There’s a whiff of carnival time in the air at Randwick this Saturday, with two Group 1s highlighting a nice card.
A lot has been written about the changing face of our beloved Melbourne Cup.
There is no doubt that the presence of so many overseas runners has altered the complexion of the event significantly, but the most important elements that make it so special are still in place.
I will really start to worry when the race is run at weight for age over a mile and a half at Sandown and is limited to 16 runners.
Having said that, I find it hard to line up the form with so many unknown quantities in the field. Given this uncertainty, punters do need to be particularly systematic in looking for the likely winner.
As for which system should be employed, well, this is the proverbial $64 question.
One traditional approach has been to look to the race that most often feeds the Cup winner, that is to say, the event in which the likely winner had his or her last run before the Cup.
Historically, this has been the Caulfield Cup, but remarkably, it has not provided the Melbourne Cup winner for more than a decade.
The other aspect to this system is that so many foreign runners have their last runs before the Cup in a wide variety of overseas races.
Last year it was the English St Leger for Rekindling, but there is a bewildering array of form to investigate this year. Ironically enough, the last horse to go from the Caulfield Cup to Melbourne Cup glory was the Japanese horse, Delta Blues in 2006.
I wouldn’t blame you if you were to give up already.
For those who are still with me, another system is to back the smart foreign entrant having his or her second Australian start. The aforementioned Delta Blues provides a perfect example of this method coming to the fore.
Presumably, the underlying theory is that the overseas horses take a little time to acclimatise to our conditions, and the one lead-up run provides them with not only the chance to do this but also that little fitness tighten-up that might be crucial in the closing furlong.
Rekindling put lie to this system last year, if it had not been discredited already. As I recall, the inaugural foreign invader, Vintage Crop, won at his first Australian runway back in 1993, and plenty of runners have raced well at their first crack down under.
Remember Central Park doing everything but win at huge odds in 1999?
Other systems are useful in ruling out horses if not identifying Cup winners. This can be handy, as punters can back a few runners and show a nice profit if one of them gets the job done.
One technique I have employed is to rule a line through any runner who has failed at a previous Cup tilt. This is risky, as you need to be clear about what constitutes failure.
Fiorente won in 2013 after running second in ’12, and I think it fair to assert that running a place in an early Cup is actually good form.
Who Shot the Barman and Marmelo are the two this year that need to be considered. The former is ten years old and having his fourth attempt at the Cup, while Marmelo ran down the track last year.
Most would give Who Shot the Barman no chance, and while many seem to be warming to Marmelo, I am happy to take him on.
The system I am going to employ, if it can be called a system, is to simply try to find the runner whose form most closely approximates the winners and placegetters in recent Cups.
The race is evolving so quickly that formulae that may have worked ten years back might now be completely outdated.
The Cloffsofmoher really does pick himself if you agree with my logic. His form is almost identical to that of Johannes Vermeer, who ran a terrific second last year.
Both horses ran well in the Caulfield Stakes before excellent third placings in the Caulfield Cup.
The Cloffsofmoher does have to carry more weight, but this is presumably because his European form was somewhat stronger than Johannes Vermeer’s.
His trainer and jockey are absolutely world-class, and barrier nine is exactly what I would have chosen if I’d been given the chance.
Moore will be able to put him exactly where he wants, which should counteract any small distance doubts that may exist.
The other horse I like is A Prince of Arran. I was very impressed with his Lexus win on Saturday, and he appeared to have plenty left in the tank.
I would add, however, that the fact he is actually shorter in the betting than The Cliffsofmoher is surprising.
Elsewhere in the meeting, I was very keen on Princess Posh in the last. I like these spring mares that seem to put in from run to run.
She was outstanding in defeat at Moonee Valley on Cox Plate day, and while the inside draw is not ideal, particularly if the rain comes, I love her form and consistency.
Good luck punters.