The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s premier thoroughbred racing event with a total prize pool of $8 million. The lucky owners of the winning horse receive $4.4 million while prize money of $160,000 or more is paid all the way down to the 12th placing in the race.
The race was first run in 1861, over the distance of two miles. In 1972, in anticipation of the introduction of the metric system, the distance of the race was changed from 3218 to 3200 metres.
Of the 157 horses that have gone into the race as favourites, 35 (22 per cent) have gone on to win the Cup, with Phar Lap in 1930 being the shortest priced winner at the odds of 8/11 ($1.73). The very next year, Phar Lap ran eighth in the race, carrying the greatest weight of all time – 10 stone 10 pounds (68kg).
Horses born overseas have performed particularly well in this race. British-born horses have won the last two years with Cross Counter winning last year and Rekindling the year prior. Prior to that, German-born Almandin won the 2017 Melbourne Cup. The top five horses in the betting this year were not born in this country, with several flying in solely to participate in this event.
The ‘local’ hope in the 2019 race is the Paul Preusker trained Surprise Baby, a horse that won the Adelaide Cup in the Autumn at only his sixth start and then came back last month and won a qualification race, The Bart Cummings, to secure a spot in the race.
How to pick a winner
Even if you’re not one for betting, the Melbourne Cup usually warrants a couple of dollars on a horse; but how do you choose which one to back?
I pay particular attention to form. I will study each and every horse and go over hours of video just so I can claim bragging rights over my friends and family. Not only do I like to look at the form of each horse, but statistics from previous Cups shouldn’t be ignored. Nine of the last 18 winners won their previous race before running in the Cup, while internationally trained horses have won four of the last six Cups.
‘Weight’ refers to the official riding weight of the jockey. Carrying a higher weight can ruin a horse’s chance of winning the Melbourne Cup. The last four Melbourne Cups were won by horses carrying 51kg, 51.5kg, 52kg and 53kg.
An old favourite of mine, well before I really understood horse racing. I would always choose the most macho-named horse, so it’s no surprise that Might and Power is my all-time favourite. Familiar names tend to resonate with punters, so Cross Counter, who won last year, will be fancied by punters on the day, as will the Caulfield Cup winner Mer De Glace.
While in previous Cup races you could look to a Bart Cummings, that isn’t the case anymore. The Hayes family name has once again come to the table with the early favourite this year, Constantinople, trained by David Hayes, Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig.
Several of today’s jockeys have won at least one Melbourne Cup each, and none were more memorable than Damien Oliver’s ride on Media Puzzle 16 years ago. There aren’t many jockeys in Australia currently performing better than Oliver and Craig Williams, but with such a strong international field, expect the world’s best to be riding.
YourLifeChoices’ team tips
Drew: Il Paradiso (picked the winner last year)
Janelle: Surprise Baby
Ben: Magic Wand
David: Cross Counter
Rhonda: Master of Reality
Who is your pick for the Melbourne Cup? Whatever your pick may be, we hope you enjoy the day and those 200 seconds that stop the nation every year.
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