Last season he thrashed his rivals in the Dubai Gold Cup over 3200m but was slightly disappointing in three further runs back in Britain.

This season he has been in terrific form. He won the Nad Al Sheba Trophy over 2800m by an ever-widening five lengths, should have easily won the Dubai Gold Cup if not for interference, won the Jockey Club Stakes and the Goodwood Cup back in Britain, before a last-start fourth in the Lonsdale Cup behind Pale Mimos.

This time around, he has a master tactician aboard in Craig Williams, and I’m sure he won’t be allowed to get out of his ground again like last time. He showed in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy that he’s just as comfortable tracking the leaders, and it wouldn’t surprise to see him up much closer.

He also looks to have thrived down at Werribee, catching the eye in the mornings and not looking his age at all.

I do wonder if he might be a touch too dour at his age, but given his 2012 effort and his form this year, he must rank as a good chance in what looks a similar affair. I’ll be including him.


Here is his Nad Al Sheba Trophy win:

3. FAWKNER (9)Fawkner
Reset x Dane Belltar (Danewin), 7yo bay/brown gelding

Bred in: Australia
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Robert Hickmott
Jockey: Nick Hall
Weight: 57kg
Career stats: 25:10-5-3
Win/place percentages: 40%/72%
Last 5 starts: 6x7x121
Distances won at: 1 (2400m), 1 (2000m), 1 (1800m), 1 (1610m), 3 (1600m), 1 (1410m), 2 (1400m)
Biggest win: Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m), Caulfield, October 19 2013
Best Melbourne Cup effort: 6th, 2013 (one attempt)
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $8.50
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $9
Summary of his chances: He’s flying but the last 200m will be a concern. Still a chance though.
Predicted finish: 8th

Last year’s Caulfield Cup winner is in the form of his life.

He’d always looked a good miler in the making, reaching a high when finishing second in the Emirates Stakes in 2012. Since then, though, he has progressed. He boasts a Group 1 placing behind the champion mare Black Caviar in the William Reid Stakes, and placed in last year’s Turnbull Stakes before finally breaking through at the top level in the Caulfield Cup. He finished sixth in last year’s Melbourne Cup.

This preparation, he was just edged out fresh in the Makybe Diva Stakes by Dissident, before just holding on to win the Caulfield Stakes. Last week, in the Cox Plate, he raced up to take the lead and beat all but the phenomenal Adelaide.

Clearly, he’s the form galloper of the field, bringing weight-for-age form in as he heads back into a handicap with compressed weights. He must be considered a very live chance.

The biggest concern is the two-mile journey. Last year, he was a long last and had to make his run around the field, eventually finishing sixth but weakening noticeably in the final furlong.

This season, though, he’s been settling closer in his races so it would be a surprise to see him back last again. If he was to get a dream run through the field, then the distance is less a concern and his class may shine through.

Must be considered.

Here is his win in the Caulfield Stakes:

4. RED CADEAUX (15)Red Cadeaux
Cadeaux Genereux x Artisia (Peintre Celebre), 9yo chestnut gelding

Bred in: Great Britain
Nationality: Great Britain
Trainer: Ed Dunlop
Jockey: Gerald Mosse
Weight: 57kg
Career stats: 46:7-11-6
Win/place percentages: 15%/52%
Last 5 starts: 4x60x47
Distances won at: 2 (2816m), 1 (2460m), 1 (2430m), 2 (2414m), 1 (2400m)
Biggest win: Group 1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m), Sha Tin, December 9 2012
Best Melbourne Cup effort: 2nd, 2011 and 2013 (three attempts)
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $18
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $19
Summary of his chances: Looks out of form but his past record in this race ensures he’s a major player.
Predicted finish: 2nd

What more can you say about Red Cadeaux? He belongs among a special club of horses, of which perhaps only he and Cirrus des Aigles belong – although a horse like Side Glance is quickly bidding for membership. These are the globetrotters who turn up year after year at all the major carnivals of the world, always running an honest race and garnering a larger fan-base with every start.

I was asked recently where I had seen Red Cadeaux. The answer? At Flemington, at Royal Ascot, at Meydan, in Singapore and Hong Kong. He is just a phenomenal warhorse.

This season he has been showing signs of his age and he hasn’t looked quite the same horse. Since last year’s second to Fiorente, he finished fourth to Dominant, The Fugue and Mount Athos in the Hong Kong Vase, before a well-beaten sixth in the Dubai World Cup. That run may not be as bad as it looks on paper, though, as he finished alongside two of the world’s top 2000m horses in Side Glance and Akeed Mofeed. He then went to Japan to run in the Tenno Sho (Spring) in May, but he couldn’t match his third last year and finished 14th.

This is the run that may hold the key to his Melbourne Cup chances. That day, he finished alongside Admire Rakti at level weights. Here, he meets Admire Rakti in receipt of 1.5kg. Last year, he finished a length and three quarters ahead of the Japanese runner in the same race, so the comparison is solid enough.

Since returning to England, where he notoriously seems to underperform, he was a satisfactory fourth behind Seismos and Willing Foe in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes, a similar run to what he produced in the same race last year, before one of the worst runs of his career in the September Stakes. He looked like he was ready to challenge around the home turn but found absolutely nothing and ended up dropping out before being eased out of the race by Gerald Mosse. The run was too bad to be true, so I’m putting a line through it completely.

From what I’ve seen of him at Werribee, he looks as good as ever. He’s striding out well and he looks a happy and relaxed horse.

His record in the Melbourne Cup is terrific – he all but won in 2011, he was one of the runs of the race in 2012 when eighth off a slow tempo, and he was wide all the way last year but still kept coming for another second placing.

Not only is he one that cannot be dismissed, it might be a case of fourth time lucky for Red Cadeaux. If he can have a nice run in the two-wide line, pushing wider around the home turn and being saved for one final shot at them, he could do it. And what a story it would be.

He’s a major player.

Watch him finish second to Fiorente in last year’s Melbourne Cup:

5. PROTECTIONIST (11)Protectionist
Monsun x Patineuse (Peintre Celebre), 5yo bay horse

Bred in: Germany
Nationality: Germany/Australia
Trainer: Andreas Wohler
Jockey: Ryan Moore
Weight: 56.5kg
Career stats: 9:4-3-1
Win/place percentages: 44%/89%
Last 5 starts: 22114
Distances won at: 1 (3000m), 1 (2400m), 1 (2200m), 1 (1600m)
Biggest win: Group 2 Prix Kergorlay (3000m), Deauville, August 24 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $7.50
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $7
Summary of his chances: Still looks to have plenty of upside and first run here was terrific. Player.
Predicted finish: 4th

Lightly-raced stayer who is aiming to give Germany their first win in the Melbourne Cup.

He won the Prix Kergorlay in France in August at his last run before coming to Australia, which followed on from strong performances in German Group 2 races.

The Prix Kergorlay has become a good guide to the Melbourne Cup – it was won by Americain in 2010 and it produced four of the first five across the line in 2011. Last year, I was very keen on Verema to forge another link between the Prix Kergorlay and the Melbourne Cup, but she broke down at the 2000m and was sadly euthanised.

He’s clearly got upside and he has the right profile for a Melbourne Cup – on the way up. He does look to be weighted on potential rather than his racetrack performance, which is a slight worry, but in a year of mostly compressed weights perhaps it is deserved.

There are three concerns for me with Protectionist – Ryan Moore, big fields and his Herbert Power run.

First, Ryan Moore. There’s no doubting he’s in the world’s top two or three jockeys – although my English friends will tell you that he is God (and the Americans would probably agree). I’d give that mantle to Joao Moreira, but it’s a matter of debate.

Moore’s ridden twice in the Melbourne Cup for two pretty poor rides on Mount Athos (fifth, 2012) and Dandino (fifth, 2013), however, his ride to win the Cox Plate on Adelaide was sensational and showed a greater understanding of Australian pace shapes.

The second, Protectionist’s lack of exposure to big fields, is the biggest concern. European horses come to Australia used to beating up on small fields, and they get to a field with 24 runners and struggle to match their form. He had not raced against more than eight rivals until the Herbert Power, and while he seemed to handle it, it is still another step.

And third, the flat spot he hit in the Herbert Power as the speed quickened. He can’t be hitting that flat spot and expect to be winning the Melbourne Cup. Perhaps that’s the benefit of having a run beforehand, though.

All that said, the way he hit the line in the Herbert Power was terrific for fourth and a repeat of that performance will have him going very close. He’s also drawn in the perfect spot.

He’s definitely a contender.

Here is his win in the Prix Kergorlay:

6. SEA MOON (18)Sea Moon
Beat Hollow x Eva Luna (Alleged), 7yo bay horse

Bred in: Great Britain
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Robert Hickmott
Jockey: Tommy Berry
Weight: 56.5kg
Career stats: 18:6-3-1
Win/place percentages: 33%/56%
Last 5 starts: 10x8x50
Distances won at: 3 (2414m), 1 (2400m), 1 (2092m), 1 (1611m)
Biggest win: Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes (2414m), Ascot, June 23 2012
Best Melbourne Cup effort: 13th, 2013 (one attempt)
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $151
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $151
Summary of his chances: Going terribly and not sure the 3200m suits. Will probably improve but not enough to trouble the top 10.
Predicted finish: 18th

Sadly, Australian punters have not seen the best of Sea Moon since his arrival from the UK.

The former Sir Michael Stoute-trained galloper – who won the Great Voltigeur Stakes and Harwicke Stakes impressively, was second in a Breeders’ Cup Turf, and third in a hot St Leger – has not been the same since he arrived in Australia. It may have something to do with a virus he picked up in Hong Kong in the days leading up to the international meeting in 2012, but he just hasn’t shown the form expected.

Last year, he was first across the line in the Bart Cummings, beating Araldo, but the result was overturned on protest. A week later, he won the Herbert Power well, but not in the style of his European form. He then finished a somewhat lacklustre 13th in the Melbourne Cup.

This year, he had one run in the autumn – as do most of the established brigade from Macedon Lodge – when last to Lidari in the Blamey Stakes. This spring, they’ve given him a European-style preparation, starting him off at 2500m in the Bart Cummings where he was fifth to Who Shot Thebarman and keeping him around the same mark for the Caulfield Cup, in which he finished last.

There’s been nothing in his two runs to suggest he can do anything here, and on his sole 3200m run last year, you couldn’t really have him at the trip either. The only thing that could possibly suggest improvement is that Team Williams can sometimes improve these horses dramatically at this point in their preparation, but on all the available evidence you’d have to say he’s a deserved outsider.

To see Sea Moon at his best, here he is winning the Hardwicke Stakes in 2012:

7. SEISMOS (1)Seismos
Dalakhani x Sasuela (Dashing Blade), 7yo chestnut gelding

Bred in: Ireland
Nationality: Great Britain/Australia
Trainer: Marco Botti
Jockey: Craig Newitt
Weight: 56kg
Career stats: 25:7-3-2
Win/place percentages: 28%/48%
Last 5 starts: 06410
Distances won at: 1 (2671m), 3 (2400m), 1 (2300m), 2 (2000m)
Biggest win: Group 1 Grosser Preis Von Bayern (2400m), Munich, August 11 2013
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $41
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $51
Summary of his chances: One-paced galloper who was disappointing in the Caulfield Cup. Not for me.
Predicted finish: 23rd

Geoffrey Freer Stakes winner who looks to have no turn of foot whatsoever.

Even his Geoffrey Freer Stakes win was extraordinary. He beat two of his rivals there in Red Cadeaux and Willing Foe, but how he beat them is beyond me. He looked beaten at the 600m mark, was clearly passed by a number of runners, but somehow he kept grinding away and managed to win. He did run down a horse who was first-up in 18 months in Willing Foe, so perhaps it was just a fitness edge.

He then ran in the Caulfield Cup and was very one-paced. He was bustled to try and get towards the lead, which was far from a strong pace, but couldn’t match strides and settled down midfield on the rails. He was under pressure around the home turn and dropped out of it. He simply wasn’t quick enough.

He’s drawn the inside again, which is probably the last thing the owners would have wanted as it means he is likely to be cluttered up at the wrong time.

He’ll need a lot of luck to go his way and a form reversal looks very unlikely. That said, Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock have experienced a major form reversal before.

Two years ago, Jakkalberry turned around his form after a dismal 13th in the Caulfield Cup to run third in the Melbourne Cup, but there were differences. He was wide at Caulfield and yet did show something in the final 100m or so. At Flemington, he had a cosy run and was able to find the line strongly off that.

If he was to find the form which saw him win a Group 1 in Germany in impressive style, then he’d be a place chance, but off his recent form, I couldn’t touch him.

Here is Seismos winning the Grosser Preis von Bayern last year:

8. JUNOOB (7)Junoob
Haafhd x Faydah (Bahri), 7yo chestnut gelding

Bred in: Great Britain
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Hugh Bowman
Weight: 55.5kg
Career stats: 32:11-4-4
Win/place percentages: 34%/59%
Last 5 starts: 86117
Distances won at: 2 (2414m), 1 (2400m), 2 (2012m), 4 (2000m), 1 (1947m), 1 (1900m)
Biggest win: Group 1 The Metropolitan (2400m), Randwick, October 4 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $26
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $26
Summary of his chances: Former English claimer who is now a legitimate Melbourne Cup chance, despite queries over distance and class.
Predicted finish: 10th

If Junoob manages to win the Melbourne Cup, he’ll complete one of the great transitions in world racing – from going around in Kempton and Lingfield claimers in Britain to taking out one of the world’s great races.

Junoob is a great representation of the move made by leading Sydney trainer Chris Waller less than a decade ago to go to England in pursuit of their lesser class horses. They weren’t your top horses which had been targeted in the past, they were horses likely to measure up in Saturday grade, nothing more.

It’s been a phenomenal success and taken Waller to the heights of the Sydney training ranks.

And while he now has imports from all parts of the spectrum, he still seems to do best with the types he can take through the grades – exactly what he has done with Junoob.

Junoob stepped out for the first time last September, first-up in almost a year-and-a-half in a Benchmark 80 over 2000m. He was second to Spurtonic.

He got to the 2800m consolation race on Cup day, finishing nine lengths from the winner. However, he continued to improve through the autumn, winning a Group 3 and making it to the Doomben Cup, where he was third to Streama.

This spring, he took time to hit his straps but eventually found form, winning the Hill Stakes before a tough-as-teak effort in winning The Metropolitan, Sydney’s premier staying feature of the spring.

Last time out, in the Caulfield Cup, rider Douglas Whyte reported that the horse got on the wrong leg around the home turn and that when he balanced up he was very strong through the line. It was the type of flashing-light run that has indicated a potential Melbourne Cup winner before, which means he has to be considered some chance here.

There’s definitely a query about whether he’ll see out the two miles strongly, and really, whether he’s classy enough to win the race. Furthermore, he’s aiming to be the first to complete the Metropolitan-Melbourne Cup double since Macdougal in 1959.

Nevertheless, he’s a legitimate chance, even if he’s just a place chance. Each-way.

9. ROYAL DIAMOND (6)Royal Diamond
King’s Best x Irresistable Jewel (Danehill), 9yo bay gelding

Bred in: Ireland
Nationality: Ireland
Trainer: Johnny Murtagh
Jockey: Steven Arnold
Weight: 55.5kg
Career stats: 38:9-7-5
Win/place percentages: 24%/55%
Last 5 starts: 1×2026
Distances won at: 1 (3219m), 1 (2832m), 6 (2816m), 1 (2792m)
Biggest win: Group 1 Irish St Leger (2816m), The Curragh, September 15 2012
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $61
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $61
Summary of his chances: Good stayer on his day but out of sorts this season and this looks a bit rich.
Predicted finish: 17th

It’s a shame Royal Diamond didn’t make the trip two years ago, or even last year.

Two years ago, he surprised in the Irish St Leger and despite his age he was still reaching his peak.

Last year, he had terrific form throughout the year before a disappointing effort in the Irish St Leger behind subsequent Melbourne Cup 10th Voleuse De Coeurs. That ruled a line through a Melbourne Cup trip, which perhaps wasn’t a terrible thing when he won the Long Distance Cup at Ascot on Champions Day.

He mixes his form, but on his day he’s a good stayer. Still, on everything he’s shown this year, there’s no doubting he’s the second stringer for trainer Johnny Murtagh and owner Andrew Tinkler.

He was beaten three times by Coolmore’s leading stayer, the suitably named Leading Light – a three length second in the Vintage Crop Stakes, a 29 length 11th in the Ascot Gold Cup and a length and a quarter third in the Irish St Leger Trial.

However, last time he finished 12 lengths behind Brown Panther in the Irish St Leger. It was a farcical race, with the lack of initiative shown by jockeys woeful, but out of that race I’d much prefer to be on Willing Foe than Royal Diamond.

Even at his best, this is a bit rich, and in his current form it’s pretty easy to bin him. Not for me.

Here is his Long Distance Cup win from last year:

10. GATEWOOD (22)Gatewood
Galileo x Felicity (Selkirk), 7yo bay horse

Bred in: Great Britain
Nationality: Great Britain/Australia
Trainer: John Gosden
Jockey: William Buick
Weight: 55kg
Career stats: 25:8-8-2
Win/place percentages:32%/72%
Last 5 starts: 11212
Distances won at: 1 (2500m), 2 (2414m), 1 (2400m), 1 (2092m), 1 (2028m), 1 (2012m), 1 (1992m)
Biggest win: Group 3 Geelong Cup (2400m), Geelong, October 24 2012
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $71
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $71
Summary of his chances: Consistent type making a surprising return and despite okay form, happy to risk.
Predicted finish: 21st

The 2012 Geelong Cup winner has had quite the career.

Made his way through the grades quickly in 2011 and 2012, winning the Wolferton Handicap at Royal Ascot, before coming to Australia where he failed to make the Melbourne Cup field despite winning the Geelong Cup.

He was transferred from John Gosden to Chris Waller, where he had four starts in the autumn of 2013 – the best a four-length seventh to Shoot Out in the Chipping Norton Stakes. However, when he failed to measure up in the Ranvet Stakes and The BMW, he was sent back to Gosden’s Newmarket base.

He’s been incredibly consistent since returning, only missing the top two once in 10 starts back in the mother country – and that was a third in last October’s Cumberland Lodge Stakes, with Royal Empire, who finished 14th in the Cup last year, finishing ahead of him. He won two Listed races in England before heading over to France, where he won the Group 3 Prix de Reux (2500m) – a race won by Americain before he finished fourth in 2011 – followed by another second in the Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville (2500m).

To be fair, he has been in very small fields, so to have such a consistent record is perhaps not a surprise. It was a surprise to see him return, though, given his troubles acclimatising last time around.

They’ve decided to adopt a different tactic this time, targeting the race fresh. But even his form from last time suggests he’ll struggle to match up. He won a pretty poor Geelong Cup, beating Chateau Margaux, Brigantin and Back In Black. And his other two runs that spring were only average.

He definitely looks one to risk.

Watch Gatewood’s win in the 2012 Geelong Cup:

11. MUTUAL REGARD (12)Mutual Regard
Hernando x Hidden Charm (Big Shuffle), 6yo bay gelding

Bred in: Ireland
Nationality: Ireland
Trainer: Johnny Murtagh
Jockey: Damien Oliver
Weight: 55kg
Career stats: 17:7-4-3
Win/place percentages: 41%/82%
Last 5 starts: 22×131
Distances won at: 2 (3219m), 1 (2816m), 1 (2792m), 1 (2615m), 1 (2460m), 1 (2414m)
Biggest win: Ebor Handicap (2816m), York, August 23 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $13
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $13
Summary of his chances: Ebor Handicap winner who has caught the eye at trackwork but needs to improve here. Probably more a place chance.
Predicted finish: 11th

Two leviathans of the saddle join up here, but in very different ways.

Johnny Murtagh is one of the best jockeys the world has seen, but he gave up riding last year to focus on training full-time. Not only does he have two Melbourne Cup runners, a terrific feat, but he gets the services of Damien Oliver, one of Australia’s premier hoops and a three-time Melbourne Cup winner to boot.

Mutual Regard has come from nowhere to emerge as a contender for the Melbourne Cup.

He was going around in minor handicaps as recently as June, before stepping up to stakes company in the Challenge Stakes when third to Dermot Weld’s mare Pale Mimosa. He then went to the Ebor, a race that has been won by the likes of Give The Slip, Hugs Dancer, Purple Moon, All The Good and Willing Foe, where he proved too good for (Lord) Van Percy.

He has caught the eye at Werribee and the booking of Oliver has seen his price tumble.

That said, from what I’ve seen of him, he needs to improve to be a Melbourne Cup contender. He has a few ticks on the board – coming through big field handicaps, emerging at the right time – but I think of him as more of a place chance.

12. WHO SHOT THEBARMAN (13)Who Shot Thebarman
Yamanin Vital x Ears Carol (Carolingian), 6yo bay gelding

Bred in: New Zealand
Nationality: New Zealand/Australia
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Glen Boss
Weight: 55kg
Career stats: 15:8-2-0
Win/place percentages: 53%/67%
Last 5 starts: 07110
Distances won at: 1 (3200m), 1 (2520m), 1 (2500m), 1 (2400m), 2 (2000m), 2 (1600m)
Biggest win: Group 1 Auckland Cup (3200m), Ellerslie, March 5 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $26
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $26
Summary of his chances: Dominant Auckland Cup winner and good form until last start. Back to Flemington and an alright draw gives him a rough chance, but probably more a place hope.
Predicted finish: 9th

Likely to be the people’s favourite, simply because of his name.

Came through the grades in New Zealand, winning the Avondale Cup and the Auckland Cup impressively earlier this year. After that, finished midfield in the Sydney Cup before he was transferred to Chris Waller with the Melbourne Cup in mind.

Didn’t show a great deal in two runs in Sydney, but when taken to Flemington and put over a bit of a trip, he thrived. He won a 2000m handicap comfortably, before stepping up to 2500m in the Bart Cummings and winning with a bit in hand.

He had a bit of support for the Caulfield Cup, but he didn’t handle Caulfield whatsoever, refusing to settle, crabbing around the joint and finishing a disappointing 13th.

It was a run which must be forgotten.

Before that, he had been shaping up as a solid Melbourne Cup chance, and I’m assessing him on everything before Caulfield. He comes back to Flemington, he has an alright draw which gives them a few options, and he’s not without a small winning chance. That said, though, he’s more of a place chance here as he steps up to take on the big boys.

13. WILLING FOE (17)Willing Foe
Dynaformer x Thunder Kitten (Storm Cat), 8yo bay or brown gelding

Bred in: United States
Nationality: Great Britain/United Arab Emirates
Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor
Jockey: James McDonald
Weight: 55kg
Career stats: 15:5-2-3
Win/place percentages: 33%/67%
Last 5 starts: 38x1x24
Distances won at: 1 (2816m), 1 (2671m), 1 (2414m), 2 (2066m)
Biggest win: Ebor Handicap (2816m), York, August 25 2012
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $31
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $31
Summary of his chances: Always looked the ideal Melbourne Cup type but has only raced twice in the last 18 months.
Predicted finish: 6th

Can Willing Foe be the horse to break Godolphin’s run of placings?

I’ve long been convinced this was the perfect type of horse to bring for the Melbourne Cup. I backed him in 2012 after he won the Ebor Handicap, beating Royal Diamond, but after he couldn’t win a lead-up race which would have ensured he gained a start, they stayed home.

Last year, he resumed with a six-length romp in the Aston Park Stakes, and thoughts again turned to Melbourne. However, he was not sighted again in 2013.

It was somewhat of a shock to see him resume in August in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes, but he acquitted himself well off such a long break. He let down beautifully, but was nabbed near the line by Seismos, with Red Cadeaux fourth.

Last time out, he ran a good race in what was a farcical Irish St Leger. Brown Panther tracked the pacemaker and was left well clear, with those chasing left to make up way too much ground. Willing Foe ran through as though he was going to run into second, but raced tight near the line and knocked up a touch, finishing fourth.

It’s still a major ask to expect he’ll be competitive with only two runs in the last 18 months under his belt, but he has looked fairly fit out at Werribee and he’ll get his chance.

That said, Cavalryman has looked better and is also racing in better form, hence why I have Cavalryman slightly ahead of Willing Foe – even if my prepost bet was on the latter!

He’s still a winning chance, but he’ll need a lot to go his way.

Here’s that boat race that was the Irish St Leger:

14. MY AMBIVALENT (4)My Ambivalent
Authorized x Darrery (Darshaan), 6yo bay mare

Bred in: Ireland
Nationality: Great Britain
Trainer: Roger Varian
Jockey: Andrea Atzeni
Weight: 54.5kg
Career stats: 16:5-2-4
Win/place percentages: 31%/69%
Last 5 starts: 2x3134x
Distances won at: 1 (2418m), 1 (2092m), 1 (2058m), 1 (2012m), 1 (1738m)
Biggest win: Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes (2012m), The Curragh, June 30 2013
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $51
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $41
Summary of her chances: Classy but has had plenty of problems and doubt her ability to stay the trip.
Predicted finish: 13th

If it’s a question of class, My Ambivalent – the ‘My’ prefix was added to avoid confusion with another mare by the same name – would be right in this.

A Group 1 winner against mares over 2000m, she produced a career-best run when third in the Sheema Classic in Dubai earlier this year behind Japan Cup winner Gentildonna and old warhorse Cirrus des Aigles. Behind her that day were Hong Kong Vase winner Dominant, Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Magician, Japan Cup runner-up Denim And Ruby, and two horses familiar to Australians – 2011 Melbourne and 2012 Caulfield Cup winner Dunaden and last year’s Melbourne Cup placegetter Mount Athos.

Since then, she’s won the Middleton Stakes, finished third to Cirrus des Aigles and Arc runner-up Flintshire in the Coronation Cup, before a disappointing fourth in the Pretty Polly Stakes.

On that form alone, you’d say she’s right in the mix and you can’t rule her out completely. But the negatives against her seem to outweigh the positives.

She’s first-up since June, and it’s rare – even by European standards – to tackle the Melbourne Cup off such a long layoff.

She’s a quirky mare, as she has shown at the Werribee training centre. She gallops when she feels like it, she’s had a number of setbacks – put simply it’s been a tough preparation. She missed the Caulfield Cup with a setback, which was a disappointment as that was the race she had been set for and it looked a much better fit than the Melbourne Cup.

The only time she’s gone beyond 12 furlongs she was beaten comfortably, and she also doesn’t look to have a great turn of foot – a death knell in Australian racing.

That said, she gets out and makes her own luck, and from barrier four, young English gun Andrea Atzeni should be able to jump her out and either lead or settle just behind them.

The likely trip elevates her a couple of places in my eyes, but overall, I’m happy to risk her. Place at the very best.

Here is her third in the Sheema Classic:

15. PRECEDENCE (20)Precedence
Zabeel x Kowtow (Shadeed), 9yo bay gelding

Bred in: New Zealand
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Bart and James Cummings
Jockey: Michael Rodd
Weight: 54.5kg
Career stats: 62:10-7-3
Win/place percentages: 16%/32%
Last 5 starts: 27×055
Distances won at: 1 (2600m), 2 (2500m), 1 (2400m), 1 (2390m), 1 (2200m), 1 (2040m), 1 (2000m), 2 (1600m)
Biggest win: Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500m), Moonee Valley, October 26 2013
Best Melbourne Cup effort: 8th, 2010 (three attempts)
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $101
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $101
Summary of his chances: Doubt the veteran sees out a strong 3200m, could finish top 10 if everything goes right but won’t be contesting the placings.
Predicted finish: 16th

It’s a bit like a male version of the Golden Girls – the oldest horse in the field Precedence, trained by an 87-year-old legend in Bart Cummings (albeit in partnership with his grandson James), for owners Dato Tan Chin Nam and Sir Patrick Hogan, among others.

Putting it mildly, it’s a reunion of veterans.

For the first time, Precedence will not race in Dato Tan Chin Nam’s famous checkerboard colours, worn by the likes of Saintly and So You Think, and will instead carry the green silks of Sir Patrick, Cambridge Stud’s revered studmaster.

So can he make it a baker’s dozen for Bart Cummings, while also marking a changing of the guard by giving James his first? It’s unlikely. He’s run honest races in three Melbourne Cups but I doubt he runs a strong 3200m.

His form this preparation has been solid – he was terrific in the JRA Cup, finishing in front of Signoff (and meeting him better at the weights here), while his Moonee Valley Cup fifth has to be forgotten after he was galloped on in the incident which saw Chad Schofield fall from Albonetti.

It’s a shame he didn’t make the race last year, as that was probably the best preparation he’d had since he finished eighth in the Cup to Americain in 2010.

If everything falls into place, he could finish in the top 10 again, but barrier 20 adds another complication and I’d prefer to let him shock me rather than including him.

Here he is finishing fifth in the Moonee Valley Cup:

16. BRAMBLES (21)Brambles
Savabeel x Prickle (Pins), 6yo bay gelding

Bred in: New Zealand
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Peter Moody
Jockey: Luke Nolen
Weight: 54kg
Career stats: 19:6-3-3
Win/place percentages: 32%/63%
Last 5 starts: 21349
Distances won at: 1 (2400m), 1 (2200m), 1 (2000m), 1 (1700m), 2 (1600m)
Biggest win: Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m), Eagle Farm, June 9 2012
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $41
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $51
Summary of his chances: Has found form again after career-threatening injuries, but the two miles is a concern, especially from the wide gate.
Predicted finish: 15th

It’s been some effort to get Brambles back to the races after almost two years on the sidelines.

In the winter of 2012, he dominated Queensland’s three-year-old staying ranks, exiting an easy winner in the Queensland Derby.

That would be the last we’d see of him until May 2014, as tendon injuries flared and kept on hampering attempts to bring him back to the races. When he returned, he was rusty but there were signs that he still possessed the talent to be a star stayer.

However, it wasn’t until the Heatherlie Handicap in late August that he finally proved he was back on track, flying home for second behind Stipulate.

A start later, he beat Herbert Power winner Big Memory and Lexus winner Stipulate in an open handicap at Flemington, before running an enormous race for third in the Turnbull Stakes behind Lucia Valentina and Lidari.

In the Caulfield Cup, he was the spruik horse all week once he gained a run, and was far from disgraced in finishing fourth to Admire Rakti, Rising Romance and Lucia Valentina.

On Saturday, he finished ninth in the Mackinnon Stakes behind Happy Trails, the only Cup runner to use what used to be known as the ‘Practice Stakes’.

He’s got the right form for a Melbourne Cup winner, but will he see out the two miles? It’s a real concern and I’m hesitant, especially from the wide gate.

He did enough in the Mackinnon, but the doubts over the trip are enough for me to risk him.

Here he is winning the Queensland Derby:

17. MR O’CEIRIN (19)Mr O'Ceirin
Postponed x Cadell (Yachtie), 7yo bay gelding

Bred in: New Zealand
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Ciaron Maher
Jockey: Chad Schofield
Weight: 54kg
Career stats: 38:10-5-1
Win/place percentages: 26%/46%
Last 5 starts: 95647
Distances won at: 1 (2350m), 1 (2100m), 1 (2050m), 1 (2040m), 3 (2000m), 2 (1600m), 1 (1200m)
Biggest win: Group 3 Naturalism Stakes (2000m), Caulfield, September 21 2013
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $201
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $201
Summary of his chances: Form doesn’t look strong enough and ground unlikely to suit. Surely not?
Predicted finish: 24th

A Grafton Cup and Naturalism Stakes winner extending beyond 2400m for the first time.

He goes alright on his day, although nothing in the ball park of some of these, and his form this preparation doesn’t look strong enough.

Granted, he did beat Signoff comfortably in the JRA Cup behind The Cleaner – he finished a length-and-a-quarter in front of him with a similar weight difference. However, Signoff has progressed off that run whereas Mr O’Ceirin didn’t show much in his one run since, the Cranbourne Cup.

In addition, he is yet to win on good ground, which he is likely to get on Tuesday. If he’s been unable to win on good ground now, there’s no reason to suggest it will come in the toughest race he’s contested.

He is 200/1 for a reason. Pass.

Watch him win last year’s Grafton Cup:

18. AU REVOIR (23)Au Revoir

Singspiel x First (Highest Honor), 5yo bay horse

Bred in: Ireland
Nationality: France/Australia
Trainer: Andre Fabre
Jockey: Glyn Schofield
Weight: 53.5kg
Career stats: 14:3-1-2
Win/place percentages: 21%/43%
Last 5 starts: 426×43
Distances won at: 1 (2450m), 2 (2400m)
Biggest win: Listed Grand Prix de Clairefontaine (2400m), Clairefontaine, August 24 2013
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $41
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $67
Summary of his chances: Quite a good run fresh in the Moonee Valley Cup but looks more a place chance.
Predicted finish: 14th

French galloper who comes to Australia with some interesting form around a number of good gallopers.

As a three-year-old, he was four lengths behind Arc runner-up Flintshire in the Grand Prix de Paris, and also had form around horses like Tres Blue.

This year, he mixed his form, his best run a nose second to Spiritjim in a Listed race – the winner subsequently beat Champion Stakes winner Noble Mission in a French Group 1. At his last run before entering quarantine, Au Revoir finished fourth in the Prix Foy behind Epsom Derby winner Ruler of the World, Flintshire and Spiritjim.

He was quite good fresh in the Moonee Valley Cup when third after making the running, but I’m not convinced about the strength of the race from a Melbourne Cup standpoint – Prince of Penzance and Le Roi wouldn’t be strong chances in this race, one would think.

From the wide gate, you’d expect him to go forward and either lead or settle handy. That gives him some hope of sneaking into the placings, if he doesn’t have to work too hard, but others have better credentials. Minor place player.

Here was Au Revoir finishing fourth in the Prix Foy:

19. LIDARI (10)Lidari
Acclamation x Laxlova (Linamix), 6yo bay horse

Bred in: France
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Peter Moody
Jockey: Ben Melham
Weight: 53.5kg
Career stats: 25:7-3-3
Win/place percentages: 28%/52%
Last 5 starts: 54426
Distances won at: 2 (2400m), 1 (2000m), 1 (1600m), 2 (1400m), 1 (1200m)
Biggest win: Group 2 Blamey Stakes (1600m), Flemington, March 8 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $41
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $71
Summary of his chances: Has been in good form this spring but the 3200m looks a major stretch. No.
Predicted finish: 22nd

It seems odd that a horse I thought could be a top miler is now running in a Melbourne Cup.

He certainly shaped up as a miler when third to Fiorente in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes last year, and again when winning the Blamey Stakes earlier this year.

However, he’s been stretched out with success this preparation. He finished very nicely for fourths in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes and the Underwood Stakes, before a top-notch second in the Turnbull Stakes. Last start, he was a satisfactory sixth but definitely didn’t show the same ping as the start before.

Despite his form, queries remain about the trip. If he was mine, he would have been the perfect Mackinnon Stakes horse. Instead he’s here.

It’s hard to see him getting 3200m down a well. His breeding says no, his Caulfield Cup run says no, and my gut instinct says no. Therefore, no.

Here he is winning the Blamey Stakes earlier in the year:

20. OPINION (14)Opinion
Oasis Dream x Kiltubber (Sadler’s Wells), 6yo bay gelding

Bred in: Ireland
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Tye Angland
Weight: 53.5kg
Career stats: 25:5-4-1
Win/place percentages: 20%/40%
Last 5 starts: 05026
Distances won at: 1 (2414m), 1 (2098m), 1 (2018m), 1 (1900m), 1 (1810m)
Biggest win: Listed Parramatta Cup (1900m), Rosehill, March 1 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $51
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $67
Summary of his chances: Doubt he has the class to figure here. Not for me.
Predicted finish: 20th

Can Opinion become the first horse to complete the mighty Parramatta Cup-Melbourne Cup double?

To be fair, Opinion has already defied plenty, just on his breeding.

Anyone who saw Choisir’s historic English raid in 2003, though, would hardly have believed the horse that finished third to him in the King’s Stand Stakes over 1000m would one day sire a Melbourne Cup runner. And not just a Melbourne Cup runner, but one of the few runners in the field with 3200m form!

He arrived in Australia as a horse that had begun to hit his straps in England, winning the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot last year.

He started favourite in the Cup consolation over 2800m – a race which stablemate Junoob also contested – but Nash Rawiller’s saddle slipped and he was beaten a long, long way.

In the autumn, he won the Parramatta Cup before becoming something of a bridesmaid with a number of second placings, culminating in a runner-up finish in the Sydney Cup behind The Offer.

This spring, he’s been alright, and his second to Junoob in The Metropolitan was a good run. Last start, he was okay in the Moonee Valley Cup, but nothing suggests he can measure up in this race.

There are major class issues, and for that reason I’m happy to let him go around without me.

Watch him finish second to The Offer in the Sydney Cup:

21. ARALDO (24)Araldo
High Chaparral x Alanda (Lando), 7yo bay horse

Bred in: Great Britain
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Michael Moroney
Jockey: Dwayne Dunn
Weight: 53kg
Career stats: 15:4-2-4
Win/place percentages:27%/67%
Last 5 starts: 3×7635
Distances won at: (2800m), 1 (2520m), 1 (2200m), 1 (2000m)
Biggest win: Listed Bart Cummings (2500m), Flemington, October 5 2013
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $31
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $31
Summary of his chances: Quirky galloper who found the line well in the Caulfield Cup. Probably more a place chance, especially from the outside draw.
Predicted finish: 12th

Former German galloper Araldo has become known more for his quirks than for his ability – of which he has plenty.

He made a splash last spring when he won the Bart Cummings on protest after getting involved in a bumping duel with Sea Moon, but he showed in the Lexus Stakes four weeks later that it might not have been all Sea Moon. He looked certain to race past Ruscello and Let’s Make Adeal but he drifted in badly, losing momentum and any chance.

He was given the autumn off, and returned with a satisfactory seventh in the Heatherlie Handicap. He was just fair when sixth in the Naturalism Stakes, terrific when third in The Metropolitan, and again really good from last when fifth in the Caulfield Cup.

He still has a few quirks but they definitely seem to be improving.

The outside gate probably dictates that he has to go back to near last again, which is always a tough ask in a Melbourne Cup as the backmarkers can tend to lose sight of the race when the speed increases around the 1200m.

I’d say the draw has cruelled the small winning chance he had anyway, but to see him sneak into the placings wouldn’t surprise.

Here’s last year’s Lexus Stakes:

22. LUCIA VALENTINA (2)Lucia Valentina
Savabeel x Staryn Glenn (Montjeu), 4yo brown mare

Bred in: New Zealand
Nationality: New Zealand/Australia
Trainer: Kris Lees
Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy
Weight: 53kg
Career stats: 13:5-1-3
Win/place percentages: 39%/69%
Last 5 starts: 3×1613
Distances won at: 2 (2000m), 1 (1600m), 1 (1400m), 1 (1200m)
Biggest win: Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m), Flemington, October 4 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $7
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $7.50
Summary of her chances: Brilliant mare with a barnstorming turn of foot but will that translate to 3200m? If so she’s some chance, despite an awkward draw.
Predicted finish: 7th

I am one of Lucia Valentina’s biggest fans. I watched her come through the grades in New Zealand, and believed throughout the winter that she was the most likely of the three-year-olds to make the step up into open company.

In a sign of how much the Melbourne Cup has changed, though, she is the only four-year-old in the race. Not one winner of a Derby or Oaks last season has made it to the race.

It’s a remarkable shift.

Lucia Valentina has a top-class turn of foot on her, which is a big advantage. Will that play out over the 3200m though? For mine, the trip’s not going to be the issue – on pedigree, the 3200m should be alright. And she does what top-class horses can do – she switches off in her races, only unleashing her energy when asked for an effort.

She showed signs of being a top-class horse in the making when she won the Vinery Stud Stakes before an enormous run when third in the Australian Oaks behind Rising Romance. The amount of ground she made up that day was phenomenal.

As a four-year-old this spring, she’s gone on with the job. She was stunning first-up when winning the Tramway Stakes, passable in the George Main Stakes, before proving her Cups credentials with a win in the Turnbull Stakes.

She was sent off favourite in the Caulfield Cup on the back of that, was pushed very wide along with Admire Rakti, couldn’t match his dash but flew home herself. It was an ideal Cup trial.

All week, I’ve ummed and ahhed about what to do with her. In my predicted finish list, I once had her as high as second. However, when she drew barrier two, I immediately relegated her, because I’m not convinced she’ll be in the right spot on the home turn when you will want her out and circling.

That might be a blessing, but it’s a reason why I’ve started to look around her.

She’s still a winning chance, without a doubt, but I couldn’t be taking $7 about her here with the number of queries surrounding her.

Watch her win the Turnbull Stakes:

23. UNCHAIN MY HEART (5)Unchain My Heart
Al Maher x Fly By Night (Prince of Birds), 8yo bay mare

Bred in: Australia
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: David Hayes and Tom Dabernig
Jockey: Dean Yendall
Weight: 51.5kg
Career stats: 58:10-6-7
Win/place percentages: 17%/40%
Last 5 starts: 34390
Distances won at: 2 (3200m), 1 (3000m), 2 (2800m), 2 (2600m), 1 (2200m), 1 (2050m), 1 (1411m)
Biggest win: Listed Andrew Ramsden Stakes (3200m), Flemington, May 24 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $201
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $201
Summary of her chances: Course specialist who stays all day. Doubt she’ll finish last but would be a huge effort to trouble the top 10.
Predicted finish: 19th

The second of only two Australian-bred runners in the race, Unchain My Heart will give her owners a great thrill simply by turning up on the day.

To be blunt, though, she’s simply not good enough.

Her class was tested last start in the Caulfield Cup, when she finished a nine-length 17th, and I doubt anyone would suggest that was anything other than her best effort.

In her favour, though, she is the only horse to have won over the Flemington 3200m – and not only that, but she’s two-from-two over the course and distance. There are only two races run over the Flemington 3200m each year – the Melbourne Cup and the Andrew Ramsden Stakes in May – and she has won the Andrew Ramsden the last two years. To put it in perspective, the placegetters behind her in those races were Wells, Thubiaan, Vatuvei and Gotta Take Care – consistent off-season stayers, mainly jumpers, who would be lapped in a Melbourne Cup.

She is just a plodder – she stays all day and will probably be wanting another lap when the race concludes.

I doubt she’ll be the last horse home, and actually, if I got her in a sweep I’d be really disappointed. She’s highly unlikely to be anywhere near the placegetters but she’s unlikely to finish last.

24. SIGNOFF (16)Signoff
Authorized x Miss Hepburn (Gone West), 5yo brown gelding

Bred in: Ireland
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Darren Weir
Jockey: Joao Moreira
Weight: 51kg (carries 0.5kg over, so 51.5kg)
Career stats: 13:7-1-2
Win/place percentages: 54%/77%
Last 5 starts: 39231
Distances won at: 2 (2500m), 1 (2400m), 1 (2040m), 1 (2014m), 1 (1512m), 1 (1400m)
Biggest win: Group 3 Lexus Stakes (2500m), Flemington, November 1 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $7
Fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $7
Summary of his chances: Striking form at the right time, gets in very well with the world’s best jockey aboard. Parallels with Shocking are…shocking. Top chance.
Predicted finish: 1st

A year ago, Signoff was an unraced import from Ireland. Thirteen days after Fiorente ran away with the Cup, the son of Authorized had his first barrier trial at Camperdown, finishing fifth. Three weeks later, he won his first race at Terang.

Who could have imagined that a year later they’d have one of the top fancies for the Melbourne Cup?

He made his way through the grades quickly, winning at Morphettville and then Moonee Valley in February. It was two wins in March at Bendigo and Moonee Valley, both by five lengths, that stamped him as a potential Melbourne Cup contender.

He was spelled, and from that moment on, the plan was to win the Lexus Stakes to qualify him for the Melbourne Cup.

It was a plan that came to fruition on Saturday when he won the Lexus with ease, beating Herbert Power winner Big Memory. It looks a case of a promising horse striking form at the right time.

Throughout the spring, he’d been heading the right way, save for a disappointing ninth in the JRA Cup behind The Cleaner. A third to Brambles in an open handicap over 1700m before the JRA Cup, an unlucky second to Big Memory in the Herbert Power, a third in the David Jones Cup to Contributer.

In fact, it was a very similar preparation to that of Shocking, who won the Melbourne Cup in 2009 after sneaking in by winning the Lexus Stakes impressively.

He looks a weighted special. In a year where the weights are massively compressed, to get in on 51kg – or even 51.5kg – in his form is a huge asset.

And not only that, but he gets the services of the jockey I consider to be the best in the world in Joao Moreira. The Brazilian ‘Magic Man’ has yet to ride in a Melbourne Cup, but if he can ride Signoff anything like he rode him in the Lexus, there’s not much to worry about.

The gate is a slight concern, but I hope there is enough speed that he can either settle in the two or three wide line, about five lengths from the leader. If so, he’ll be ready to pounce at the top of the straight and with his light weight, he’ll be able to hold off the late closers.

The more I look at it, the more I think he is the 2014 Melbourne Cup winner. Top chance.


Thanks to our friends over at, I was able to draw up this speed map of how I think the runners will settle as they pass the winning post the first time. Those out three wide may be able to slot in, or may be forced to go forward or back, but it’s a general idea:

Speed Map

From this, it looks like Au Revoir will cross from a wide gate to lead them up. It also wouldn’t surprise to see Brambles make his way across towards the lead either.

My Ambivalent’s best form has come when leading, so from gate four, expect her to be prominent.

The big query will be if Seismos has the pace to boot up from the inside. If he does, there could be more speed than expected.

From the gate, Araldo probably has to go back to last, while it wouldn’t surprise to see Lucia Valentina closer than indicated with the better draw.

After last year’s failure with Fiorente, we are looking to restore a little bit of pride – and it’s an opportunity that comes only once a year.

As I said at the outset, it’s not the strongest Melbourne Cup – there aren’t many horses here that fall into the middle bracket, those that are top-five contenders but not winning hopes. There are a couple of them, but not many.

The big thing this year is that weight doesn’t seem to be as much of a factor, with the majority in the 57-53kg bracket.

That said, there are exceptions, and the most notable exception is the horse striking form at the right time down the bottom – SIGNOFF. To get in with such a light weight in this year’s edition makes him a huge player and the one they all have to beat, for mine. He was exceptional on Saturday and a repeat of that performance down in the weights will have him going very close.

RED CADEAUX is an old warhorse who may not be in the same form this year as he has been in the past, but he stacks up well with ADMIRE RAKTI and he looks to be in great shape at Werribee. His past Melbourne Cup form makes him a player anyway.

Obviously Admire Rakti is a huge chance if he can back up the Caulfield Cup form, the extra weight should not worry him and he’s going to be a hard nut to crack if all goes his way.

PROTECTIONIST is right there in the mix, too, provided he can avoid that flat spot he hit in the Herbert Power. I do think Signoff may have his measure here though.

The Godolphin pair CAVALRYMAN and WILLING FOE are both chances of giving Sheikh Mohammed his first Melbourne Cup, and while I’ve been leaning towards Willing Foe all spring, I’ve now put Cavalryman ahead of him.

Cavalryman has been scratched – read our story here

LUCIA VALENTINA and FAWKNER are the two horses with terrific form who are queries at the trip. But if class prevails, expect them to be among the finish.

They are the main winning hopes, while WHO SHOT THEBARMAN and JUNOOB are probably the only other ones I could see winning. MUTUAL REGARD and ARALDO look place contenders, while I think I’d be happy to avoid the others. The long tail in action!