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 while prize money of $120,000 or more is paid all the way down to the 8th 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 154 horses that 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).
Last year’s winner Prince of Penzance was the longest odds winner since 1940 and equal longest odds in the history of the race – paying $101 for the win.
Overseas horses have performed particularly well in this race, with German runner Protectionist winning the 2014 Melbourne Cup. Nine of the top ten horses in the betting have been flown to Australia to run in the Melbourne Cup or are imported runners that have been in Australia for a period of time.
Caulfield Cup winner Jameka is the local hope. Born and raised on Gilgai Farm in Australia, the daughter of Myboycharlie has gone from strength to strength this campaign and looks ready to make her mark on the race, plus she is carrying a relatively low weight in the race.
Japan is represented again this year, but by only one runner. Unlike previous Japanese runners to grace our shores, Curren Mirotic is a bit of an unknown if any rain arrives and has had very inconsistent form. His best recent run was a close 2nd over 3200m in Group 1 class in May this year. His three other runs this year have seen him defeated by 6.5 lengths or further.
It’s no surprise to see the UK and European raiders return for another shot at the Cup. The Godolphin team, owned by the Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, will have several runners in the cup this year including the favourite Hartnell. This is one of the few major races that has eluded the Godolphin team so it’s no surprise that they will field their very best horses for the 2016 Cup.
Last year’s 5th placed runner, Big Orange, returns for another tilt at the cup. Big Orange has consistently improved since then and ran a very close second at the large Dubai meet in March, before heading back to UK where he recorded the two best wins of his career at Newmarket and Goodwood
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 which one to back?
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. Not only do I like to look at the form of each horse, but statistics from previous Cups provide keys to the race that can’t be ignored. Eight of the last 15 winners have won their previous race before running in the Cup, while four of the last nine Cups have been won by internationally trained horses.
Weight is the official riding weight of the jockey. Carrying a higher weight can ruin a horse’s chance of winning the Cup. In the past nine races, only one out of the top two weighted horses (i.e. 18 horses in total) has managed to place (Criterion running third last year). The list of horses that 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 53kg, 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 more about horse racing. I would always choose the most macho named horse, so it would come as no surprise that Might and Power is my favourite of all time. I can imagine 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. I imagine The Real Love into Heartbreak City quinella bet and Tom Melbourne into Bondi Beach quinella bet may both prove popular on the day for those who do their betting based on name.
While in previous runnings of the Cup you could look to a Bart Cummings or Peter Moody, that isn’t the case anymore with Mr Cummings passing away two years ago and Mr Moody giving up the sport earlier this year. The Hickmott/O’Brien and Godolphin stables will both have big hands in the race, with both being represented by several runners.
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 14 years ago. There aren’t many jockeys in Australia currently performing better than Hugh Bowman, Damien Oliver and James McDonald, but with such a strong international field, expect the world’s best to be riding.
This is one of the widest open races I can remember with a genuine tempo expected to be set out the front by the Goldolphin runner Qewy and Japanese runner Curren Mirotic. Big Orange has to lump around a large weight and even though history is against him, I have him as a top pick in the race. I can’t entertain the Caulfield Cup winner Jameka at the distance and weights, nor can I entertain the favourite Hartnell who is unproven over the distance. Bondi Beach sneaks into the race well under the radar and looks primed for the 3200m distance so he is my second pick. At long-odds, Secret Number is a horse that has had a low profile. A career peak run would see him with a strong chance with the inside word being that the horse is in fine form.
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.