The biggest race on the Australian calendar is upon us. The Melbourne Cup for 2018 has drawn a full international quality field. The form line reads well for many horses, and it will be hard to settle on a selection given the quality of the field. Because this is a prestigious race, we’ll run the rule over each horse with an in-depth assessment of their chances.
X1111 1. BEST SOLUTION (6), J: PAT COSGRAVE, W: 57.5 KGS, 13.00
A fantastic performance to win the Caulfield Cup three weeks ago, but many pundits aren’t quite sure the result will be replicated come Tuesday. He’s got top weight, he’s never run a 3200m trip before, and while the slowly run Caulfield feature tipped a few horse upside down, he came out of it better than most when the speed went on. I’m predicting there will be speed on again, and with a firming track, this could effect many horses that prefer it softer. He’d need to be good to win it, and prove the doubters wrong. And in so doing, Godolphin would have picked up the two big Victorian prizes and broken their Melbourne Cup hoodoo.
33X43 2. THE CLIFFSOFMOHER (9), J: RYAN MOORE, W: 56.5 KGS, 15.00
One of the few Irish contingent lining up, with Ryan Moore jetting in from th USA after riding the filly Magical in the Breeders Cup behind Enable. I was quite supportive of his chances prior to his Australian arrival, but now I’m not so sure. My main concern with Cliffsofmoher is whether he can run out a solid 3200m on a firming track. He seemed to struggle over the 2400m at Caulfield, and as good as he is, this looks like a mission impossible.
0X11X 3. MAGIC CIRCLE (17), J: COREY BROWN, W: 56 KGS, 9.50
Magic Circle is one of four horses coming in cold for this race. Marmelo, Muntaaha and Cross Counter being the others that hadn’t raced in Australia before this. Whether this is the right strategy remains to be seen, considering Rekindling did it last year. The only downside of this approach is that punters have no bearing or reference points to hold onto in the market. You have to take the horse on reputation. And only the best can be afforded that gratuity, and judging by his recent performances in the UK, his price should double down by race-time.
250X0 4. CHESTNUT COAT (4), J: YUGA KAWADA, W: 55.5 KGS, 34.00
The only Japanese visitor in the race. He has form around the Group 1 Tenno Sho, and has only had the one run in Australia prior to this; the muddling pace of the Caulfield Cup. Japanese horses have done well in the past, with 2006 being a standout year with two gallopers taking the top two placings. Despite his preference for a firm track which he’s likely to get, I still can’t see him featuring here.
X4341 5. MUNTAHAA (13), J: JIM CROWLEY, W: 55.5 KGS, 11.00
The word came through on the weekend that John Gosden’s talented galloper will have its final run for the stable in the Cup. He is staying on in Australia, and after Enable won the Breeders Cup on Turf on Saturday, then it would be major coup if the Gosden stable landed two big prizes within a week. The Ebor Handicap has proved to be a solid guide in recent years with both Heartbreak City and Nakeeta featuring prominently in the running of the last two Melbourne Cups. I expect a strong showing from the flashy grey! Good barrier draw and superb jockey.
11320 6. SOUND CHECK (16), J: JORDAN CHILDS, W: 55.5 KGS, 34.00
The German galloper Sound Check can certainly stay, and has a European form-line based around topweight Best Solution. He’s being prepared in Melbourne by Mike Moroney, who has trained a Melbourne Cup winner previously (2000, Brew). Sound Check looks to be an ideal stayer for this type of race, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him feature in the finish. Possibly the value bet of the field.
X7694 7. WHO SHOT THEBARMAN (18), J: BEN MELHAM, W: 55.5 KGS, 51.00
It’s not often we see a ten-year-old run around in the Melbourne Cup. But this former Kiwi stayer is as sound as anything, he’s a proven two-miler, with four previous starts in the race, including a third back in 2014, and he’s finding form at the right time. As they say, timing is everything in a race like this, and he’d bring the house down if he got up.
02410 8. ACE HIGH (22), J: TYE ANGLAND, W: 55 KGS, 67.00
He was the VRC Derby winner last season, and apart from one good victory about 6 weeks ago, the signs are not encouraging for Ace High. He prefers to race handily, but a wide draw won’t help. He’s carrying more weight than many of the (IMO) better credentialled internationals, so that puts a big cross next to his name.
X2112 9. MARMELO (10), J: HUGH BOWMAN, W: 55 KGS, 15.00
The Hugh Morrison trained galloper is back for another shot. This time, there is no lead-up racing, and Hugh Bowman will get to sit on him once again. Lead up form in Europe has been very good, and by all accounts he is good shape for this. One to factor in your betting options.
11114 10. AVILIUS (11), J: GLYN SCHOFIELD, W: 54.5 KGS, 12.00
In the early part of the Spring, this horse assumed favouritism for the Cup. However, his qualifying race in the Bart Cummings Stakes back in early October was a bit of struggle, and as a result, many thought he couldn’t get the 3200m trip. Since then, he ran fourth in Winx’s history-breaking W.S Cox Plate two weeks ago, and Yucatan has assumed favouritism after he toyed with his rivals four weeks ago in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes. Avilius is still sure to figure somewhere, but the possibility of a firm track and good barrier draw will help him a lot. Godolphin’s Australian operation certainly have a lot riding on their horse.
60131 11. YUCATAN (23), J: JAMES MCDONALD, W: 54.5 KGS, 5.50
Yucatan stunned the racing world with his barnstorming run in the Herbert Power Stakes a month ago. Punters in Europe are trying to figure out if someone had spiked his food bin or his water bucket, because this horse has gone to another level from his humble Irish beginnings. Whether this can be replicated on Tuesday remains to be seen. A huge disadvantage is the barrier draw; it is a major concern, so seeing where he is positioned in the run down the Flemington straight for the first time will have a huge bearing on the outcome of the race.
X5266 12. AUVRAY (1), J: TOMMY BERRY, W: 54 KGS, 71.00
The former French galloper could be considered a lucky starter in the race considering he doesn’t have any notable form leading in. Wasn’t too far away in the Metropolitan, but neither of the two fancied runners from that race (Patrick Erin and Brimham Rocks) aren’t lining up on Tuesday. Hard to say whether the inside alley of #1 is a help or a hindrance in a race like this. Will appreciate a drying track though, but still..
65513 13. FINCHE (15), J: ZAC PURTON, W: 54 KGS, 26.00
Now part of the Chris Waller team in Australia, he came home fairly well for third in the Geelong Cup two weeks ago, and probably needed the run. In his favour is a reasonable French form-line, and a drop in weight by 5kgs after carting 59kgs at Geelong. Like Sound Check, you have to respect the European form.
08030 14. RED CARDINAL (5), J: DAMIEN OLIVER, W: 54 KGS, 61.00
It wasn’t long ago this bloke was travelling the world and building a reputation as a stayer on the rise with two wins over 3200m. He came to Australia and his career went downhill from there. He hasn’t lived up to his potential despite injuries and I’m doubtful a return to glory will occur on Tuesday. Damien Oliver picks up ride after his prior mount Red Verdon was pulled from the race on Friday due to an injury niggle.
X4059 15. VENGEUR MASQUE (2), J: PATRICK MOLONEY, W: 54 KGS, 61.00
Pronounced ‘Von Jour Mask aye’, the former European, like Ventura Storm, has taken ages to reach a high level. In fact, after three seasons, I’m still not convinced he’s there yet, though last season in 2017 was when he peaked, including winning the Geelong Cup. He’s the second of Mike Moroney’s horses, but like many, only people betting silly money would put a wager on this horse this time around.
79401 16. VENTURA STORM (7), J: MARK ZAHRA, W: 54 KGS, 26.00
A horse originally from Europe (and winner of the Italian Derby in his youth), Venture Storm has taken a very long time to reach a level of consistency. Has raced in many of the big Group 1’s here in Australia without ever looking likely. he’s struck form in the last month or so, and it’s like his trainers have finally worked him out. What about the long suffering punters? Have they worked him out?
32X31 17. A PRINCE OF ARRAN (20), J: MICHAEL WALKER, W: 53 KGS, 17.00
British trainer Charlie Fellowes must have been whooping for joy last Saturday as his charge A Prince Of Arran confirmed his Melbourne Cup start with a win in the VRC Hotham Handicap (formerly the Lexus Stakes), the last qualifying race and ballot-beater for those looking for a last throw at the stumps. His win was impressive, always in control at the top of the straight. The Hotham has always been a good form guide, and this horse will command plenty of respect in the betting ring come Tuesday.
05770 18. NAKEETA (3), J: REGAN BAYLISS, W: 53 KGS, 71.00
The pride of Scotland returns for another crack after a solid run for fifth last year. The former Ebor Handicap winner is struggling for form of late, and only just made it into the field thanks to the forced defection of gallopers further up the pecking order. Unfortunately for Nakeeta, he doesn’t figure in my tips this time around.
01473 19. SIR CHARLES ROAD (14), J: DWAYNE DUNN, W: 53 KGS, 91.00
Sir Charles Road is a decent, traditional sort of Kiwi stayer. Of the type that they just don’t breed anymore. Trained by former New Zealand champion jockey Lance O’Sullivan, SCR has good long distance form line around the Sydney Cup (third) and the Chairmans Handicap (won) back in the Sydney autumn. He’s not a mud lark as such, but I’m sure nonetheless he’d prefer the sting out of the ground. An outside prospect for a place, even if he’s at $91 for a win. That’s way overs.
X0080 20. ZACADA (24), J: DAMIAN LANE, W: 53 KGS, 126.00
The second of the New Zealanders, Zacada’s form was much better in the autumn when he ran second in the 3200m Sydney Cup behind Who Shot Thebarman. Unfortunately, his form is well off the pace, as his last four starts indicate, and a blown out start price of $126.00. You should all be looking elsewhere, unless you’ve drawn this horse in the office sweepstake.
0X341 21. RUNAWAY (12), J: STEPHEN BASTER, W: 52 KGS, 34.00
This horse was the Group 3 Geelong Cup the other week, leading all the way. He’s a known front-runner, strong over the longer distances having won the 2800m Victorian St Leger back in March. I doubt he can lead all the way and win, given the nature of the occasion. No horse other Might And Power in 1997 has achieved that feat in recent times, but it would be worth the watch.
36327 22. YOUNGSTAR (8), J: CRAIG WILLIAMS, W: 51.5 KGS, 16.00
The four-year-old mare is probably the best of the local hopes, and she gets in with a light weight and a jockey who is in great form and would love to add this race to the mantle-piece collection. Youngstar would have to race beyond the best of her ability to win this, I’m not hopeful, though I think she could be better off in a years time. The last four-year-old mare to win this race was the mighty Ethereal back in 2001, who won the Caulfield/Melbourne Cup double that Spring.
24112 23. CROSS COUNTER (19), J: KERRIN MCEVOY, W: 51 KGS, 9.50
This bloke has the same sort of plan to take on the Melbourne Cup much like Rekindling did last year with his hit and run mission to land the big prize. With a light weight, good lead up form and a two-time winning Melbourne Cup jockey onboard. he is definitely a chance. I don’t like the wide draw though, so he’ll need to do a bit of darting and weaving to be closer to the speed by the time they hit the home straight. Quite capable of producing a result.
22515 24. ROSTROPOVICH (21), J: WAYNE LORDAN, W: 51 KGS, 21.00
This bloke was a solid performing three-year-old in the UK last season. He has a lot of upside, from a good stable, good staying pedigree and with one run under his belt in the W.S Cox Plate (2040m at WFA), which would’ve blown out the cobwebs. A place chance perhaps, but a horrible barrier draw.
Melbourne Cup Tips
Best Solution – 1pt each way @ 12.00 WilliamHill, PaddyPower (6 places)
Magic Circle – 1pt each way @ 8.50 WilliamHill, 10Bet
Cross Counter – 1pt each way @ 9.00 10Bet, Ladbrokes, Coral
Video Reference Guide
2018 Hotham Handicap (3 Nov 2018, A Prince Of Arran)
2018 Caulfield Cup (20 Oct 2018, Best Solution, Cliffsofmoher, Youngstar, Sound Check, Ace High, Vengeur Masque)
Odds Correct at Time of Publication