The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s premier thoroughbred racing event with a total prize pool of $6 million. The lucky owners of the winning horse receive $3.6 million with prize money of $125,000 or more paid all the way down to 10th placing in the race.
The race was first run in 1861 and was 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 153 horses which have gone into the race as favourite, 35 (23 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). The top weight this year will carry just 58kg.
Overseas horses have performed particularly well in this race, with German runner Protectionist winning the most recent Melbourne Cup. More than half of this year’s Melbourne Cup field has been flown over or purchased overseas.
Japan is represented this year with two runners. Fame Game is a clear favourite, bringing over some of the highest quality Japanese form which has held up in other international races. Hokko Brave is the other of the Japanese runners, holding similar form lines. You just can’t discount the chances of the Yasutoshi Matsunaga trained pair.
A number of UK and European raiders are in the race, but none more well-known than 10-year-old Red Cadeaux, who is back again to try and go one better than previous years. Trained by Ed Dunlop, the popular galloper comes into this year’s race fresh and raring to go. It’s the other of Ed Dunlop’s runners that is fancied to take out the Cup this year, Trip to Paris, after a strong second in the Caulfield Cup. The Chris Waller trained Preferment is the most fancied of the Australian horses.
How to pick a horse
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 yours?
I am a diehard form man myself. 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. Things haven’t gone my way in the past two years, but that is about to change! Not only do I like to look at the form of each horse, but statistics from previous cups provide keys to the race which can’t be ignored. Eight of the last 14 winners have won their previous race before running in the Cup, while four of the last eight cups have been won by internationally trained horses (second place was claimed in each of the last eight years by an international horse as well).
A high weight can ruin a horse’s chance of winning the Cup. In the past eight races, we have seen the top two weighted horses combine for zero placings. The list of horses which couldn’t win with a top weight includes past winners Dunaden, Americain and Shocking. In fact, the last seven cups were won by horses carrying 56.5kg, 55kg, 53.5kg, 54.5kg, 54.5kg, 51kg, 53kg and 54.5kg.
An old favourite of mine, which used to get a run before I understood horse racing. I would choose the most macho named horse, so it would come as no surprise that Might and Power is my favourite horse of all time. I can imagine Trip to Paris will be popular amongst those looking to travel to France in the next year, while Bondi Beach may appeal to the Sydney-siders. I wouldn’t be a true Australian if I didn’t have a love for all things big. We have the Big Banana, the Big Lobster and we even have the Big Orange – the name of the Group 1 winning stayer running in this race.
This will be the first running of the big race since the passing of Bart Cummings, and no member of his family are training a runner in the Cup this year. In past years, you would look to Gai Waterhouse, Peter Moody or Bart Cummings, but the new kid on the block is Chris Waller, who won the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley last week. Preferment and Who Shot Thebarman are his two best chances in this race, while Grand Marshall also can’t be discounted. As suggested above, you may want to consider looking internationally.
Several of today’s jockeys have won at least one Melbourne Cup each, and none were more memorable than Damien Oliver’s run on Media Puzzle 13 years ago. There are few jockeys in Australia currently going better than Hugh Bowman, Damien Oliver and James McDonald, but with such a strong international field, expect the world’s best to be riding.
I’m a massive fan of the Japanese favourite Fame Game in today’s race. Fame Game’s international performances are a step above Australian form, so it’s no surprise the punters have come from the clouds to back this horse. Outside of the favourite, Our Ivanhowe looks to be running well after a strong Caulfield Cup and should improve significantly over further distance. The horse at odds I’m most keen on is Big Orange, who seems to be the forgotten horse this year. Big Orange brings top class form to the race, with a strong performance at the end of July winning the Goodwood Cup over this distance in the UK, beating the Melbourne Cup second favourite Trip to Paris. His run in the Lonsdale Cup was forgettable, but it’s hard to look past the fact that he went around half the price of Trip to Paris and Melbourne Cup fourth favourite Max Dynamite. Most importantly for Big Orange, the horse is expected to be positioned in the front 10 runners around the first bend.
Who is your pick for the Melbourne Cup? Whatever your pick may be, we hope you enjoy the day and the 200 seconds that stop the nation every year.