03 November 2014
For those new to the Socceroo Realm, the Olympic Games and the Melbourne Cup are my other two sporting passions. I’ve been to the Melbourne Cup every year since 1977, and would apparently have gone in 1976 had the weather prediction not been for heavy rain and storms.
It’s always a fascinating race, watching all these horses converge from different paths and, these days, from all over the world. While I’m no punter, I do make an exception for this great race. Because there’s 24 horses, you always get great value, even for a favourite. Since I’ve been old enough to bet, my average is a win every three years, which keeps me ahead. In the past 10 years, I’ve been hoping to land a big trifecta or first four.
Predicting the Melbourne Cup is an evolving process, with last year being a bit of a lesson. A rule I’ve followed for a long time is ignore horses that have failed in a previous Melbourne Cup. This rule is sound on the provision that “failed” truly means failed. The first three of 2013 of Fiorente, Red Cadeaux and Mount Athos were all return runners. The key is that Fiorente and Red Cadeaux did not exactly fail, with both running second in 2012 and 2011 respectively, while Mount Athos was an unlucky fifth in 2012. It could be excused to ignore Red Cadeaux as he did fail in 2012, finishing eighth.
Two other rules remain rock solid. Most of the field actually won’t run the trip, while those that can, some don’t have the class or, as with many Europeans, are plodders lacking the required acceleration. Other historical statistics can also be applied, notable age and weight. Only two 8yo horses have won, and that was so far in the past that’s irrelevant. No 9yo has won. The last horse with 58.5kg to win was Think Big in 1975. Makybe Diva in 2005 carried 58kg, which is effectively 60kg, if you consider mares typically get a 2kg allowance on the weight-for-age (WTA) scale. Since she’d won it twice prior, it was a realistic handicap.
Often there’s talk of horses “lugging weight” and that sort suggests a cruelty. Wrong. First, the days when Carbine carried over 65kg in the 1800s are long gone. Second, in handicaps, weak horses have their weight lowered, with top weights carrying their normal weight. In WTA races, older male horses carry 59kg, while mares get 57kg. In the Melbourne Cup, the top weighted horse is only 58.5, while the bottom weight is 51kg. If these respective horses raced in a Cox Plate, both would carry 59kg, meaning the bottom weight of Signoff in the Cup would simply have no chance against the top weight of Admire Rakti.
Speaking of Admire Rakti, there was some controversy that he was penalised “only” half a kilo for winning the Caulfield Cup. Again, this needs to be seen in the context of handicap allocations – to reduce weight of weaker horses, not to lug top horses with more and more. Since Admire Rakti was already top weight in the Melbourne Cup, there’s little room to assign more weight as he’d start exceeding his normal WFA weight. If he was only 53kg before the Caulfield Cup, he’d have got a penalty of 2kg most likely. Furthermore, the modern Melbourne Cup is more a “quality handicap”, with the weight range compressed, which again leaves little room to penalise heavily, and also means that any penalty given has a much greater effect.
Lead up races like the Herbert Power, the Metropolitan, Moonee Valley Cup, Geelong Cup and the Lexus Stakes – many of them are irrelevant. So, too, seems the Caulfield Cup. The last Melbourne Cup winner to come from the Caulfield Cup was Delta Blues in 2006. Many Melbourne Cup horses bypass the race for fear of a penalty, while other horses that target it do so because the Melbourne Cup is becoming so difficult to gain a start. Unless the horse was dominant in these lead-up races, don’t trust the form.
1 Admire Rakti (JPN) (Tomoyuki Umeda) 58.5 Z Purton
Weight seems the only issue. Also, the Caulfield/Melbourne Cup double is difficult to achieve, and usually is done by a horse that won at Caulfield with a light weight so could cope with the penalty into the Melbourne Cup. Since Admire Rakti was not penalised heavily, he remains a great chance.
2 Cavalryman (GB) (Saeed bin Suroor) 57 C Williams
Was here in 2012 and failed. Even if overseas form is better, age now a problem.
3 Fawkner (Robert Hickmott) 57 N Hall
Didn’t quite run it out last year when sixth. Seems to have improved has been trained specifically for it. It’s a weaker field too, it could all add up.
4 Red Cadeaux (GB) (Ed Dunlop) 57 G Mosse
Age against him. His form overseas is well down compared to previous year.
5 Protectionist (Ger) (Andreas Wohler) 56.5 R Moore
Every single one of the 5 panelists on Sky’s Racing Retro show has picked this. The rare time German horses come to Australia they generally perform quite well. The main problem was the run in the Herbert Power. That race is never a guide and he was still beaten by average horses. Signoff was ahead of him and is in the Cup with 5kg less. As much as the Sky team were dubious of the Lexus form (Signoff’s win on Saturday), then you must be even more dubious of the Herbert Power. All that race proved is that the horse had acclimatised. Distance also a query. The track will be firm, which could be another problem.
6 Sea Moon (GB) (Robert Hickmott) 56.5 T Berry
It would have been treated as a scratching had it not been scratched
7 Seismos (IRE) (Marco Botti) 56 C Newitt
Too slow. The only positive is the stable has done well with Dandino last year and the unfancied Jackalberry (third in 2012).
8 Junoob (GB) (Chris Waller) 55.5 H Bowman
The Metropolitan is traditionally a rubbish guide. Didn’t do enough in the Caulfield Cup either.
9 Royal Diamond (IRE) (Johnny Murtagh) 55.5 S Arnold
Stablemate of Mutual Regard. It’s here for the sight-seeing.
10 Gatewood (GB) (John Gosden) 55 W Buick
Didn’t exactly fire in Australia 2 years ago. Form dubious, a distance query and track will be firm.
11 Mutual Regard (IRE) (Johnny Murtagh) 55 D Oliver
Won the Ebor (UK’s “Melbourne Cup”) well, which can be a guide (Purple Moon 2nd in 2007). Damien Oliver on board is a good sign. Only issue is acclimatisation. Generally it’s best to see them run in Australia first.
12 Who Shot The Barman (NZ) (Chris Waller) 55 G Boss
Under the odds because of its name. Caulfield Cup was poor. Seems to lack the class.
13 Willing Foe (USA) (Saeed Bin Suroor) 55 J McDonald
Lightly raced recently and difficult to line-up the form. Seems to be a plodder. Has it acclimatised? So many questions.
14 My Ambivalent (IRE) (Roger Varian) 54.5 A Atenzi
“Mathematically”, should win by four lengths. Has the class, with form around Admire Rakti, maybe even surpassing him, and she has 4kg less too. Injury concerns (scratched from the Caulfield Cup and training affected) and is flighty – even for a mare. That’s doubly bad for an international mare, as they have never fired, and are rarely brought out. Overall, mares have a poor record in the Melbourne Cup unless they have some robustness to them.
15 Precedence (NZ) (Bart and James Cummings) 54.5 M Rodd
Failed all previous three attempts, likely to do so again, especially with his age
16 Brambles (NZ) (Peter Moody) 54 L Nolen
Lacks the class and probably the speed
17 Mr O’ Ceirin (NZ) (Ciaron Maher) 54 M Zahra
Really lacks the class
18 Au Revoir (IRE) (Andre Fabre) 53.5 G Schofield
They ran past him in the Moonee Valley Cup
19 Lidari (FR) (Peter Moody) 53.5 B Melham
Lacks the class and a distance concern
20 Opinion (IRE) (Chris Waller) 53.5 T Angland
Form suggests too slow
21 Araldo (GB) (Michael Moroney) 53 D Dunn
More than anything, probably lacks the speed
22 Lucia Valentina (NZ) (Kris Lees) 53 K McEvoy
A 4yo lightly framed mare. That spells danger. There’s also the distance. Distance was a concern in the Caulfield Cup. She was targeted for that race and ran into third thanks to a slow pace. Now she’s tossed into a fast Melbourne Cup over an extra 800m and expected to win? There’s a big spruik about her because of her brilliance.
23 Unchain My Heart (Hayes and Dabernig) 51.5 D Yendall
Out of form and too slow
24 Signoff (IRE) (Darren Weir) 51 J Moriera
Ran away with the Lexus Stakes – reminiscent of Shocking in 2009, which then won the Melbourne Cup. Malucky Day ran second in 2010 after a similar performance in the Lexus. The light weight makes the horse so appetising. The issue is the class. The Lexus field was even less worse than the average fields of its other lead-ups. The stable says the horse has been trained specifically for a Lexus and then a tilt at the Cup. We’ll see if this meticulous planning has worked.
I can’t go past Admire Rakti. Only historical statistics surrounding weight is against him. Even then, it’s not of great relevance given only in 2005 Makybe Diva won with arguably a greater imposition and over a field with a less compressed weight range, and he’s only carrying 58.5. He’s world class, he runs the distance and he’s Japanese. Those three factors stand alone.
From there, almost every horse has a reason that they cannot win. The two with the least negatives are Fawkner and Signoff. The most likely of the Europeans seems to be Mutual Regard, while I’ll certainly throw a twenty on My Ambivalent.
1 Admire Rakti
4 Mutual Regard
Outsider: My Ambivalent
I’ll place a big win bet on Admire Rakti, smaller bets on Fawkner (I always bet the greys) and My Ambivalent. The first four will go into a boxed trifecta and a boxed first four. A special trifecta will include Admire Rakti to win, with either Signoff and Fawkner second, and the field in the third.
Remember: Enjoy the race first, and only bet as much as you want to lose!