Melbourne Cup preview

2 November 2009

Written by: Lawrie Zion

The Melbourne Cup truly is the race that stops a nation. On that first Tuesday in November, every year, for just one day, horse racing takes centre stage. Yet this race is more than just a horse race. It is an iconic symbol of Australia. Winners are immortalised forever in the most famous of Australian honour rolls.

Some of our greatest and most popular horses have won the cup. Archer, The Barb, Malua, Carbine, Poseidon, Phar Lap, Peter Pan, Comic Court, Rising Fast, Rain Lover, Think Big, Saintly, Might and Power and Makybe Diva are just a few who have taken greeted the judge.

The very first Melbourne Cup won by Archer in 1861 was actually run on a Thursday and it wasn’t until 1874 that the race was moved to the now famous Tuesday. Archer also won the event by the greatest winning margin in the history of the race when in just the very next year in 1862 he won the cup by eight lengths, a record that still stands to this day.

The heaviest weight ever carried to victory in a Melbourne Cup was by the great Carbine in 1890 who lumped the equivalent of what would now be 65.5kg. The lightest weight ever carried to win the cup was by Banker in 1863 who carried a meagre 33.5kg. The heaviest weight ever carried to victory by a mare in the cup was by Makybe Diva in 2005 who saddled up with 58 kilos in 2005.

It has been said that winning the Melbourne Cup guarantees a horse its place in history. To win two cups you automatically become a champion. To win three was unheard of, that was until Makybe Diva did the treble in 2003/04/05. She is now one of the most famous figures in the history of Australian sport and arguably the most popular horse since the great Phar Lap. She has already been immortalised in bronze with a statue of her now standing on the Flemington lawn.

This year’s cup looks a tale of two stories. Can the immortal Bart Cummings make it cup number thirteen with one of his three runners? Or will the fairytale story of Alcopop have its sweet ending?

 As is the case with any racing being held at Flemington these days worrying about the track condition is pointless. Unless the rainfall is record breaking, the track will be a Good 3 when the gates fly open.

So let’s take a look at this year’s contenders.

`1. VIEWED – Last year’s Melbourne Cup winner who carries the top weight of 58kg. Has run absolutely terrific every start this preparation winning the Caulfield Cup before a terrific run in the Mackinnon on Saturday. Carries an extra 5kg more than last year, although he is definitely in superior form. From barrier nine should race around midfield with cover and get the perfect run. The trainer J.B Cummings isn’t going too badly either and it is impossible to knock him in any way, bar the weight. One of the two main winning chances.

2. C’EST LA GUERRE – NZ Derby winner who ran third in the cup last year. Has struggled a bit this preparation although was reported to have pulled up with an injury in the Caulfield Cup, which could have explained his lacklustre fifteenth place finish. Is one of the horses in this race who you definitely know will run out the two miles. Is a place chance at odds.

3. FIUMICINO – AJC Derby/BMW winner who it was thought could only perform on tracks so heavy they resembled a quagmire. That was until last start where he ran a very good fifth in the Caulfield Cup on a dead track. Has had one go over the distance and failed dismally. Not for mine.

4. MASTER O’REILLY – 2007 Caulfield Cup winner who hasn’t won a race since. In fact in that race he carried 50.5kg and got the dream run. Is always running on well and will again have plenty of supporters this year. Will race somewhere worse than midfield with cover and is a place hope only in my opinion.

5. MOURILYAN – The first of the International runners in this year’s cup who is coming off a good win over 2800 metres in a listed race in England. Has beaten Basaltico over 3200 metres before and wasn’t too far behind Purple Moon in Dubai. Importantly he has two good seconds at the distance and looks to have a turn of foot. He’s ehe best of the international hopes in my opinion and a solid place chance.

6. ROMAN EMPEROR – This year’s AJC Derby winner who is the second of the Cummings trained runners in the race. Ran a very good second to his stablemate in the Caulfield Cup and Bart has him ticking over perfectly for this race although he will probably have to go forward from a wide gate which is of some concern. Is at his best on tracks with give in the ground however outside of the top two, he is one of the best chances.

7. ISTA KAREEM – Sydney Cup winner over this distance who will be strangely suited by the cooler weather on Tuesday as trainer Colin Little believes the horse doesn’t perform when the temperature is too hot. Will get well back in the field and I think he will be outclassed and can’t see him running in the top four.

8. CRIME SCENE – From the powerful Godolphin stable and has won races in both Dubai and England over 2400m. He has been beaten previously by both Mourilyan and Warringah and has also never raced over 3200m. Is an on pacer who will be just behind the leaders on settling. Struck interference last start in the Geelong Cup and while he should improve greatly for having the run in Australia I would have liked to have seen a lot more from him and am prepared to risk him. Not for mine.

9. MUNSEF – Another of the international runners, who was interestingly well beaten in Dubai by Kirklees and Barbaricus earlier this year. Did beat Basaltico over 2700m in England two starts ago and will probably race on the speed from barrier 5. Looks outclassed in a race of this calibre and I don’t expect him to be in the finish.

10. ZAVITE – Adelaide cup winner who is the likely leader in the race. He does have a win from his only start over this distance however I have huge reservations over the quality of this year’s Adelaide Cup field in relation to a Melbourne Cup. Is no chance of finishing in the top four.

11. ALCOPOP – The fairytale horse who could be anything and actually has some of the best form going into the race. Was running away from Shocking last start when he won the Herbert Power at Caulfield by over three lengths and that form was made to look very good when Shocking came out and won easily on Saturday.  The only queries are whether he will still be as brilliant over two miles, and the three-and-a-half week break between races. Should race around midfield from barrier twelve and with just 52.5kg, I have him as my top selection.

12. HARRIS TWEED – Runner up in this year’s AJC Derby to Roman Emperor although I suspect he needs significant cut out of the ground to produce his best. Battled away into tenth in the Caulfield Cup and I can’t see him being a factor here.

13. KIBBUTZ – 2007 Victoria Derby winner who had injury problems before being nursed back into racing by trainer Jarrod McLean. Should run out the trip and may take home a cheque by running in the top ten. I can’t see him being any hope of running in the top four.

14. NEWPORT – 2008 Metropolitan winner who also has a Brisbane Cup victory to his name. Will settle near the rear of the field from barrier eighteen. Ran tenth in the cup last year and I expect he will finish around that position if he runs up to his best once again.

15. WARRINGAH – Former English galloper having his first Australian start for Chris Waller. His best form reference was a fifth in the Ebor handicap over 2800m when carrying 60kgs which is usually a good guide for this race. Will go forward from an outside gate and could be made to work hard early. Has Damien Oliver on board and does drop significantly in weight however I can only give him a rough place chance at best.

16. GALLIONS REACH – Group one winner in NZ who has a second placing over this distance. That is where the good news ends. Was in horrible form before a fifth in the Bendigo Cup which is nowhere near good enough form for this race. Deserves to be 300-1.

17. SPIN AROUND – Interestingly goes into the race third up from a spell. Last time he was third up from a spell he won the Auckland Cup over this distance. Will run out the trip which is a positive, will run it very slowly which is a negative. No hope.

18. BASALTICO – International raider trained by the astute Luca Cumani stable who have been extremely unlucky training the last two runners up of the Melbourne Cup to lose by small margins. While the 3200m is a plus, he has been soundly beaten by Mourilyan over this distance. He has also been soundly beaten by Munsef and Warringah. Was an OK run in the Geelong Cup but didn’t do enough for me to give him any hope in the Melbourne Cup.

19. CAPECOVER – The Queen Elizabeth winner from last year who the trainer believes is crying out for the 3200m. Has been running on very late in his last few runs suggesting that may well be the case. Despite that he has had two runs over two miles and failed both times. Will settle well back and I can’t see him being any threat.

20. DAFFODIL – AJC Oaks winner who is coming off a good fourth in the Caulfield Cup. Has drawn wide and will probably settle near the rear of the field. The big unknown is the distance. Classy mare who has some place chance.

21. SHOCKING – Comes off a super impressive win in the Lexus Stakes on Saturday. I suspect he has probably improved since his three length defeat at the hands of Alcopop two starts ago in the Herbert Power.  He will have to come from a long way back after drawing wide however he is two from two at his home track Flemington. A big concern is his tendency to want to hang in during his races which wasn’t a factor on Saturday due to his rail hugging run. Having drawn barrier twenty two it is unlikely the red sea will part again on the fence so he will need to curb that bad habit to win this. Definitely has some winning chance and huge place claims.

22. ALLEZ WONDER – Shock winner of the Toorak Handicap two starts ago at 50-1  who would deservedly be those odds again here if she wasn’t trained by the master Bart Cummings. There is nowhere near enough evidence for me to suggest she will run the two miles strongly and I certainly cannot have her. Way under the odds.

23. CHANGINGOFTHEGUARD – Import having just his eighth career start and his first start in Australia for new trainer David Hayes. Was a certainty beaten in the Ebor Handicap two starts back and was probably ridden upside down when he failed last start in the St.Leger. Had the measure of Warringah in the St.Leger, although he does meet that galloper two kilos worse off this time around. Had a foot abscess last week which is a concern as he missed some track work and it was also reported that he hasn’t been all that impressive in his latest lead up work.  His racing style is to get back near last and from barrier one he is going to need a lot of luck. However with the best big race rider on his back in Glenn Boss he will most likely find it. Burdened with only 50.5kg he could be a knockout chance and is definitely one for the multiples.

24. LEICA DING – She is coming off a win in the Geelong Cup last start and does have a win over 3000m so the distance shouldn’t be a concern. Despite the good record of Geelong Cup winners in the Melbourne Cup of late, I have serious reservations over the form out of this year’s race. Dandaad running well down the track in the Lexus Stakes only adds weight to that theory. She will race midfield or worse on the rail from barrier two and with luck it wouldn’t completely shock me to see her run a place. I’m prepared to risk her though and don’t think she will finish in the top four.


Zavite will probably lead them up with Warringah and Fiumicino pushing forward from their wide gates. Munsef, Crime Scene, Gallions Reach and Roman Emperor should all be just behind the leading few while Kibbutz, Viewed and Alcopop look like they will all get a nice run midfield. I expect Leica Ding, Mourilyan and Master O’Reilly to be slightly worse than midfield and the rest of the runners not mentioned to settle near the rear.

I expect Roman Emperor will get the better of the other on-pacers early in the straight and hit the front only for Alcopop and Viewed to get the better of him. I think Alcopop’s light weight will tell out in the run to line and have put him on top slightly ahead of Viewed. Watch for Shocking to be coming home hard late with the likes of Master O’Reilly and Mourilyan.



1.     VIEWED



1st – 1, 11

2nd – 1, 4, 5, 6, 11, 21, 23

3rd – 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 11, 20, 21, 23


Race 4 #2 – ORTENSIA.

The TAB put up $2.80 on Sunday for this mare and she was in to $2.20 later that afternoon.  I expect she will start close to odds-on come race time and deservedly so. She has raced against the best sprinters in the land at her last two starts and should have finished much closer when an unlucky fourth behind Apache Cat last start. She ran third in the Stradbroke over this distance on an unsuitably wet track and the only reason that she could be beaten amongst this field would be if she had horribly bad luck.

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Ben Asgari is a first-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe. Also check out his Beginners Guide to the Spring Racing Carnival.

For full details of ticketing and raceday transport, see the Victoria Racing Club’s site.