Melbourne Cup 2021 – Preview and Review

2 November 2021

It’s an unusual Melbourne Cup in modern times due to the low numbers of international horses in the field. Compared to the highs of 11 in recent years, there’s officially just two this year (Twilight Payment and Spanish Mission), while a couple of others were recently transferred to Australian trainers. In that sense, it’s an old school Melbourne Cup with plenty of locals making up the 24-horse field, many of whom are just making up the numbers. The positive is that there’s very few mystery international horses that can be hit and miss.

PREVIEW

I’m keeping it simple next year, looking for horses in form, are likely to run the distance and have a nice weight. In fairness, in this modern era, weights are compressed, so very few horses are weighted out of it and nearly all actually race below their weight-for-age weight. I’ll also remain skeptical of the international horses, especially if the Cup is their debut race in Australia. It should be a stamina test with Twilight Payment in the field, who led all the way last year to win.

Melbourne Cup 2021 Field - Preview & Review
Melbourne Cup 2021 Field

Incentivise won the Caulfield Cup in impressive style and is currently on a 9-race winning streak from his 12-race career. He looks like he’ll get the distance as he’s really strong to, and past, the line in his recent races. While the Caulfield Cup stunk as a form reference for over a decade, it has began to return to its historically good reference. Forgetting that anyway, Incentivise’s win was a key form reference in itself and he’ll run as the shortest priced favourite since Phar Lap (1930).

Last year’s winner Twilight Payment goes up 2.5kg and is now 9 years old on the Australian calendar (8 on European). Only 4 horses have won the Cup two years running, and no 9yo has won it at all. He looks to be going as well as last year, he’ll love the warm day and firm track, and this is a weaker field. His main competition is only just behind him in the weights too.

Spanish Mission has quality form and likes it dry. The big knock is, as an international, he’s as likely to flop as he is excel. It’s a 50/50 scenario with these visitors, especially on warm days, and he’s had injury concerns too. Verry Elleegant didn’t quite see it out last year and carries more weight. The Chosen One finished fourth last year and has conditions to suit again this year. Ignore the Caulfield Cup run on a wet track. Possibly do so for Delphi too. Persan was fifth in last year’s Melbourne Cup, ran an excellent third in the Caulfield Cup, so looks to be plotting similarly this year.

If you like Pondus, you’re better off with Floating Artist, who beat him in the Moonee Valley Cup, has a lower weight and is is good recent form. Grand Promenade won The Bart Cummings (the same race as Almandin in 2016) and his recent form is similarly good. Tralee Rose is the Geelong Cup winner, which has been used as a preparation for international winners in 2010 and 2011, and has had little guide since. Being a mare is a concern (many don’t like the big fields) and she has flopped over the distance before. In good recent form otherwise. Great House won the Hotham Handicap on Saturday to guarantee his place and was solid in the Caulfield Cup, while Sir Lucan has the good profile of being a European 3yo, albeit without the form of recent successful horses in that category.

Of the outsiders, the main one to note is Johnny Get Angry. He’s trained by former Australian Rules premiership coach, Denis Pagan, and won the Victoria Derby last year. Has done nothing since, so it’s really only the football interest.

SELECTIONS

02 Incentivise
01 Twilight Payment
16 Grand Promenade
22 Floating Artist

No surprises here. I’m sticking to the hot favourite, Incentivise, and believe Twilight Payment is on the right path to repeat his 2020 performance. Whenever I look at horses at longer odds, the common thread is Grand Promenade has beaten them all. Similarly with Floating Artist, he’s beaten most of those in the same lead-up races to him. They’ve run in different races leading up to the Melbourne Cup, so I split them based on Grand Promenade looking like the stronger stayer. I worry about Spanish Mission so will throw it into a 5-horse boxed trifecta. I’ll do my favoured multi-trifecta (which scored in 2019) of Incentivise, Twilight Payment and Spanish Mission first or second, with about 10 horses in third.

Remember, it’s only gambling if you lose!

REVIEW

It was a weird Melbourne Cup of 2021. A bit slow in that they didn’t go as hard as expected and Verry Elleegant unleashed a surprisingly devastating sprint to win easily by 4 lengths. She only ran on late last year for 7th, was up in weight and prefers a wet track. All racing experts I saw discarded her for others, and one couldn’t even find her a spot in a wide trifecta covering about 10 horses. That’s horse racing! It’s not a precise science and Verry Elleegant proved that and showed to never discount a champion horse. The Melbourne Cup was her 10th Group 1 win, which includes the 2020 Caulfield Cup. Her winning time of 3:17.43 was just over a second outside the race record 3:16:30 set in 1990, so it was a reasonably fast race, attributed to a long wind up in the second half and Verry Elleegant’s super sprint. The Chosen One in fifth was the only horse to make up any major ground from the back, albeit finishing over 10 lengths from the winner.

At $18 in the market, Verry Elleegant wasn’t an outsider anyway, and she led home a group of horses all well in the market. Except for perhaps the order of the top 6, especially with Verry Elleegant winning, it was a fairly predictable result. Indeed, remove the winner, and I would have landed the trifecta twice with Incentivise, Spanish Mission and Floating Artist. Even Verry Elleegant in third behind Incentivise and Spanish Mission would have meant a trifecta landed.

Incentivise anchored the hopes of many punters and ran a gallant race to almost deliver the fairytale win of a bush horse from Toowomba on a 9-race winning streak taking Australia’s biggest race. He sat just outside the leader the whole way, and it makes you think if he could have taken a sit behind a strong leader that he might have prevailed. Last year’s winner, Twilight Payment, who led all the way then, didn’t get a fast enough start from his inside draw and got buried in midfield. Even then, a tad disappointing to not run on and only finish 11th. Spanish Mission, the other international, was a hit in third place. He couldn’t sprint with Verry Elleegant and that was it. Floating Artist performed as hoped to finish fourth. He just couldn’t match the sprint of Verry Elleegant. No horse could. For the rest, it’s mostly as per the preview: either not good enough, not in form or couldn’t run the distance. Persan probably the only surprise, capitulating early from the lead to finish 20th.

FINISHING ORDER

1st – Verry Elleegant ($16.50 W, $4.50 P)
2nd – Incentivise ($2.00 P)
3rd – Spanish Mission ($3.00 P)
4th – Floating Artist
5th – The Chosen One
6th – Grand Promenade
7th – Delphi
8th – Selino
9th – Tralee Rose
10th – She’s Ideel
11th – Twilight Payment
12th – Miami Bound
13th – Great House
14th – Sir Lucan
15th – Explosive Jack
16th – Master of Wine
17th – Pondus
18th – Carif
19th – Knights Order
20th – Persan
21st – Port Guillaume
22nd – Johnny Get Angry
23rd – Ocean Billy

Quinella: $21.80
Exacta: $72.70
Trifecta: $436.20
First Four: $5,413.50