The Melbourne Cup is simply like no other race anywhere on earth and is much more than just a mere contest between horses. This is illustrated by the fact that since 1877 the people of Melbourne have enjoyed a public holiday to embrace this most uniquely Australian tradition.
During the late nineteenth century around a third of Melbourne’s population made the annual pilgrimage to Flemington and while the modern day crowds of around 100,000 don’t quite measure of to a third of Melbourne’s population, the cup still truly is ‘the race that stops a nation’. International visitors are continually amazed at the coverage and level of national interest in our great race and while Derby Day may be the best single day of racing and the Cox Plate the best race, it’s Cup Day that captures the public’s interest like no other.
Cup day barbeques, sweeps and the once-a-year trip to the local TAB have become an Australian tradition. Cup winners and their connections are immortalised forever on the most famous of honour rolls joining the likes of Carbine, Phar Lap and Makybe Diva. Champions aside though, there is no bigger name when it comes to the Melbourne Cup than the 12-time winning trainer Bart Cummings. Now well into his eighties and with his health starting to fail him, Cummings still remarkably has two of the leading cup contenders and will again be the one they will all have to beat come Tuesday. So here’s how I see the day unfolding.
RACE 7 – THE MELBOURNE CUP (3200m)
With 24 runners, including nine internationals from six different countries, the Melbourne Cup certainly isn’t the easiest race to work out from a punting perspective. What the cup does represent however, if you can get it right, is the chance to cash in on the enormous pools inflated by the money of once a year punters.
As a racing fan I will be cheering for So You Think. Already a champion courtesy of his five group one victories including two Cox Plates from only eleven starts, if this magnificent four year old can run out the full 3200 metres then it’s a non event for the others. It’s a big if though and as a $3 favourite the punter in me doesn’t want to back him as much as I’d love to see him win.
I couldn’t have been more impressed by the win on the weekend of lightly raced stayer Maluckyday who will having just his ninth race start in the cup. He looks even better suited with the extra distance and with just 51kgs I believe that he can follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner Shocking who won the same race on the Saturday and then won the cup.
I’m not sure why before the Mackinnon Shocking was $4.40 and So You Think was $7.50 and now they are $11 and $3 respectively. In my opinion from a Melbourne Cup point of view Shocking’s run was more than satisfactory and despite the top weight and outside barrier he cannot be left out of calculations based on his Caulfield Cup effort alone.
Internationals Americain and Manighar have undeniable chances and should be included in all multiples. It is always a massive advantage for the international raiders to have a run in Australia before their main target. Descarado, Linton, Holberg and Precedence are the next best in order while Shoot Out, Harris Tweed, Monaco Consul and Once Were Wild all have place claims.
- So You Think
1st 1, 3, 8, 11, 13, 19, 22, 24
2nd 1, 3, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 15, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24
3rd 1, 3, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 15, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24
And now the rest of the Cup Day card …
RACE 1 – LISTED AGL SOLAR POWER STAKES (1000m)
Not going to waste time going over this race with so many unraced two year olds especially considering there are another nine races to look at.
- No Selections
RACE 2 – SCHIAVELLO PLATE (1700m)
A typically tough open cup day mares event with a host of chances. Not sure if it was the wet track or the step up to the mile that saw Royal Commands improve out of sight last start at massive odds but I’m suggesting it’s the latter. She’s bred to get over at least middle distances and the third horse from the race she won at Caulfield has won at Group 3 level since. Aloha is honest, well drawn and simply didn’t handle the bog track at her latest run. She’s well found but will prove hard to beat. Starmon was impressive winning the Cranbourne cup last start and this represents a significant drop in grade. Not sure about the drop from 2000 to 1700 but if she can overcome that then she probably goes very close. Vintedge, Status Quo and Tio Rossa all have significant claims while Casual Friday could bob up at odds on an improving surface.
- Royal Commands
RACE 3 – THE LAVAZZA LONG BLACK (2800m)
Infamous as being a race for horses better suited to going over the jumps than racing on cup day, this year’s Lavazza Long Black is an extremely strong field by usual standards. While I concede the favourite I’m Imposing is definitely the one to beat, evergreen stayer Irazu, who was on track for a run in the Melbourne Cup three years ago before a tendon injury, is my top selection. This old boy seems to always come up during the spring and after an unlucky close up third in the Moe Cup he followed that up with a great fourth in the Moonee Valley Cup. He clearly loves Flemington as evidenced by finishing in the minor placings in the Lexus Quality when second to Maybe Better in 2006 and then Shocking last year once back from injury. Macedonian was very good in the Geelong Cup and will go close here on that run while Gallant Lady is probably the next best in a race with a clear top three.
- I’m Imposing
RACE 4 – LISTED HERALD SUN STAKES (1400m)
I liked the first up run of Flying Tessie who has three wins and a third from three second up attempts. Valentine Miss is a query at the trip and with the cut out of the ground but she is racing as though 1400 will suit and she has these covered on class. The Gai Waterhouse pair of Montana Flyer and Devils Arcade will both go forward and give a big sight while if Jersey Lily can overcome her wide draw then she can win. Red Flair’s hopes grow the more the track dries out while Happy Hippy, Dysphonia, Kryptelon and Little Surfer Girl all wouldn’t surprise in a somewhat typically open mares event.
- Flying Tessie
- Valentine Miss
- Montana Flyer
RACE 5 – SCHWEPPES TONIC 1000 (1000m)
I’m pretty sure this is a race can be narrowed down to the two obvious chances with a big watch on the two first starters. Stirling Grove is a very good sprinter on his day who should account for this lot if he can produce his best here. Spurcific was good to me last start getting home at $26 and apart from the favourite this race probably represents a drop in class. If for whatever reason he doesn’t turn up then she’s the one to beat. Well bred first starters Season of Fortune and Light Express certainly wouldn’t shock and the reports are that both are extremely talented individuals.
- Stirling Grove
- Light Express
RACE 6 – LISTED LEXUS HYBRID PLATE (1400m)
I really liked the run last start of Dance of the Ocean who ran well against the bias on Caulfield Guineas day and should be even better suited on the open spaces of Flemington with an extra 200 metres. Alotta Spur was impressive at Caulfield winning on the heavy ground while Palomares is obviously a talented filly it’s just impossible to line up her restricted NSW form. Arinosa, Zelsnitz, Margiela, Heidilicious and Canconi are all not without some winning claims at great odds.
- Dance of the Ocean
- Alotta Spur
RACE 8 – LISTED BUNDABERG DISTILLING STAKES (1800m)
Leica Larrikin gets back on to both his favourite track and distance here and will likely be longer odds than Firebolt a horse he finished ahead of at his latest start in the Group 1 Epsom Handicap. Firebolt is definitely the danger however he carries a bit of a boom and at the odds with the likely solid pace I’d rather be on Leica Larrikin. Hidden Wonder continues to run well and always goes around over the odds. Not sure she will be suited by the likely tempo but if she can take the sit and run up to her last couple of runs she’ll be right in the finish. Rock Kingdom and Snow Alert were both very good in the Waterford Crystal Mile last start and both can win here while Our Lukas, Fanjura and Right Fong wouldn’t completely shock.
- Leica Larrikin
- Hidden Wonder
RACE 9 – MSS SECURITY SPRINT (1200m)
True Persuasion’s form line reads second behind Hay List followed by a third behind Black Caviar, that’ll do me just fine here. Trim is an underrated filly that hasn’t had the greatest luck at her last two starts. She’s won down the straight before and handles all conditions. Perturbo has a booming final 200 metre sprint and if he’s within striking range the clock tower then watch out. Ahdashim won this race last year and if he can sneak a Dead 4 rated track by the end of the day then he is right in it while Kallogg is a lightly raced son of Street Cry with a great first up record who wouldn’t shock.
- True Persuasion
RACE 10 – TAB CELEBRATING 50 YEARS HANDICAP (1400m)
I’m very keen on finishing the day in style with the promising young miler Launay. After a terrific first up performance he should be even better suited with the extra distance and from barrier five should get the run of the race. Amaethon should be right alongside my top selection for most of the race and will probably be the one fighting it out with him in the finish. Shadowfax steps up significantly in grade but has been impressive at his last two Australian runs while Balavan is unbeaten but the 59kgs and barrier will certainly make things tough for him here at his stiffest test yet. Overtake and Voile Rouge are the next best while At The Heads can win as can Gold In Dubai who is definitely one to throw in the multiples.
Ben Asgari is a second-year student at La Trobe University who blogs at http://benasgariracing.wordpress.com where this article is also posted. He will be on air on 774 ABC Melbourne with Lawrie Zion on Cup Day morning at 10:30 AM. Lawrie’s going for So You Think ahead of Americain and Malackyday in the big one.
Click here for Ben’s Beginner’s Guide to the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.