4 November 2019
After a big win on the Caulfield Cup thanks to Mer De Glace, it’s time to blow it all on the Melbourne Cup. That’s roughly been the pattern for the last few years as I’m still chasing a big win since the double success in 2010 and 2011.
While strict adherence to some rules has been an undoing in some years (notably Fiorente in 2013), let’s not ignore that generally these rules are important. The main ones seem obvious: the horse is good enough; the horse is in good form; and, the horse can run the 3200m distance. Then there’s a subset of rules: previous Cup failures generally fail again (don’t consider a high placing, especially second, a failure!); international horses without a run in Australia first are a mystery; the Caulfield Cup confirms itself more and more as race to distrust (largely because many horses bypass it and it’s become more of a race for specialist 2400m horses); and, Japanese horses are a Melbourne Cup query (other than the quinella in 2006, all have been a disaster). A new pattern emerging is that European 3 year olds do well. They won the past two years and capitalise on extra maturity due to the opposite breeding season in the northern hemisphere while still retaining a light weight. The handicapper as tried to compensate by giving them 52.5kg this year, up 1.5kg from that of Cross Counter last year. Due to the wet weather, the track will likely be on the soft side, so that will affect many horses, both good and bad.
01 Cross Counter 57.5kg (GB)
Last year’s winner is a year older at 4, and 6.5 kgs higher in weight. There’s only ever been 5 multiple Cup winners, with one of those not in successive years, and top weights often struggle. His European form doesn’t seem as strong as last year.
02 Mer De Glace 56 (JPN)
Never run beyond 2400 metres and Caulfield Cup winners have had a poor recent record, with the last success in 2001. Likely soft ground will be a concern, as will the barrier of 2 as apparently he doesn’t like being crowded. The big positive is he has won six straight. As they say, winning form is good form.
03 Master Of Reality 55.5 (IRE)
International horse without the form of others, and the Cup will be his first run here.
04 Mirage Dancer 55.5 (GB)
Caulfield Cup run was good; might be a distance doubt.
05 Southern France 55.5 (IRE)
Form looks good compared to other Europeans – except for a huge loss over the distance to Cross Counter.
06 Hunting Horn 55 (IRE)
Won the Moonee Valley Cup, which doesn’t say much other than he’s settled in. Probably not up to the standard.
07 Latrobe 55 (IRE)
Not in great form, and hasn’t won over 2400 metres.
08 Mustajeer 55 (GB)
Won the Ebor Handicap, which hasn’t been a great guide. Caulfield Cup run was good… except for those that finished even better.
09 Rostropovich 55 (IRE)
Fifth last year in the race, and hasn’t done much since. That’s probably about his level.
10 Twilight Payment 55 (IRE)
Overseas form suggests look to others.
11 Finche 54 (GB)
Fourth last year and ran well in all his Australian runs. The only niggle is he’s a bit of a plodder so others could run past him at the end.
12 Prince Of Arran 54 (GB)
A very similar story to Finche: third last year and has been running well in Australia this year.
13 Raymond Tusk 54 (IRE)
Doesn’t seem to have the ability of others from Europe.
14 Downdraft 53.5 (IRE)
Won the Hotham on Saturday, which can be a good guide for local horses. It’s foreign for internationals to run their next race only 3 days later, and all that tried have failed spectacularly. Class could be a concern too.
15 Magic Wand 53.5 (IRE)
While fourth in the 2040m Cox Plate is good, she looks a doubt at the 3200m Melbourne Cup. European mares don’t have a great record either.
16 Neufbosc 53.5 (FRA)
Not good enough.
17 Sound 53.5 (GER)
Ran as Sound Check last year and did nothing. Done nothing since.
18 Surprise Baby 53.5 (NZ)
Will be high in the betting due to the name. He should handle the distance, is an improving type and won the Bart Cummings. That compares very well to the 2016 winner, Almandin.
19 Constantinople 52.5 (IRE)
Ran on well in the Caulfield Cup, fits the profile of a European 3yo, and has a nice low weight.
20 Il Paradiso 52.5 (USA)
Another European trained 3yo. Except, this one we haven’t seen race here. Doesn’t quite seem to have the class either.
21 Steel Prince 52.5 (IRE)
Locally trained horse that doesn’t seem good enough.
22 The Chosen One 52 (NZ)
Has been well beaten by plenty of others in the field in other races.
23 Vow And Declare 52 (AUS)
The strongest local hope in years. Lead-up form is good, distance should be fine, a nice weight, and can sprint. The only shame is that annoying Craig Williams is riding him.
24 Youngstar 52 (AUS)
Form no where near as good as last year, when she finished fifth.
Sticking with Finche and Prince Of Arran to repeat their good runs of last year and hopefully do a bit better. Both are back with comparable, if not better form, and have nice weights. Surprise Baby smells like one of those old style Melbourne Cup winners that emerge on the scene with impressive runs and ultimately win the Cup. Vow And Declare looks solid too.
In a really competitive race, $8 for the favourite is ridiculously good value. Surprise Baby and Prince Of Arran are at $15 and $19 respectively, so they represent a bit better value from my selections. Even something approximating an outsider like Southern France is at $23. It’s important to note that Mer De Glace’s price is a result of the huge plunge after he won the Caulfield Cup. There’s been little support for him since.
Remember, it’s only gambling if you lose!
It was a classic, exciting race won by Vow And Declare in a tight finish ahead of Prince Of Arran and Il Paradiso. Vow And Declare is the first Australian bred and trained horse to win the race since Shocking in 2009. Even allowing for the slightly soft track, it was a very slowly run race at 8 seconds off the race record set in 1990 by Kingston Rule on a fast track. The first four horses finished within a neck of each other, with much of the rest of the field in a big group just behind. The sit and sprint nature of the race favoured those near the lead, leaving backmarkers little chance to run them down. The only exceptions were the lightweights Il Paradiso and Surprise Baby.
Second over the line was Master Of Reality, who led into the straight and looked the likely winner until the late rally by Vow And Declare. Master Of Reality would be relegated to fourth after causing interference on Il Paradiso (4th over the line). With the horse drifting out, jockey Frankie Dettori switched the whip to his right hand, which made the horse lay in and ultimately crunch a fast charging Il Paradiso. That promoted Il Paradiso to third and Prince of Arran to second (third over the line). With that, it meant I landed my biggest trifecta ever of just under $3000. My only other Melbourne Cup trifecta was in 2010, which paid just over $350 by memory. I also collected with a small win bet on the winner. That breaks an 8 year drought of picking a winner and collecting a big pay day. As they say, when it rains, it pours.
Master Of Reality was the biggest surprise run, with the only person I saw mentioning him in their tips was Sky Racing’s Ron Dufficy as his fourth pick. Despite his sound form lines in Europe, the 55.5kg would have caused people to look elsewhere, as lower weighted European horses have been the recent trend. Indeed, Il Paradiso had only 52.5, and Vow And Declare, a 4 year old, got into the race with just 52. Prince Of Arran, third last year, had a nice 54. Phar Lap was the last horse to finish third one year and win the next year. I guess Prince Of Arran is no Phar Lap! I wonder if there’s any history of a horse running a sequence of third, second and first? Let’s see if Francesca Cumani has that ready for us next year.
Covering the other runners, the fear with Finche (7th) was he’s a bit of a plodder and, indeed, he couldn’t sprint with them at the top of the straight. He still ran on well and was gaining ground at the end. Surprise Baby (5th) stormed from near last down the outside to be the most spectacular run, while Il Paradiso (3rd) made his run along the inside after badly missing the start. Japan’s Mer De Glace (6th) ran on well with his high weight, as did last year’s winner and the top weight Cross Counter (8th). It shows you the effect of weight, as Cross Counter easily beat Prince Of Arran and Finche with last year carrying just 51kg, and got beaten by them this year. Steel Prince (9th) ran beyond expectations, while Magic Wand (10th), Constantinople (13th), Mirage Dancer (14th), Latrobe (18th), Southern France (19th), Downdraft (22nd) and Mustajeer (23rd) didn’t seem to run the distance. The latter presented well into the straight and folded. Downdraft ran on the Saturday, so might have been tired. Rostropovich (24th) pulled up with an injury.
Sound (12th), Hunting Horn (15th), The Chosen One (17th), Youngstar (20th) and Neufbosc (21st) weren’t good enough or in the right form. Twilight Payment (11th) and Raymond Tusk (16th) couldn’t sprint when required. Note both Mustajeer and Raymond Tusk came from the Ebor Handicap – a race notoriously difficult to trust. In other trends, the poor results for Japan continued, and while the Caulfield Cup finally produced a Melbourne Cup winner (Viewed 10th in 2008 and Delta Blues 3rd in 2006 were the last two), this might have been an odd year out, plus the Melbourne Cup itself was such a strangely run race. Really, this year’s race is a difficult one to rate. The slow speed removed the stamina test and made it a sprinting test.
It’s worthwhile mentioning the two horses scratched after they were CT scanned and showed a hot spot. Marmelo was the most notable as he finished second last year. While the trainer was furious, it’s important to note that all the recent leg fractures during the race were to Europeans. Clearly they are susceptible and every precaution must be taken. In time, these preemptive scans will become an accepted practice. Channel 10 should be praised for their excellent coverage after taking the rights from Channel 7. Fears of a trashy, bogan coverage normally associated with the channel never materialised. It was a professional coverage that kept most of the focus on the racing, and extra credit for the use of Brittany Taylor doing the jockey interviews after the race. She was a great discovery out of Western Australia, and epitomised the professional approach with her well spoken demeanor and excellent interviews, and complimented the main host, Francesca Cumani, really well. Perhaps the only area in need of improvement was their pre-race horse information graphics, as they didn’t quite have all the information required.
1ST: VOW AND DECLARE Win: $11.70 Place $3.90
2ND: PRINCE OF ARRAN Place: $4.60
3RD: IL PARADISO Place: 6.80
4TH: MASTER OF REALITY
First Four: $79,381.40
01 VOW AND DECLARE
02 PRINCE OF ARRAN
03 IL PARADISO
04 MASTER OF REALITY
05 SURPRISE BABY
06 MER DE GLACE
08 CROSS COUNTER
09 STEEL PRINCE
10 MAGIC WAND
11 TWILIGHT PAYMENT
14 MIRAGE DANCER
15 HUNTING HORN
16 RAYMOND TUSK
17 THE CHOSEN ONE
19 SOUTHERN FRANCE