The 2016 Melbourne Cup (3200m, Group 1, handicap) will command the attention of Australia as it is run for the 156th time on Tuesday, at 3pm.
As in previous years, the field of 24 contains an international flavour, with horses trained in Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, and Japan.
The great race is perhaps not as strong as it has been in terms of depth from 1 to 24, but at the top end there are some wonderful horses.
The beauty of the handicap conditions set for the race means each horse is weighted against their previous performance and each horse should get their chance to win.
There’s only one Australian-bred horse in the race. Jameka comes from the same breeder who gave Black Caviar to racing, Rick Jamieson. She was born at Gilgai Farm in Victoria, six years and one day after the mighty sprinting mare came into the world.
Jameka is a top chance in the race as the Aussie flying the flag.
Our breeding stocks aren’t in stayers and that means the internationals are here in force. It’s 23 versus 1!
Three large stables for multiple runners. The powerful global Godolphin operation have five runners in royal blue. Lloyd Williams will have four runners in his navy colours – three trained here, and one trained by Irish legend Aidan O’Brien.
Each have top chances in the race in Hartnell and Almandin respectively, plus a host of others.
Caller Greg Miles will have his work cut out for him, with only the jockey caps showing noticeable colour differences!
Let’s preview all the runners.
1. Big Orange (English trained, British bred)
Trainer: Michael Bell
Jockey: Jamie Spencer
For: On-pacer Big Orange returns to the Melbourne Cup after his fifth placing last year from barrier 23 after he tried to lead all the way as an immature horse. He’s following the same plan from last time around which saw him finish just 2.4L off Prince of Penzance, and has the same jockey.
His European season since that run has been excellent, showing a peak when winning the Princess Of Wales Stakes (2414m) beating Exospheric and also won the Goodwood Cup (3219m) back in July. Wicklow Brave was fourth in that race.
Connections say the horse is better and has travelled better than last year. Drew well in barrier 7.
Against: Big Orange is the topweight, which means he gives a weight advantage to every other runner. He hasn’t run since July, over three months ago. Only 1993 victor Vintage Crop has won the Melbourne Cup without a lead-up prior.
No horse since Tawqriffic in 1988/88 who has finished outside of the top three has won the race in subsequent attempts.
A wet track won’t help him, so he’ll need it firm on Tuesday.
In a few words: Capable horse in better form than previous. Must cope with the weight. Not many topweights win, and not many return to a Melbourne Cup having not won and do better with more weight.
2. Our Ivanhowe (Australian trained, German bred)
Trainer: Lee and Anthony Freedman
Jockey: Dwayne Dunn
For: Our Ivanhowe was tenth in last year’s Melbourne Cup from barrier 22. Since that race he won the Group 1 Doomben Cup over 2000m. This spring he’s been winding up towards this race by five-time Melbourne Cup winning trainer Lee Freedman. He should be ready to peak on Tuesday and has drawn well in barrier 6.
He was sixth in this year’s Caulfield Cup, coming home late after being held up in the big pack around the final bend.
Against: He may not be going as well as last year, where he was third in the Caulfield Cup, but has to carry more weight. He’s been a difficult horse for the Freedmans to train, with minor setbacks and delicate hooves. He’ll likely be wearing concussion plates and glue on his shoes, which punters don’t like the see. Will need a soft track.
In a few words: Too much needs to go right, and the handicapper has found him as well. I’m against.
3. Curren Mirotic (Japanese trained, Japanese bred)
Trainer: Osamu Hirata
Jockey: Tommy Berry
For: The only Japanese runner this year, and he’s a handy one. His form in Japan through the Group 1 Tenno Sho – Spring in Kyoto (3200m) reads well. He was second to Kitasan Black in May in 2016 in that race and only missed winning by a nose. He was super.
His next two starts at shorter distance weren’t impressive. His next highest rated run was in last year’s Tenno Sho behind Gold Ship. He can definitely get the distance no problems, and may be at his best at the two miles.
Jockey Tommy Berry has been getting ready for him for six months and has been happy with him at Werribee. He’ll be on the pace, sporting bright orange reigns and ‘socks’ so he’ll be easy to spot and on the pace. Likes a firm track.
Against: Inconsistency is the word to think of with this old boy. Curren Mirotic hasn’t won in three years but was ever so close in the Tenno Sho.
There’s no secret he’d go very close if he ran to his absolute best and things went to plan. But he doesn’t always turn up. He’d be the oldest horse to ever win, at nine – Red Cadeaux was second at the same age, but he was a freak. Apparently the Japanese horses age well, though.
Drawn wide in the only barrier never to have produced a Cup winner so his jockey, Tommy Berry, will have to do work to get to his preferred spot at the front.
In a few words: His peak form is easily good enough but he doesn’t always run well. He’s another that hasn’t raced in Australia before the race, though, and is an older horse. Still a top hope for Japan.
4. Bondi Beach (Irish trained, Irish bred)
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien for Team Williams.
Jockey: Ryan Moore
For: The Irish horse with the Aussie name, this is Bondi Beach’s second attempt at the Melbourne Cup as a more mature horse.
His first attempt ended badly, finishing well back in 16th, with the race not suiting him at all and he was left flat-footed when they sprinted. This race should be different.
Since the 2015 Cup, he won the Listed Martin Malony (2515m) in April, won a three-horse Group 3 Vintage Crop (2800m) in May, and followed those up with two third places including last-start in the Group 3 Enterprise Stakes (2414m) at Leopardstown.
These Irish Listed races aren’t high quality and he wasn’t asked to do much in them at all. He was ridden at the back, and was worked home late. It’s been a careful, perhaps unusual preparation in lower class races, and certainly not a traditional one.
Team Williams has bought into him, and they don’t often waste their money. Ryan Moore, a highly-skilled international competitor and Group 1 winner in Japan on Sunday, takes the ride. He handles all ground.
Against: The ratings say he was going better last time around as a Northern Hemisphere three-year-old, and while this year’s race should suit him better, he’s now carrying 3.5kgs more. Again, there hasn’t been a horse that’s finished outside of the top three in a previous Melbourne Cup and won the race in subsequent attempts in the last 25 years.
In a few words: Last year, there was a strong argument that Bondi Beach was weighted out of the Cup. This year that argument looks more compelling. He’ll need to prove to be super to win it now but hasn’t raced here in the lead-up. He looks under the odds.
5. Exospheric (Australian trained, British bred)
Trainer: Lee and Anthony Freedman
Jockey: Damien Oliver
For: An import for the Freedmans, he had a lead-up run in Australia in the Caulfield Cup, and put in a sustained finish to grab third. The horse that finished second, Scottish, isn’t in this race.
The ratings suggest he ran below his peak in the Caulfield race which suggests he has upside.
He was behind Big Orange in the lead-up to this race in the Princess of Wales, and was fifth in the Juddmonte International (2000m) behind Europe’s leading gallopers, Postponed and Highland Reel.
He ticks plenty of boxes, and punters here will be buoyed by the fact he’s had a run in Australia before the Cup. Looks the pick of those that have. Damien Oliver takes the ride.
Against: Despite the impressive run in the Caulfield Cup, Exospheric didn’t get close to Jameka. The Freedman stable haven’t had much time with him. Hasn’t run 3200m before.
Exospheric had glue on his shoes for that race which many won’t want to see in the Melbourne Cup. He has some kind of hoof issue.
In a few words: Looked good in the Caulfield Cup and will be hoping to be closer to Jameka coming around the final turn. Best of the overseas horses that have run in Australia but will need to find another gear.
6. Hartnell (Australian trained, British bred)
Trainer: John O’Shea for Godolphin
Jockey: James McDonald
For: This guy has shown huge ability in his last four runs and is the class runner by a mile. The defeat to Winx in the Cox Plate, although significant, still saw him beat everything else.
He was the early favourite for this race after his succession of wins, including the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes, and remains short in the markets.
He was 15th in this race last year but wasn’t going as well as he is now and that seems to be one to forget. He was a winner over 3200m back in Britain two years ago.
Against: Will Hartnell stay the distance? That’s the question that everyone is wondering.
The crazy pace throughout the Cox Plate seemed to leave him exposed for his stamina.
The other concern is whether or not the Melbourne Cup has always been his target, and how well prepared he is for that race.
There’s no question that if they walk the Cup in a slow time, he’s easily one of the best hopes in the race come a potential sprint finish.
There is expected to be pace, though. Back in 2014 he won the Queen’s Vase at Ascot over two miles. Intriguingly, that day he beat Big Orange, who is in this race, and Our Century, now owned by Team Williams, who ran third in the Bendigo Cup last week and looks handy as well.
I find myself in the school of thought that while he has the stamina, he’s been trained for shorter distances and is hoping to get to 3200m rather than expected to get it easily.
Will he see out a strong 3200m with the expected pace in the race? Has he been prepared for the distance all along? Has he peaked already?
In a few words: The extremely classy Hartnell is very short. Still, there are lingering questions over his ability to get the distance. He’s a top chance but isn’t an out-and-out stayer.
At the odds, I prefer him over Oceanographer.
7. Who Shot Thebarman (Australian trained, New Zealand bred)
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Hugh Bowman
For: Who Shot Thebarman was a very good third in this race in 2014, before finishing 11th last year despite carrying 0.5kg less although there were excuses. He’ll now carry 56kgs which is up 1.5kgs on last year.
He’s taken a different approach this year after trainer Chris Waller took it easier on the eight-year old. He dodged the Caulfield Cup, instead finishing second to Grand Marshal in the Moonee Valley Cup. He goes in all ground. He ticks a lot of boxes as a gallant stayer of old. His wide barrier won’t hurt.
Against: He’s a proper stayer who relishes distance but can be inconsistent and will need a grinding pace in the race as he has no turn of foot.
It is very hard to win the Melbourne Cup after failing to win one previously. The others look like they have more dash, as Waller himself acknowledged. He’s now weighted more heavily in his third attempt as an older horse who looks to have lost some speed.
In a few words: A top ten chance in a very fast run Cup, but there’s just too many negatives.
8. Wicklow Brave (Irish trained, British bred)
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Jockey: Frankie Dettori
For: Wicklow Brave is the Irish St Leger winner and beat Order Of St George which surprised even his Irish trainer, Willie Mullins. Order Of St George, who was a previous favourite for the Cup, went on to place third in the Arc de Triomphe. That’s strong form.
Willie Mullins has previously brought Simenon and Max Dynamite out for the Melbourne Cup, running in the top-four with both. This horse, a former hurdler, looks better than Max Dynamite which very nearly won first-up – he’s one of the best-credentialed stayers here.
Arguably the world’s best jockey, Frankie Dettori, who has finished runner-up here twice, takes the ride.
Against: He cops 56kg in the Cup which doesn’t give him much margin for error. The Irish St Leger only had four horses which can lead to upset victories. He needs to beat the rule about not winning without a run in Australia.
He’s drawn the worst of them in the widest barrier possible in 24. It’s not the end for him – he raced wide and came home late in the Country Hurdle in 2015, but he’ll need to be very, very good.
Dettori hasn’t won the Cup despite 14 attempts. He was fined $20,000 last year and banned for a month when taking out about half the field looking for a run.
In a few words: A big hope for the international contingent, dented by the barrier.
9. Almoonqith (Australian trained, American bred)
Trainer: David Hayes and Tom Dabernig
Jockey: Michael Walker
For: Almoonqith was the runaway Geelong Cup winner in 2015 and then did nothing to finish 18th in the Melbourne Cup. He was another horse that had no luck, unable to get in a rhythm after copping interference. Such is the case in big Cups!
Since that race, he went immediately into the 3200m Sandown Cup and won, but then hasn’t placed or really done much in seven starts afterwards this year.
Yet suddenly, at massive odds, he turned that around in the Caulfield Cup, landing in fourth. His jockey said it was a great trial for the Melbourne Cup and he was close to running second.
Against: It’s hard to know where this horse is at. He’s shown the right signs at the right time, but there are legitimate concerns with him. The two concerns are his ability to stay 3200m in a fast run race or slow run race. That might not make sense, but he is suspect at staying two miles at pace, and in a slow run race he appears to pull.
His jockey in the Sydney Cup over 3200m questioned his ability to get the distance.
He carries 54.5kgs and doesn’t get enough weight relief
In a few words: He can’t be overlooked completely but I’m against him.
10. Gallante (Australian trained, Irish bred)
Trainer: Robert Hickmott for Team Williams
Jockey: Blake Shinn
For: He’s a bit of a forgotten horse, despite winning the Group 1 Sydney Cup over 3200m in the autumn for Lloyd Williams. Team Williams brought him out to Australia in early 2015 after winning the French Derby. He didn’t shape up for the Cups in spring that year, and has been given a limited, careful preparation this season.
In his two runs ahead of this race, he was a useful second behind Jameka in the Naturalism but then disappointed, finishing well back in the Moonee Valley Cup.
His jockey on that horse, Kerrin McEvoy, said post-race “We got pressure from the mile and he just wouldn’t relax. Better on a big track.”
He’ll get that big track at Flemington and should bounce fairly from barrier 2. He’s so lightly raced that we don’t know for sure how he’ll go but many great racing trainers, jockeys and punters say you can always forgive one run.
Against: He’s quirky. His sire, Montjeu, can do that to his progeny. He doesn’t like the same pressure that stayers like Grand Marshall and Who Shot Thebarman relish. It may be a race with similar pressure.
He doesn’t have many miles in his legs ahead of the gut-busting 3200m.
In a few words: He’s not among the main chances, but is a little too classy to be completely forgotten. Not the worst roughie ever but needs some rain.
11. Grand Marshal (Australian trained, British bred)
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Ben Melham
For: On Melbourne Cup Day in 2014, Grand Marshal won the 2800m restricted-grade handicap. Then in 2015 he caused an upset to win the Sydney Cup over 3200m. His 2015 Melbourne Cup was a complete forget as he got smashed in the run and finished 21st without having a chance.
Since then, he put a succession of fair results without a win before his last start win, beating Who Shot Thebarman in the Moonee Valley Cup. The key to that race was a strong tempo with plenty of pressure, and the wet ground.
In the wet, he comes into play much more than people might expect.
It’s too easy to put a handful of classier horses in front of him, but he does stay the distance and they might not.
Against: Last year, many questioned whether Grand Marshal was good enough to win a Melbourne Cup. He didn’t get his chance to show he was, but looked like he was going well enough before being KO’d to have been a contender. We won’t ever know for sure.
In a few words: He’s a better horse than his odds without rain, and a major player with considerable rain. Watch the sky and pray for rain if you have him in a sweep.
12. Jameka (Australian trained, Australian bred)
Trainer: Ciaron Maher
Jockey: Nicholas Hall
For: Jameka is a great Australian story and a great Australian mare. She has massive ability and very impressively won the Caulfield Cup by three lengths last start.
That’s a massive lead-up win. The likes of Let’s Elope (1991), Doriemus (1995), Might and Power (1997) and Ethereal (2001) won the double in recent times. It’s a great list of winners!
Jameka was second to Hartnell in the Turnbull and won the Naturalism before that.
The Caulfield Cup win cemented her as the second favourite for the Melbourne Cup, just behind Hartnell.
She won the Oaks this time last year at Flemington and should enjoy the track again. Barrier 3 helps.
Against: The main one here is that Hartnell beat her so convincingly in the Turnbull.
And there are more than a couple of good judges who suggest Jameka’s win in the Caulfield Cup might’ve been exaggerated.
The main point is that the pace of the Cup was slow. That made it hard for more true stayers to come from behind. In addition, interference and problems in the run held some fast finishers back.
Now looking at the Melbourne Cup after her 1.5 kilogram penalty is a concern. She meets all finishers worse at the weights – which is deserved given how far she smacked them.
But only one other mare – Makybe Diva – has won the Melbourne Cup with more weight.
Two miles on Tuesday might test her if there’s a hot tempo. Her dam Mind Game is by the sprinter General Nedium which isn’t a rich vein of staying pedigree.
Jameka overraced during the Caulfield Cup. She’ll need to be settled and in rhythm to see out the endurance distance of 3200m.
Ciaron Maher is a trainer on a rapid rise, but has only ever trained one horse in a Cup before, Mr O’Ceirin who was well beaten in 21st back in 2014. Jameka’s very different to him, though.
In short, there’s probably just enough to suggest the beaten brigade can get a lot closer.
In a few words: Jameka’s a major player and the great Australian hope. There might just be enough reasons for the 23 others to think they can test her despite her Caulfield Cup triumph in the lead-up.
13. Heartbreak City (Irish trained, French bred)
Trainer: Tony Martin
Jockey: Joao Moreira
For: This international raider is a stayer through and through, with a career that’s mixed hurdles with flat races.
He’s exciting in that he’s won three in a row as a rising seven-year-old, and took out a 3200m hurdle carrying 64.5kg before taking out the Ebor last start (2800m), the noted Cup lead-up and richest handicap in Europe, as a light-weight.
He looks like a horse on the up and that was enough for an Australian syndicate, Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock, to buy into him. They were also interested in Wicklow Brave.
Joao Moreira rides – possibly the best jockey in the world, who is dominant in Hong Kong.
Heartbreak City goes well on all ground.
Against: Has to beat the first up in Australia rule, and is trained by an Irishman who hasn’t had a horse in the Melbourne Cup before. Still, Martin has won plenty in his 20 years and is a sharp horseman who trains his horses to be ripe for big events. Barrier 23 does him no favours.
Moreira hasn’t won the Cup before.
In a few words: A proven stayer but we’ll be seeing him for the first time by a first time Cup trainer and drawn way out. The Ebor win is a big tick. I still want to be on him.
14. Sir John Hawkwood (Australian trained, Irish bred)
Trainer: John Thompson
Jockey: Blake Spriggs
For: Sir John Hawkwood won the Group 1 Metropolitan (2400m) in Sydney two starts ago which is a major tick.
This guy wasn’t further back than fourth at his ten starts before that win which shows his consistency.
His Metropolitan win came from being on the pace in a fast ridden race where the work was done by Storm The Stars who folded. It was the perfect run.
Reports are he’s done well since the Caulfield Cup where he was so poor the Melbourne Cup was almost off the table.
But trainer John Thompson said he’ll be much better at Flemington, with Caulfield not the right track at all.
Against: He was tenth in the Caulfield Cup. His jockey Blake Spriggs said he might’ve been able to get a bit closer with more luck, but didn’t say anything about beating Jameka with everything going to plan.
That’s not ideal for the Melbourne Cup.
He gets some weight relief to Jameka but not enough to the others who finished closer. Who Shot Thebarman get 1kg relief from the Metropolitan.
In a few words: You’ll need to forgive and forget his Caulfield Cup run to give him a hope of cracking the top four. Not the worst $81 roughie if you’re the forgiving type.
15. Excess Knowledge (Australian trained, British bred)
Trainer: Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott
Jockey: Vlad Duric
For: Excess Knowledge was going much, much better last time around after a very narrow win in the Lexus.
He got into the Cup and finished an admirable seventh from barrier 24, missing the problems in the race and had a tiny handicap with 51kg.
This time around, he’s a forgotten horse but the Gai Waterhouse/Adrian Bott partnership is not to be dismissed lightly. He was third in The Bart Cummings but wasn’t great as he wobbled in the Moonee Valley Cup in fourth.
Gai will put blinkers on him after jockey Duric suggested he would’ve been better with them on. A gear change can make all the difference. He’s a proven performer.
Against: He’s carrying more weight into the Cup than last year when he appeared to be going better. He has to get over the history which says if you don’t finish in the top three it’s almost impossible to win in a subsequent Melbourne Cup.
In a few words: Big odds, low weight. Would be a surprise.
16. Beautiful Romance (English trained, British bred)
Trainer: Saeed Bin Suroor for Godolphin
Jockey: Damian Lane
For: She’s very lightly raced as a five-year old mare who’s won three from ten starts. Won the Group 2 Middleton Stakes (2100m) for fillies and mares in May before a flat finish in fifth in the Hardwicke, a high-class prep race.
Her last run in Europe was a third in the Listed Nayek Stakes (2,414m) at Newmarket.
She’s from the Godolphin stable who haven’t won this and must be desperate to win it, so they wouldn’t bother unless they thought it could win.
Against: Hasn’t been seen beyond 2400m. Hasn’t been seen in Australia. Hasn’t raced enough at all to really know what she can do in a rough and tumble Melbourne Cup.
In a few words: Godolphin must be respected but she has to be risked unless you know something I don’t. If she wins, so be it, but she can’t have my money.
17. Almandin (Australian trained, German bred)
Weight: 52 kg
Trainer: Robert Hickmott for Team Williams
Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy
For: Another Lloyd Williams entrant, brought out from Germany after showing strong staying form with the Cup in mind. He beat Protectionist back in Germany, before Protectionist showed how good he was winning the Melbourne Cup in that same year. Injuries then prevent him from running for two years – as a seven-year old he’s only had 11 starts.
He has a lot going for him with his recent form. He progressed through some average races without performing to burst into the mix, winning the Harry White at Caulfield (2400m) and impressively triumphing in the Group 3 Bart Cummings (2500m) at Flemington as favourite.
That run in the Bart Cummings was strong. He took a sit in a hot tempo and had to have some luck on the inside but burst through and ran away from the rest of them, which included Excess Knowledge.
His odds shortened dramatically with that win. He’s well handicapped despite receiving a 1kg penalty. He profiles well for this race. He has big upside which has helped him beat the handicapper.
Jockey Kerrin McEvoy is the lead jockey for the stable which implies this is their best chance from their three mounts.
Against: He needs to made a big step in class to the Melbourne Cup. He hasn’t contested races at the very top level. Hasn’t raced much and may be lacking some raceday experiences, especially against this big field. Drawn to the outside in barrier 17.
In a few words: Top winning chance.
18. Assign (Australian trained, Irish bred)
Trainer: Robert Hickmott for Team Williams
Jockey: Katelyn Mallyon
For: This import went around last year in a 1800m handicap on Oaks day, and lost miserably.
But as Team Williams has learned more about him, and he’s acclimatised to Australia, he’s come on strongly.
In the autumn he won a Listed race, while in the spring he wasn’t able to match stablemate Almandin in the Harry White Classic (2400m), but he did narrowly win the Herbert Power in an all-the-way victory for jockey Katelyn Mallyon who will keep the ride into the Melbourne Cup. She piloted him well in European style.
Assign was given a 1kg penalty after that win and wasn’t required to race again to get into the field. You’d expect Hickmott and Williams to have him ready to go. They do know what they’re doing.
Rogan Josh was the last horse to successfully complete the Herbert Power-Melbourne Cup double in 1999, but two winners have come through the race to win the Melbourne Cup – Shocking in 2009 and Protectionist in 2014.
Against: He hasn’t been seen since the Herbert Power. He was going to make a start in the Bendigo Cup, but wasn’t entered once he made the Melbourne Cup field.
Had it all his own way in a fairly weak Herbert Power renewal, and is unlikely to have that play out again.
Hasn’t been seen over 3200m. Drawn wide in barrier 22.
In a few words: Must respect Team Williams but his stablemates look better.
19. Grey Lion (English trained, Irish bred)
Trainer: Matt Cumani
Jockey: Glen Boss
For: Ran a very close second in the Geelong Cup and now makes the field for the Melbourne Cup for trainer Matt Cumani and the Cumani family (which does include Francesca!). OTI Racing only recently acquired the five-year-old horse for a tilt at the Cup and put him with the Cumani clan, from French trainer Andrew Fabre.
Before this, he was last in a disappointing Kergorlay (3000m) performance, and second last in the run before that in June. Still, Americain and Dunaden came from the Kergolay without impressing and each won the Geelong Cup.
In any case, that looks all to be forgotten with the run in the Geelong Cup his best performance to date. Cumani reports he lost a shoe in the run which possibly adds some merit. He might have gone even closer to Qewy, he might not have.
He looks like he can stay and reports from Werribee indicate he’s one of the better-performed horses out there and has trained on well. He has had the run in Australia to give fans a chance to see him.
Jockey Glen Boss has won the Cup a few times, on that fairly good horse Makybe Diva.
Who doesn’t like a grey horse? They’ve won the race six times before. At least you can spot your mount in the Cup easily!
Against: On paper he doesn’t appear to have the class of the other internationals but does have a weight advantage.
Likely jockey Craig Newitt has said “whoever rides him will earn their money” which indicates he takes some riding to be punched out properly.
If there’s no pace in the race, he won’t have a chance.
In a few words: With likely pace, he can figure in the finish.
20. Oceanographer (English trained, British bred)
Trainer: Charlie Appleby for Godolphin
Jockey: Chad Schofield
For: Won the Lexus on Saturday which is a great lead-up for this race. He put in a long sustained run down the outside to gun down Tom Melbourne who only needed the race to be 30 metres shorter to have won.
Eight of the last nine Lexus winners have finished top 10 in the Melbourne Cup so their record is very good backing up.
His Geelong Cup third place was good in that he came from the back of the field. We know he’ll be stalking off the speed and hoping to run them all down late. Barrier 10 means he shouldn’t have a problem.
Bookmakers have marked him short so they’re on board.
Against: Couldn’t get past Qewy and Grey Lion in the Geelong Cup. Now with the penalty from the Lexus he’s weighted worse.
He was on equal scale with Qewy in Geelong but now carries 0.5kg more despite running behind that horse. He’s also now 0.5kg off Grey Lion instead of the full 1kg as he was in Geelong.
Has he been going better though? It was a sustained run from near last in the Lexus with scintillating sectionals. It proves he’s an out and out stayer who enjoys a fast tempo.
Punters like seeing horses come from the back and storm over the top to win in thrilling fashion. But too often they don’t get a clear run or strike trouble or fly home too late.
He’ll be having his third race in just 12 days. That’s not unusual in Australia, but his previous closest three races had a span of 63 days. Can he do it?
In a few words: The Melbourne Cup is likely to see enough pace to give Oceanographer a chance from the back. But he’ll need a lot of luck to find a way through the massive field. He’s very short considering.
21. Secret Number (English trained, British bred)
Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor for Godolphin
Jockey: Stephen Baster
For: Another Godolphin horse and another lightly-raced gelding stayer. You might recall that we’ve seen him before; last year racing in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m) after painfully missing the Melbourne Cup. He ended up a profitable second behind Dandino in that race so all wasn’t lost!
He’s only run once since, 45 weeks later, winning the Doonside Cup at Ayr over 2012m, despite the layoff.
Here’s what trainer Saeed bin Suroor said about the horse he’s been aiming at the Melbourne Cup:
“We gave him a good break with the plan of maybe going back to Australia with him and after that I think we will. I think he’s improving still and his last piece of work was very impressive.
“A mile and a half might suit him better still and he’s at his best with cut in the ground. He probably won’t get that in Australia but you never know, as long as it is safe ground. Physically he’s improving and he’s been gelded. I like him a lot.”
“We could run him in the Lexus [a Group Three handicap] at Flemington and then maybe in the Melbourne Cup.”
Things to note: Secret Number went straight into the Cup so we didn’t see him. He likes the ground softer rather than firm.
All the evidence suggests that this guy is full of talent as a middle-distance and staying type but is injury-prone and hard to train.
Against: It’s ever so hard to say how he will turn up. He doesn’t race much. You have to put faith in Godolphin with him.
Needs rain for a softer surface to be a serious chance. If it’s firm at all that won’t help.
His trainer probably summed it up when he said a mile and half might suit him better.
He needs to beat the rule about horses not winning without a lead-up race in Australia. But maybe that suits this guy more than others?
In a few words: This guy might just be very classy. We don’t know enough. If it rains, he must be a chance but without that there’s a lot of knocks.
22. Pentathlon (New Zealand trained, New Zealand bred)
Trainer: John Wheeler
Jockey: Mark Du Plessis
For: True staying type. Last win was in a 3200m race. Has fitness on the board. Jumps from barrier 4 and won’t need to do too much work to find a good spot. Weighted better to Oceanographer after the Lexus seventh placing.
Last year’s rank outsider won so you have to be in it to win it!
Against: Really the biggest line through him is that he was seventh in the Lexus on Saturday and had every chance. He was 11 lengths off Oceanographer and only gets a 1.5kg turnaround off that race.
That 3200m win was close to a year ago. Hasn’t won since and his Australian form hasn’t shown much.
Needs a firm track, doesn’t look much hope if it’s wet.
In a few words: Would be a massive surprise.
23. Qewy (English trained, Irish bred)
Trainer: Charlie Appelby for Godolphin
Jockey: Craig Williams
For: The seven-year-old who has raced in jumps and flat racing won the Group 3 Geelong Cup to make the Melbourne Cup field. This guy did it all the way in the Geelong Cup and was impressive enough to earn a 0.5kg penalty.
This season he failed in two jumps races and was transferred to Charlie Appelby. With Australian jockey James McDonald on board at Royal Ascot, he was second in the marathon Ascot Stakes (4000m). He was runner-up again in the Summer Stakes at Glorious Goodwood (2816m) carrying 61kgs.
He came from behind in both of those races to rally late.
He made the pace in Geelong which shows he is versatile which is needed in a Cup. Most expect him to be at the front on Tuesday or at least on the pace.
He’s going to be one that they need to run down. Grey Lion found that hard to do.
Oceanographer’s Lexus win appeared to frank the form of that race.
Against: Another without a huge amount of class but he’s lightly weighted, even with the 0.5kg weight added after the Geelong Cup penalty which means Grey Lion is advantaged.
May not be allowed to dictate terms which could upset his rhythm, and he’ll certainly need pace in the race.
Will need to climb another level but he has upside.
In a few words: Qewy represents surprising value and is backable as an outside hope.
24. Rose Of Virginia (Australian trained, NZ bred)
Trainer: Lee and Shannon Hope
Jockey: Ben E Thompson
For: The other Kiwi in the race. Was second in the Group 1 Auckland Cup over 3200m back in March so she can stay. Was sent across to Australia earlier this year with an eye to running her in the Melbourne Cup.
All of the field are carrying more weight than her. She ran in the Lexus so she’s rock hard fit now and she’s a true stayer. Her defeat in that race was put down to her jumping badly so if she jumps well she might’ve run closer.
Her owners have put in $50,000 to get her into the race so there’s clearly an investment in her for this race.
Against: Just hasn’t shown any form in four runs in Australia.
She was 15 lengths off Oceanographer in the Lexus and only gets 2kg relief from him off that effort.
Father and son Lee and Shannon Hope aren’t noted Cup trainers and have put on the lone apprentice jockey in race, Ben Thompson. Great opportunity for him!
In a few words: She’d be a surprising upset and will only get her chance if it’s a true staying test and she jumps out of her skin. One for the little guys versus the big stables!
If you’re new to the Melbourne Cup or don’t watch much racing day to day, you need to know that the pace of the race is all important.
You can tell the pace by watching how strung out the field are. If they’re all running in two-by-two order without much change during the race, it’s slow. That’ll suit the horses with more sprint in their legs. They like to charge home. Think of Usain Bolt slowly jogging for a kilometre but then sprinting the final 200m. No one can catch him.
If it’s that race, Hartnell is ideally suited, more than any other horse, with Jameka also very handy.
If the pace of the race is more genuine, or simply a lot faster, you’ll see the field more spread out as they run. There’ll be gaps. There’ll be a big fight for the lead and then the leader will settle into a rhythm and hope to keep everyone behind it.
This year, most are expecting more speed in the race. Horses that like to lead are drawn all across the track. Big Orange and Gallante should push forward from the inside. Assign, Curren Mirotic and Qewy have all drawn wide which means they’ll need to fight their way to the front. That injects pace and sets the Cup up to be ridden at a genuine tempo.
More genuine pace suits the stayers. These are the marathon runners, distance athletes.
Think of Mo Farah. He can’t run as fast as Usain Bolt over a short distance, but he’ll leave him for dead over two miles of breakneck speed running because he’s all about stamina, rather than sprint.
That kind of race is likely to suit those that can stay and asks big questions of those that aren’t tough staying types.
In summary, if Jameka, Hartnell or Almandin don’t win, the race is wide open. The same goes if the rain comes!
But I have my tips below for you to consider in your bets, across win, place, each-way, and exotics such as a trifecta or first-four. Best of luck.
4. Big Orange (if there’s no rain) / Heartbreak City (if there is)
The roughies: Qewy, Curren Mirotic (if there’s no rain), Grand Marshal (if it’s wet!)
Best of luck on Cup day and we’ll update this post if there’s any further news including late scratchings or weather events.