The day is upon us once again and for the first time I’m actually writing this guide from Melbourne itself! It’s been a long time coming but I’m extremely fortunate to be at the Spring Racing Carnival this year, working for Racing.com, while ‘pretending’ to also be enrolled at Monash University on my year abroad from the UK.
Runner by Runner Guide
1 – BIG ORANGE (57kg) ~ 15/1
I just love this horse. He has captured the hearts of British fans back home with his brave front-running style that has seen him win his past two starts over 2400m and 3200m, both good Group 2 events. Stamina clearly isn’t an issue and I would also argue neither, surprisingly, is top-weight for this huge 17 hands horse (he carries much more to victory in the UK). He’ll lead them from the front, but you would want him to kick on earlier as an Australian-style sprint to the line would not suit him – a more gruelling British test should see him deny all-comers.
- Pick of the race. Massive price. 9/10
2 – OUR IVANHOWE (57kg) ~ 51/1
Won the 2000m Doomben Cup on what looked a softer surface than advertised and the Freedman’s frequently acknowledge that rain would be required to improve his chances. Stayed on well in the 2400m Caulfield Cup, but I don’t think it’s going to be enough. Flemington drains well.
- Will run on, but others for the win. 3/10
3 – CURRENT MIROTIC (56.5kg) ~ 31/1
Just off the leaders
Although his trainer Osamu Hirata made a fair case on Sunday at the Media Breakfast, this horse just seems far too old, with too much weight and with such mediocre form. His Tenno Sho Spring form is good, but last few starts just make him very difficult to fancy. Bad barrier too.
- Hasn’t won since 2013. Leave alone. 2/10
4 – BONDI BEACH (56kg) ~ 9/1
The Aidan O’Brien factor has to be the reason this horse is so short, because on basic form I really cannot understand why you would be backing him. I’d firstly question his temperament after the Great Voltigeur and the St Leger and then the modest form he’s shown all year, winning two small-field Irish races at short prices (beating very little). Since those wins he has been beaten in small field Group 3 races by decent horses over 2400m. He’s clearly been primed for this, but he hasn’t shown enough for me to really deserve to be 9/1.
- Aidan O’Brien can do magic, not sure if that will be enough this time. 4/10
5 – EXOSPHERIC (56kg) ~ 21/1
He’s not straightforward in any way, but he clearly packs plenty of ability as shown by his Newmarket win in the UK over 2400m, beating Big Orange by 7 lengths. The big horse reversed the form next time however, over C&D. Ran very well in 2400m Caulfield Cup and will probably stay, but hard to get too confident about.
- Has the class on his day. Who knows if he wants it to be? 5/10
6 – HARTNELL (56kg) ~ 5/1
He’s been outstanding this year, capped off by his excellent second in the Cox Plate. Unfair to ever compare him to Winx, as most of us Brits would probably have said before, but he still beat some very good horses in Yankee Rose and Vadamos. He also beat Jameka in the Turnbull, who won the Caulfield Cup convincingly, so all the form stacks up as the best Australia has to offer in class and in staying ability (he won a 3200m Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot, remember). James McDonald is an excellent booking too, as he’s ridden some of the UK horses or raced against them when he came over to the UK during July.
- The one they all have to beat. 9/10
7 – WHO SHOT THEBARMAN (56kg) ~ 41/1
Ran a really brave race in defeat last time in the 2500m Moonee Valley Cup, just pegged back by Grand Marshal. Will enjoy a bit of weight relief here but looks well held by Hartnell on his Sydney form this spring and would be a shock if he could reverse that form. Eleventh last year and though this looks weaker would be hoping more for a place than a win. Drawn wide.
- Not discounted but others more inviting. 4/10
8 – WICKLOW BRAVE (56kg) ~ 15/1
Flexible, can lead but likely to be mid
Drawn in the car park unfortunately but Willie Mullins, as we all know, works his magic in Europe and has got close to taking the biggest prize down-under with Simenon (4th, 2013) and Max Dynamite (2nd, 2015). Wicklow ran really well in Irish St Leger, but I’m not sure that form should be taken so literally (and Order of St George did get beaten on Champions Day by horses he should definitely have walked by). Held by Big Orange three starts ago, and bad draw, but don’t completely discount him.
- Everything is possible. Each-way chance. 7/10
9 – ALMOONQITH (54.5kg) ~ 21/1
Hasn’t won since the Sandown Cup 3200m, but that came after a disappointing 18th place in the 2015 Melbourne Cup. Has ran OK since, including a fifth in the Sydney Cup but nothing suggested a return to form more than the eye-catching fourth in the Caulfield Cup last time. Travelled very well into the race before meeting traffic trouble and staying on very strongly. Gets a nice weight and return to this trip is perfect, but gets a worse draw this year.
- Can’t get too confident, but no surprise to see him place. 7/10
10 – GALLANTE (54.5kg) ~ 61/1
Won this year’s Sydney Cup leading all the way (did have the run of the race), before running a really strong race when second in the Naturalism to Jameka. She beat him convincingly there and he disappointed last week in the Moonee Valley Cup, but best forgiven on wet ground in a race that got started very early (winner and the third came from last three).
- One of the better roughies. 6/10
11 – GRAND MARSHAL (54.5kg) ~ 41/1
Race worked out really well for him last time when scoring in Moonee Valley Cup on favoured soft ground, but unlikely to figure in a race of this type particularly if the pace isn’t strong. Finished 21st last year, last week was probably his Cup. Good draw though but probably won’t take advantage of it.
- Hard to sum up but possibly vulnerable to younger legs. 3/10
12 – JAMEKA (54.5kg) ~ 8.5/1
A revelation this year, with only Hartnell ruining a hatrick of wins in her last three starts, rounding it off last time with a facile Caulfield Cup success. Stamina has to be one of the only worries, with her end-of-race injection of pace possibly going to be absent (she is sprint/middle distance bred) it could leave her vulnerable. Hartnell holds her on form too.
- Big each-way hope but hard to choose her over Hartnell. 7/10
13 – HEARTBREAK CITY (54kg) ~ 17/1
No luck for the Irish in the draw (Wicklow Brave only horse drawn wider) but Tony Martin is a very clever trainer and the way he won the 2800m York Ebor suggests he’s right up there with these. It’s not the same Group form that Wicklow & Orange bring to the table but that doesn’t mean anything with horses trained by Tony Martin. Stamina won’t be an issue, but the draw and his typical running style will depend on the race.
- Perhaps risky, but not without strong claims. 6/10
14 – SIR JOHN HAWKWOOD (54kg) ~ 101/1.
Ran a great race when winning 2400m Metropolitan in Sydney for passionate pilot Blake Spriggs, but had the run of the race sitting just off the leaders and sprinting clear at the right time. Put in his place last time in the Caulfield Cup. Sure to run a good race and if he sits in the right place should run well, but hard to tip as top 5.
- Hard to be too confident about. 3/10
15 – EXCESS KNOWLEDGE (53.5kg) ~ 81/1
Hasn’t won since last year’s Lexus before finishing 7th in last year’s Melbourne Cup. Not been so good this time around, couldn’t get to Almandin in the Bart Cummings and his effort flattened out when finishing fourth in the Moonee Valley Cup, both over 2500m. Sat up with the pace last year which probably helped, but drawn only slightly better than last year and carries 2.5kg extra.
- Not for me. 2/10
16 – BEAUTIFUL ROMANCE (52.5kg) ~ 71/1
Difficult to place as this is not an ordinary path to the Melbourne Cup, with possibly My Ambivalent the best comparison and even she was an (Australian) 6yo. Has some really nice form up to 2400m, including when winning at York in May, over 2100m. Set some tough tasks two starts ago, but arguably should have finished closer in the Nayef Stakes behind Journey who won the Champions Day Fillies & Mares if she was going to run well here.
- Hard to assess, probably one to treat with basic optimism more than anything else. 3/10
17 – ALMANDIN (52kg) ~ 13/1
Has finally come good in Australia past three starts, winning his last two in impressive fashion. Made up good ground on both of his last starts with a turn of foot that a Melbourne Cup winner needs. Jockey didn’t touch him with the whip in the Bart Cummings and only three times the time before. Once beat 2014 Melbourne Cup winner, Protectionist, in his native Germany and his profile is just about perfect for this.
- British trainers note him as their greatest threat. Huge chance. 8/10
18 – ASSIGN (52kg) ~ 71/1
Second to Almandin two starts back before going one better in a usually good Cup trial, the Herbert Power. Only just clung on there however, and held on form with others so probably going to be lucky to get into the top five here. Tough draw but jockey actually happy with it.
- Not a bad roughie but others more persuasive. 4/10
19 – GREY LION (52kg) ~ 34/1
Hard to get too excited by French form, finishing last in typical Melbourne Cup trial the Prix Kergorlay (Protectionist and Americain went on to win Cup). Better when close second in Geelong Cup last time, but suited by run style there and Oceanographer improved past him since. Not a great barrier and form doesn’t stack up sufficiently to support with any strength.
- Only grey in the field, but not one for my money.
20 – OCEANOGRAPHER (52kg) ~ 8/1
Not the strongest of form in the UK, despite not getting a good run in Ebor in August he still wouldn’t have got to winner Heartbreak City. However, stayed on very well when third in Geelong Cup and was even better in Saturday’s Lexus Stakes. This will be his third run in 13 days which is an unusual prep for a British horse, but he’s absolutely thrived here. Not sure about the depth of Lexus and Geelong form, however.
- Price is a bit skinny really, should be held by many of the UK raiders but Melbourne clearly brought the best out of him and can’t wholly discount. 7/10
21 – SECRET NUMBER (52kg) ~ 31/1
Prominent/Off the leaders
Very lightly raced and clearly had his issues. Ran a really nice race when second in the Queen Elizabeth here (balloted out of the Cup in 2015) and only run once since in September at Ayr (Scotland), winning easily in minor Listed event. Hard to weigh up and to put too much support behind. 3200m an unknown, though not beaten far as a 3yo over 2800m in the UK.
- Hard to know what to expect, others safer. 3/10
22 – PENTATHLON (51.5kg) ~ 126/1
Beaten in the Moonee Valley Cup and beaten in the Lexus. Hard to find any reasons that he will reverse the form.
- Best left alone. 1/10
23 – QEWY (51.5kg) ~ 26/1
Flexible (held-up UK, led in Geelong Cup)
Two very good seconds in staying handicaps at Royal Ascot and Goodwood (up to 4000m), staying on strongly from the back of the field yet not quite getting there. Change of tactics worked in Geelong Cup when leading pillar to post and may need to be prominent again unless they go a very fast pace. In with a shot but questions if he has any speed, an attribute typically needed here.
- Not out of it. 5/10
24 – ROSE OF VIRGINIA (51kg) ~ 151/1
Hard to find form to support. Look elsewhere. However, I did say this about Prince of Penzance last year…
- Look elsewhere. 1/10
SUMMARY – Top 4
I’m not sure this is the best edition of the Melbourne Cup and last year’s fifth BIG ORANGE should find this an easier race. He’s a huge price given his UK form and the huge 17hh horse has only grown and matured from last year. He should be tough to beat and 17/1 is a huge each-way price. HARTNELL is the rightful favourite and his form is sensational this season, with only Winx able to beat him. He should stay and as long as that doesn’t sap his speed, he should be right there on the line. Towards the bottom of the weights, ALMANDIN looks like he’s had the ideal prep for this and did beat 2014 Melbourne Cup winner, Protectionist, a few years back. He looks to have the perfect mix to run well in this race. WICKLOW BRAVE’s looks held by BIG ORANGE on form, but for Willie Mullins you can never discount him despite the wide draw.
1 – BIG ORANGE e/w @ 15/1
6 – HARTNELL win @ 5/1
17 – ALMANDIN e/w @ 13/1