The race that stops the nation(s) is back! For all loyal racing fans from across the world, an early morning awaits us.
On The Other Hoof did a bumper preview of the race with special Australian guest Andrew Hawkins, alongside panellists Michael (@mytentoryours) and Adam (@adamwebb121). If you have a spare hour (or so) you can watch it anytime via the following link, or if there’s just a specific horse you wish to get our views on you can skip using their racecard number (they were talked about in chronological order).
However, for those just looking to read my own thoughts, please scroll down for a quick summary of each horses’ chances. Best of luck!
1 – SNOW SKY
Flexible, can lead (58kg)
Not often do I recommend the top-weight in a handicap, never mind in a handicap of this prestige. But it is perhaps for that reason that a dual Group 2 winner could defy carrying top weight. His profile is not dissimilar to last year’s winner, Protectionist: slowly brought along as a three year-old, few runs in early part of four year-old career and a pipe-opener in Melbourne before the big one.
He stays at least a 2800m on a European track (as Protectionist proved he stayed 3000m in Europe) which in my book is a winning formula to stay the 3200m in Australia. Sir Michael Stoute would not send a horse without a strong chance here and with Ryan Moore in the seat (especially considering Coolmore’s entries); the only worry is any rain.
2 – CRITERION
For Europeans it’s hard not to remember this horse trailing in behind our summer stars at Royal Ascot and York. However, he’s clearly a talented type and won the G1 2000m Caulfield Stakes (carrying 59kg) two starts back before following in the outstanding Winx in the Cox Plate last time. However he’s never been further than 2500m, which tempers enthusiasm. Others stronger.
3 – FAME GAME
Hold up (57kg)
A very short-priced favourite. Clearly has plenty going for him having won over as far as 3400m to G3 level before second over 3200m in the Tenno Sho G1 in his native Japan two starts back. Everyone noticed how eye-catching he was when finishing sixth in the Caulfield Cup last time but his running style could find just as much trouble at Flemington this time (especially with horses capable over shorter). Worth taking on at the price.
4 – OUR IVANHOWE
Only horse to defeat the very classy, but obviously not 100% Sea The Moon last year, however I’ve never been a fan and he hasn’t lit Australia alight so far. His best effort in the Caulfield Cup last time was much better but there’s more exciting runners.
5 – BIG ORANGE
Impressive this year, proving stamina (unsurprisingly, being European) and class when taking the G2 Goodwood Cup. Reliant on as firmer ground as possible, which he may not get here however. Also, somewhat bizarrely, he has to give Trip to Paris 0.5kg when he received around 2kg at Goodwood.
6 – HARTNELL
Flexible, can lead (55.5kg)
Oh, another one of our castoffs I mean, emigrators. A Royal Ascot winner in the past, Hartnell has done well down under. There’s no question of him staying and he’s been brought steadily into this with three inconspicuous runs over shorter distances. Questionable whether he has the class for this, but expected to go well.
7 – HOKKO BRAVE
Japan’s second string, having been beaten by Fame Game in the Tenno Sho. He also hasn’t won since 2013 and has finished outside the places lately. Others better.
8 – MAX DYNAMITE
Racing over the sticks at Punchestown is a fairly odd lead up to the feature flat race of the Southern Hemisphere, but trainer Willie Mullins has done it before (Simenon) and Max seems fairly unexposed. However I’m not convinced the style of racing in Melbourne is going to suit him; a quick two miles may see things happen a little too quickly. I think he was beating over-the-top horses at York. That said, can’t quite sum him up.
9 – RED CADEAUX
Well, what can you say about old Red Cadeaux. The ‘Youmzain’ of the Melbourne Cup, but loved not just by Europeans but Australasians alike. At the grand age of nine, he is seemingly ‘pushing it’, but he saves his best for this race and I wouldn’t be discounting him anytime soon.
10 – TRIP TO PARIS
This horse has been called some names but I if we take that away, the bare stone cold facts are that he has a tremendous chance. This is the winner of the Ascot Gold Cup remember (a G1 over 4000m), who also placed in 2400m G1. That placing was in the Caulfield Cup, a chief lead-up race to the Cup and he still – despite the inadequate distance – had an impressive turn of foot. He showed a similar turn of foot (what I believe is the essential ingredient to a Cup winner) over 4000m at Royal Ascot. He never seems to find excuses unlike other hold-up horses, helped by this turn of foot. He is also trained by the best British trainer in the Cup’s history. What’s not to like?!
11 – WHO SHOT THEBARMAN
Finished third in last year’s cup carrying an extra 0.5kg, but he did find the gaps opening up very favourably for him there. Despite clearly staying the distance, I don’t think he has the wow factor of some of these others in this fiercely competitive renewal. Pass.
12 – SKY HUNTER
This Prix du Jockeyclub placer of 2013 has gone very much under the radar, having only run twice this year with a G2 win in Meydan and a G3 place at Newbury. Those runs were over 2400m and he’s never been further than 2600m. He clearly has the class of these but the stamina questions will only be answered here. Hard to work out.
13 – THE OFFER
Surprised how unloved in the betting The Offer is, considering he was the one-time ante-post favourite for the race last year. He won the Sydney Cup over today’s distance with ease back in April 2014, but has needed to drop to Listed and G3 level to get his head in front since. He hasn’t returned to the 3200m distance since that win however, so you could pin your hopes on that. Each-way possibility.
14 – GRAND MARSHAL
From one Sydney Cup winner to another, Grand Marshal won this year’s renewal over the 3200m distance but hasn’t had a single bite of the cherry since, finishing eleventh in the Caulfield Cup last time. Upping him back to this distance is a positive but others should have him covered, thus not hard to dismiss.
15 – PREFERMENT
Never got a look in in the Cox Plate last time but clearly better than that having won a G1 at Flemington the time before. Question mark as usual has to be asked about whether he will appreciate the huge step up in trip, though his ‘grinding style’ (he seems to take a bit of winding up) suggests the distance will not be an issue. Nevertheless, those who can act faster may have flown before he hits second gear.
16 – QUEST FOR MORE
Despite the Trip to Paris form line, QFM is no way near what I would have as a Melbourne Cup winner. Unlike the former he is still yet to really prove himself at Group level and was annihilated at Geelong two weeks ago by Almoonqith (finished 16th of 17). Move on.
17 – ALMOONQITH
Hard not to be impressed with the way he won the Geelong Cup, though that race isn’t held in nearly as high regard as other lead-ups. Nevertheless, second placed Dandino does give the form a little substance to familiar European eyes. He’s extremely hard to sum up from that however and his previous run over 3200m doesn’t help either. Brown Panther in Dubai trounced him that time, but he was set with a lot to do and made up eye-catching ground towards the end. If he gets too far behind again here his chance is virtually gone.
18 – KINGFISHER
A master-class was delivered by Aidan O’Brien when he got Kingfisher to place in the Ascot Gold Cup this year, especially considering how little luck he got in running. He’s not backed that up with much since back at 2400m the last twice and, although he’ll clearly be primed for this day, he’s never going to get much love from me.
19 – PRINCE OF PENZANCE
Flexible, can lead (53kg)
The first one you can skim over fairly swiftly. No idea about the distance (never raced further than 2500m) and a class below quite a few of these.
20 – BONDI BEACH
Stats time. With the exception of the Prix Kergorlay, Bondi Beach has ran in two of the best trials for the Melbourne Cup; the Geoffrey Freer (3 placers from 7 runners) and St Leger (a winner and a placer). However, his attitude has to be called into question following both of those races. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him place but he seems to question whether he wants to win or not and you can’t have that in a race like this. Strong place chance.
21 – SERTORIUS
22 – THE UNITED STATES
Surely the most unexposed horse in the field, or at least the winner of the most ‘steadily brought along’ title. He shot himself into the Melbourne Cup picture with an impressive Moonee Valley Cup win breaking the track record. He’s going to need much more here upped to 3200m but can’t be discounted.
23 – EXCESS KNOWLEDGE
I couldn’t have Amralah, who beat him two starts back, winning this and I can’t see Excess Knowledge (formerly trained here) being classy enough. Doubt he stays, too.
24 – GUST OF WIND
Got tapped for toe when they quickened in the Caulfield Cup, but was helped by a prominent position and stayed on for fourth at the line. Looks like she’ll stay on that evidence and despite the featherweight on her back, she appears inferior to some hot rivals.
Unlike last year, when (much to my 150/1 ante-post bet glee) Protectionist made a mockery of the field, this year looks an extremely strong and competitive renewal. I strongly believe Ryan Moore could produce 1 Snow Sky (50/1) to keep his gloves on the Cup, while I cannot look away from the reliable and yet still classy 10 Trip to Paris (7/1). 20 Bondi Beach (20/1) has strong place claims, even better if his temperament improves while 6 Hartnell 33/1 completes the chosen quartet.