5 November 2018
With another Winx blitz over, this time her fourth Cox Plate in a row, the Melbourne Cup now grabs our attention, as it rightfully should. It is our biggest race, and the nation will be far more fixated over it than Winx’s record breaking feats.
Speaking of Winx’s feats, there’s much chatter about whether she’s the greatest horse of all time. While four Cox Plates is unprecedented, so is three Melbourne Cups as performed by Makybe Diva, and personally that is a superior achievement. The Melbourne Cup is a handicap, and winning it twice has proved super tough. Only 5 horse have done it since its inception in 1861 while there’s been 14 repeat Cox Plate winners since 1922.
Does that make Makybe Diva Australia’s best horse ever? No, she only had one stellar year, which culminated in her third Melbourne Cup. Winx has been unbeaten for more than 3 years, for a total of 29 race wins in a row, her most recent being that fourth Cox Plate. Still, that’s not enough. For me it’s Black Caviar. Never beaten in her career of 25 races, I rate her the best ever (in my lifetime) for her pure domination and higher quality of opposition. Time and time again I was in awe of her when watching her races. I rarely get that feeling from Winx, while the Diva only managed a bit of it in her final year.
On to the Cup…
Rekindling wins the 2017 Melbourne Cup
I’m still trying to get a big win since my double hit in 2010 and 2011 after missing out yet again last year. Most people did, as Rekindling was somewhat a surprise winner. An international visitor, he epitomised the dilemma with them when they have their first Australian run in the Cup itself. One or two will run well; most will flop. Since the internationals started arriving in 1993, Rekindling was only the second such runner to win. The first being Vintage Crop in 1993. It remains an advantage to see them run in Australia beforehand before taking the plunge on them. It’s my golden rule that I’ll still keep until results prove otherwise. Other rules include look for form, look for class, look for ability to run the distance, look past previous Melbourne Cup runners that failed.
Another more recent rule, or guideline, is be suspicious of the Caulfield Cup form. It’s been a woeful predictor in recent years. Also, the Japanese horses are best to avoid. Other than the one-two with Delta Blues and Pop Rock on debut in 2006, they’ve stunk!
01 Best Solution $12
Won the Caulfield Cup. Didn’t get a penalty. It’s still the Caulfield Cup. None have completed the double since 2001. The one positive is German horses do quite well, even when they’re a distance doubt like him, and he’s won his last four races.
Result: 8th Missed the start, and was then hampered by The Cliffsofmoher breaking down. Would have been much closer otherwise, so a decent effort for the Caulfield Cup winner that was unknown over the distance.
02 The Cliffsofmoher $17
The name alone puts me off. Second in the Caulfield Cup so if want you use that race as a guide, the best solution is to stick with the horse that beat it.
Result: DNF Sad result breaking a shoulder, unfortunately these things happen. While it provokes the usual hysterical calls to ban horse-racing, if you want to really act on perceived torture, you’d end the pet industry in an instant. Some of the torture that goes on in that industry is unimaginably reprehensible.
03 Magic Circle $8
First time international runner, whose last two races were demolition wins in Europe. May was his last race, so against back to that dilemma of whether he’ll fire. The stable brought Mount Athos twice, who performed well, so that’s a guide they have a good formula in place.
Result: 16th The only excuse you could say was his last run was in May. Most of the other internationals had run in August before coming to Australia. Otherwise, it was the usual flop you expect from internationals.
04 Chestnut Coat $61
Japanese horse that didn’t do much in the Caulfield Cup. Sayonara.
Result: 14th As expected.
05 Muntahaa $12
International runner who won the Ebor in York. That race hasn’t been a great guide to the Melbourne Cup. A tricky one, as he won it impressively. Apparently there’s been a hiccup in the preparation too, which is always a concern.
Result: 9th Ran to form.
06 Sound Check $34
Shocking Caulfield Cup run. A positive is he has form around Best Solution and won at the distance in Germany.
Result: 18th A reality check. Flopped in Caulfield Cup, flopped in Melbourne Cup.
07 Who Shot Thebarman $34
Fourth attempt, and now a 10 year old. Sorry.
Result: 17th As expected.
08 Ace High $61
Victoria Derby winner of last year who seems out of form.
Result: 20th As expected.
09 Marmelo $14
International that ran in the Cup last year and failed. They’re trying it as a first run this time, as distinct from using the Caulfield Cup as preparation like last year. Pass.
Result: 2nd Super effort, and looked the winner until Cross Counter arrived. Well done to the team for trying a fresh approach after last year’s failure.
10 Avilius $12
Won the Bart Cummings, as Almandin did in 2016. Didn’t do it as impressively, and didn’t do much in the Cox Plate, and is a bit of a doubt at the distance. Won is last four before the Cox Plate, and as they say, winning form is good form.
Result: 22nd Only excuse is he was badly hampered by The Cliffsofmoher breaking down.
11 Yucatan $6
Dominant win in the Herbert Power and has been a favourite since. As they say, seeing is believing.
Result: 11th Horrible result. Simply didn’t run it out.
12 Auvray $101
Lacks form and class.
Result: 21st As expected.
13 Finche $23
An international that plodded into third in a weak Geelong Cup.
Result: 4th Super effort considering the average preparation race.
14 Red Cardinal $34
Ran last year and failed. Will fail again.
Result: 23rd & last Failed again.
15 Vengeur Masque $81
Not good enough.
Result: 15th As expected.
16 Ventura Storm $34
Not to the required standard and flopped last year. Won the Moonee Valley Cup in his last run if that helps.
Result: 10th OK result; didn’t run the distance.
17 Prince Of Arran $18
Qualified by winning the Lexus Stakes on Saturday. Internationals don’t do race so quickly in succession, Lexus winners don’t often do well unless they have dominant wins (think Shocking in 2009), and he was smashed by Yucatan in the Herbert Power.
Result: 3rd Led into the straight and looked the winner until the two late runners. A surprise result considering he had to run on Saturday to qualify and often this quick back-up destroys the chances of internationals. Without that run he might have gone even better.
18 Nakeeta $101
Ran fourth last year. In poorer form this year so it’s a no.
Result: 12th As expected.
19 Sir Charles Road $81
Result: 7th Capitalised with a good result due to so many other favoured horses not firing.
20 Zacada $81
Lack of form and class.
Result: 13th As expected.
21 Runaway $41
Won the Geelong Cup. It’s not a good guide other than to verify a quality international has acclimatised, as per Americain and Dunaden in 2010 and 2011.
Result: 19th As expected.
22 Youngstar $15
Caulfield Cup flop. The only mare in the race, and their general poor record is against her too.
Result: 6th Didn’t quite run it out.
23 Cross Counter $9
Nice wins in England before arriving, and a delicious light weight. Again, it’s that dilemma of whether he’s settled.
Result: 1st In hindsight, as expected! Good form and a low weight. Distance was the only issue as he hadn’t won beyond 2800 metres. Do that, and be able to reproduce the form in Australia, you win.
24 Rostropovich $23
Didn’t do much in the Cox Plate, and other than for the major weight drop, he’d be a total write off, not a partial one.
Result: 5th Looked a possible chance to win before others overtook him. A decent result for a horse that didn’t seem to do quite enough in the Cox Plate.
No surprises here if you note any of the “experts” giving their tips. I’m all over Yucatan like a giant meteor smashing into the planet. It’s my major bet while my smaller bet will be on Magic Circle. Interesting story is that when I was first taken to races as a youngster, a horse called Magic Tower was always so successful for me. I remember winning $6 on a 50c place bet, and that was so much money back then! So Magic Circle provides a bit of nostalgia. To complete my box trifecta and first-four I’ll add Cross Counter, Best Solution and possibly Avilius.
Remember, it’s only gambling if you lose!
A bit of an upside-down race, with the lesser favoured of the internationals and some mild outsiders doing well. Cross Counter was my third pick, and was a spectacular winner with a late charge down the outside to overhaul Marmelo. Marmelo flopped last year, so that broke one of the guidelines to ignore previous failures. Although, as mentioned in the preview above, a different strategy was tried this year by running him fresh in the Melbourne Cup rather than using the Caulfield Cup as preparation. Facts are many horses, particularly Europeans, do perform well fresh, which, at a minimum, is 3 weeks between runs. The Caulfield Cup is 17 days prior.
Cross Counter wins the 2018 Melbourne Cup from Marmelo and Prince Of Arran
Other guidelines remained true, like the new one to ignore the Japanese. The Caulfield Cup again proved an unreliable form gauge, even though Best Solution had excuses. The distance rule is an interesting one. The big favourite, Yucatan, didn’t run it out. Many horses are untried over the distance of 3200 metres, including the winner, so it can be hit or miss. Cross Counter at least had won over 2800 metres, so that was close enough. Yucatan and Best Solution had only won over 2400, with Yucatan’s other two wins being over 2012 and 1609 metres. He really was a distance doubt so much so that he warranted some sort of skepticism. I guess that awesome Herbert Power win clouded the minds of many. Finally, horses running in the Cup without a preparation run in Australia, while Cross Counter and Marmelo excelled, Magic Circle (the other big favourite), Muntahaa and Nakeeta, failed.
A new rule is to look to European 3 year olds. They are actually 3 and a half year olds by Australian time so have that extra bit of maturity while benefitting from a lighter weight allocation that 3 year olds get. They need to be progressive and in good form too. Last year one won in Rekindling, while this year they were first and fifth.
The big trifecta I’ve been trying to land for years now was another wipeout. I had six horses going in it – Yucatan, Magic Circle, Cross Counter, Best Solution, Avilius and Muntahaa – and only Cross Counter did anything. Best Solution was next best in eighth. There’s always next year!
23 Cross Counter $10
9 Marmelo $12
17 Prince Of Arran $23
13 Finche $13
24 Rostropovich $18