Melbourne Cup


Flemington, VIC / 3200m
Tuesday, November 6 at 3:00pm

Melbourne Cup:


The Betting:

Knowledge & Insight

With the Aidan O’Brien-trained Yucatan heading Cup markets, let’s take a look at the success rate of an International raider when favourite.

The 1993 Melbourne Cup victory of the Irish-trained Vintage Crop created a bit of a reaction that the Melbourne Cup would never be the same – that the raiders were better stayers and that they would dominate the Melbourne Cup of the future.

Accordingly, over the next 3 years, an International visitor started Cup favourite – and all failed to fill a place, Vintage Crop (1994), Double Trigger (1995) & Oscar Schindler (1996).

The International romance cooled off for awhile until Dermot Weld’s Vinnie Roe (2002) was fourth as $5.50f to stable companion Media Puzzle.

Then, in 2003, Godolphin’s Mamool was an inglorious last as $6.50 favourite, followed up by Pop Rock ($6 co-favourite in 2006) being a narrow second to his Japanese counterpart Delta Blues.

In 2008, the favourite was Luca Cumani’s Mad Rush (finishing seventh as $5.50f)), and since 2011, French internationals Americain & Dunaden (both previous Cup winners), Japanese visitors Admire Rakti & Fame Game and the British-trained Marmelo (joint favourite last year with Almandin) have all failed to finish in the placings when Cup favourite.

That makes 7 outright and 2 joint Internationally-trained favourites since 1994 for the grand result of one second (Pop Rock) and 8 unplaced.

In the Verdict, we’ll study the recent history of the Cup favourite’s strike-rate, what part of the market represents value and other betting related facts.

Form Focus Verdict

Cup favourites have had a pretty lean trot over the past decade, Fiorente (2013) the sole winner, and in the past 6 decades, the favourite/co-favourite has a win strike-rate of just 21.6% (13 wins).

If one likes backing outsiders in the Cup, 2 winners in the past 20 years have saluted at big odds; Prince of Penzance ($101) & Viewed ($41). Bear in mind though, a total of 192 horses have started at $35 or longer in those 20 Cups so one maybe needs a better selection method than a pin to turn a profit by backing a roughie.

Worse still came from the group in the $21 to $34 (inclusive) starting price range with 117 Cup starters in this odds category failing to return a winner in the 20 Cups (they did get 5 seconds and 5 thirds).

From $11 to $20, one was rewarded with 7 wins, 4 seconds and 6 thirds from a total of 78 starters. With a flat $1 stake on every runner in this price range, one turns a profit of $31 over the 20 years, based on starting price.

From $5.50 to $10, 64 starters in the 20 Cups yielded 9 wins, 5 seconds and 4 thirds, and again based on the flat $1 stake strategy, a profit of $7 was returned.

The other 2 wins in this 20-year study were under $5.50 – Makybe Diva in 2004 ($3.60f) and 2005 ($4.40f).


Knowledge & Insight

Barrier 12 is on a bit of a lengthy Cup drought, Foxzami in 1949 the last winner to start from that position, while another on a losing streak is gate 19, currently experiencing a 62-year blank, last successful via Toparoa in 1955.

Most published records display the 1963 winner Gatum Gatum coming from 19 (his pre-race gate), however he actually started from 18 after the scratching of Kildarlin (drawn in 12). Cup emergencies were not allocated a barrier and protocols at that time dictated that if they secured a start (as Homesteader did in 1963), they would jump from the outside of the field.

The barrier draw is always eagerly anticipated, taking place 7pm Saturday evening, so a detailed dissection will be undertaken in the Verdict.

Form Focus Verdict

Statistics over the past 60 years indicate no advantage to any barrier sector in the Melbourne Cup.

For example, the inside 6 positions have netted 16 wins from 1958 to 2017, exactly the same number of wins as gates 7 to 12 and gates 13 to 18.

Wide gates (19 to 24) have scored 12 wins in this time frame, although with less overall starters than the inner 18 gates.

Barrier 23 has had 37 starters in the 60-year sample for just one winner, Van Der Hum in 1976. Interestingly, like Yucatan (this year in 23), Van Der Hum started favourite.


Knowledge & Insight

While the first 80 years of the Melbourne Cup (1861-1941) were predominantly the domain of the 3yo (25% of winners), the following four decades (1942-1982) witnessed the 4yos dominate (43.9% of winners).

Since 1983, (35 runnings), 4yos have won the Cup on just 8 occasions (22.8% of winners). At second acceptance stage, only 6 horses aged four remain in the Cup and this includes two Northern Hemisphere-bred 3yos, Cross Counter & Rostropovich.

From 2002 to 2017 (16 Cups), the vast majority (75%) of Melbourne Cup winners have been bred in the Northern Hemisphere (12 of 16).

In 2018, the Melbourne Cup has 33 of the 47 remaining second acceptors bred to Northern Hemisphere time.

Form Focus Verdict

Over the past 10 Melbourne Cups, the dominant weight bracket is clearly the mid-range group, weighted between 3-5kg over the race limit.

Concentrating on this group, one would have found the winner 5 times in the past 10 years, with just two winners (Protectionist, Fiorente) weighted at 5 kilos or more above the limit. The other 3 winners were weighted 2kg (Prince of Penzance), 1.5kg (Rekindling) and 1kg (Almandin) above the race limit.

When examining weight carried, it is again this mid-range weighted group that has the edge, the 53.5kg to 55kg bracket accounting for 4 winners, 5 seconds and 6 thirds over the last 10 years.


Knowledge & Insight

How relevant/important are the weights in the Melbourne Cup?

Depending on what side of the fence you prefer, the not relevant argument fails to stand up to scrutiny.

The facts show that a weight above 56.5kg (in the modern era = since metrics were introduced in 1972), a significant challenge.

In the 46 runnings of the Cup under the metric scale, only 3 horses have won with more than 56.5kg.

Think Big (1975) completed a historic back-to-back Cup victory under 58.5kg, then two years later, Gold and Black) carried 57kg to victory after being runner-up with 50kg a year earlier.

28 years went by until Makybe Diva (2005) became the first horse to win three Melbourne Cups when she was unbothered by her 58kg.

Records show that a further 73 horses carried more than 56.5kg in the 46 Cups conducted from 1972 to 2017. Of these, there were 5 seconds and 5 thirds, the remaining 63 all missing a place.

Recent trends also further emphasise how the higher-weighted brigade seem to be at a disadvantage – over the past decade (2008-2017), a total of 45 horses have carried 55.5kg or above in the Cup for 1 winner (Protectionist), 2 seconds & 4 thirds.

Form Focus Verdict

The Cup of 12 months ago was a game changer with Rekindling a 3yo by Northern Hemisphere time scoring a historic victory. The colt was having just his tenth career outing, but inexperience is no longer the negative it once was.

In 2016, Almandin won the Cup on his eleventh career start, while Protectionist (2014) was having just his tenth start. In 2012, Fiorente was having his tenth start when runner-up to Green Moon, and the year before, Lucas Cranach (third) was having his eleventh start.

In 2007, the Aidan O’Brien visiting three-year-old Mahler was third to Efficient and he was having just his eighth outing.

A total of 6 horses face the starter in the Cup that have had less than 15 career starts, the favourite Yucatan and second elect Cross Counter (a 3yo like Rekindling) amongst those six.

Melbourne Cup:



Knowledge & Insight

Where does the best lead-up race reference lie in relation to finding the Cup winner? Let’s firstly examine the Caulfield Cup.

Viewed in 2008 is the most recent Melbourne Cup winner to contest the Caulfield Cup (he then ran in the Mackinnon on Derby Day), whereas no less than 10 Melbourne Cup winners had contested the Caulfield Cup between the years 1991 and 2006.

These types of trends can sometimes be cyclical – a good example being the Cox Plate, used by 4 Melbourne Cup winners between 2005 and 2013, yet we find that in the years 1983 to 2004, only Saintly (1996) and Jeune (1994) won the Cup after contesting the Cox Plate.

Moreover, the time-honoured strategy so skilfully engineered by master trainer Bart Cummings of contesting the Mackinnon Stakes on Derby Day as a prelude warm-up to the Cup, is no longer even a factor – that race now finding itself moved to Final Day.

Cummings won 9 of his 12 Cups via the Mackinnon and a further 2 via the Hotham Handicap (also on Derby Day) – 1996 winner Saintly came into the Cup via winning the Cox Plate.

Once the final field has been determined, a closer study of the lead-ups will be in the Verdict.

Form Focus Verdict

Studying the lead-up form patterns over the past 20 years does reveal one key aspect – that a last start positive finish (first 6) usually produces the best result come Cup day.

Only 2 of the past 20 winners finished worse than sixth in their final lead-up run, Viewed coming out of the Mackinnon and Efficient out of the Cox Plate – both Group One WFA events.

Last year, Rekindling became the first overseas trained winner of the Cup (since Vintage Crop in 1993) to not have a prep race in Australia prior to the Cup.

However, when looking at the Cup placings, the overseas visitors have had a considerable influence, with 9 second placings and 7 third placings going to a horse who last raced overseas.

The key local reference remains the Caulfield Cup – it features as the last start of a Melbourne Cup winner on 5 occasions in the past two decades, plus 3 seconds and 5 thirds.


Knowledge & Insight

Two of Australia’s finest ever riders in Scobie Breasley and George Moore (both inaugural Hall of Fame inductees), found the Melbourne Cup more than a little annoying.

In 17 Cup rides, Breasley had two seconds and one third, while Moore’s Melbourne Cup record was even more disheartening – one third from 19 mounts.

Co-record holders with 4 wins are Bobby Lewis (33 rides) and Harry White (24 rides), Lewis’s wins spanning a quarter of a century (1902 to 1927), while White piloted his quartet between 1974 and 1979.

Six jockeys are tied on 3 wins – Jim Johnson, Bill McLachlan, Darby Munro, Jack Purtell plus two of our current riders in Damien Oliver & Glen Boss.

Form Focus Verdict

Riding the favourite Yucatan, jockey James McDonald lines up in his sixth Melbourne Cup, his first ride coming in 2012 when runner-up on Fiorente. He was also third on Hartnell in the 2016 Cup, his other 3 mounts finishing down the track.

On second favourite Cross Counter, Kerrin McEvoy’s record in the Cup is 15 rides for 2-1-1 (he won on Almandin in 2016 & Brew in 2000), while on third elect Magic Circle last year’s successful rider Corey Brown, his Cup record at 14 rides for 2-2-2 (he won on Rekindling in 2017 & Shocking in 2009).

Other jockeys and their Cup record:

H.Bowman – (7 rides) 0-0-0 (rides Marmelo this year)

B.Melham – (5 rides) 0-1-0 (runner-up on Johannes Vermeer in 2017)

C.Williams – (14 rides) 0-0-1 (third on Mount Athos in 2013)

 D.Oliver – (27 rides) 3-3-0 (won on Fiorente in 2013, Media Puzzle in 2002 & Doriemus in 1995)


Knowledge & Insight

With 3 wins in the first 7 years of the race (including the first two with Archer), Etienne de Mestre took the early lead as the most successful trainer of the Melbourne Cup, but by 1872, John Tait (4 wins from 1866 to 1872), had overtaken him.

De Mestre rallied with wins in 1877 & 1878, and wasn’t seriously challenged until Walter Hickenbotham (trainer of 1890 winner Carbine), had prepared four Cup winners by 1905. Walter’s grand stayer Trafalgar started 9/2f in the 1910 Cup, but found his 58kg too much, giving 10kg to eventual winner Comedy King.

Richard Bradfield then mounted his challenge, preparing his fourth Cup winner in 1924 (Backwood), 30 years after registering his first in 1894 (Patron).

The next challenge emerged via James Scobie, his first Cup winner arriving in 1900 (Clean Sweep), before successive victories in 1922 and 1923. In 1927, Trivalve scored for the formidable Scobie-Lewis combination. However, like Tait, Hickenbotham and Bradfield before him, Scobie hit the wall on 4 Cup wins, leaving De Mestre as the record-holder on 5.

De Mestre’s reign at the top was unchallenged for almost 40 more years, before a young South Australian-based trainer decided that he would forever rewrite the Cup’s history.

Form Focus Verdict

The Bart Cummings Melbourne Cup phenomenon commenced in 1965 with Light Fingers and Ziema hitting the line together, Roy Higgins on Light Fingers getting the photo and giving Cummings the quinella.

A year later and Cummings delivered the quinella again with supreme stayer Galilee taking the Caulfield Cup-Melbourne Cup double and easily defeating stablemate and 1965 winner Light Fingers. 12 months later, Cummings became the first trainer in Cup history to prepare 3 winners in successive years when Red Handed gave Roy Higgins a second Cup victory.

With Think Big (1974-1975), Cummings drew level with De Mestre on 5 Cup wins, the 1974 Cup another quinella for Cummings, Caufield Cup winner Leilani finishing second. Gold and Black (1977) gave Cummings the record, then Hyperno (1979) sealed the title “the Cups King” to Cummings with a seventh Melbourne Cup win to the trainer in 15 years.

11 years would pass before win 8 (Kingston Rule-1990), then another quinella in 1991 (Let’s Elope and Shiva’s Revenge), made it 9 Cups. Saintly (1996) was one of his easiest winners, Rogan Josh (1999) and Viewed (2008) made it a dozen Melbourne Cup victories – a record unlikely to be surpassed.

Between 1989 and 2005, Lee Freedman prepared five Cup winners (including Makybe Diva in 2004 and 2005), now equal second with De Mestre behind Cummings as the Melbourne Cup training record-holder.

The imported Avilius carries the Royal Blue of Godolphin, yet to taste success in the Cup, but more importantly, has a Cummings as his trainer; Bart’s grandson James.


Knowledge & Insight

Of the 47 remaining acceptors for the Cup, just 4 have Group 1 wins on their CV. Two are from the Chris Waller stable, Who Shot Thebarman & Youngstar, while Ace High brings two Group 1 wins to the table, the 2017 Spring Champion and Victoria Derby.

At the top of the weights, Best Solution owns multiple Group 1 credentials, having a hat-trick beside his name, two in Germany and more recently, the Caulfield Cup.

What’s revealing about the past 10 Melbourne Cup winners is that at weights release stage, none of them had yet been successful in a Group 1.

Also of interest is the handicapper’s rating assessment at weights stage – 8 of the past 10 winners had a Cup rating from a low of 105 to a high of 112 when weights were released.

The first outlier in this sample is 2008 winner Shocking who was rated 94 at weights declaration stage but had improved to 105 by the time of the Cup.

The second is 2016 winner Almandin who was rated 97 upon weights release but was rated 101 at final declarations stage.

Form Focus Verdict

The most compelling feature of the past 10 years of the Cup has been the continual surge in overseas participation. In 2008, there were just 6 Internationally-trained starters, the following year only 3 – yet 2 of those 3 finished second and third.

In 2010, eight raiders descended on the Cup, Americain landing the prize for the French. The same result occurred in 2011 with Dunaden scoring for France, 10 raiders starting with six of them finishing in the top seven placings.

The race is now firmly established as an International Group 1 Staying Championship, with horses coming from all over the globe. The two most powerful breeding/racing outfits in global racing, Coolmore and Godolphin, have multiple key prospects in 2018, bringing a range of classy imports and locally-prepared stayers.

These two powerhouses of world racing hold the key to the Melbourne Cup of 2018.

Melbourne CUp:


Form Focus Verdict

He may have been denied the 2017 Melbourne Cup by his son Joseph, but Aidan O’Brien has returned in 2018 with a trio of outstanding chances. And, with Latrobe (trained by Joseph) diverting to the Mackinnon on Final Day, the coast is clear for the master of Ballydoyle to register his first Melbourne Cup victory.

It was logically understood that The Cliffsofmoher was the number one seed on exposed form in Europe, but barely an hour after that horse had finished a fast finishing fourth in the Caulfield Stakes, his travel buddy and training partner Yucatan delivered a performance in the Herbert Power that has rarely been witnessed.

Eased back from the start, Yucatan was three wide and held back by rider James McDonald to about the 1800m. He then commenced a steady forward move, up the hill to the 1400m, tracking wider at stages, to eventually land three deep outside the two leaders.

Keeping the horse in a galloping rhythm, McDonald sat quietly until the 650m, then slipped Yucatan into overdrive, the horse creating wide space between himself and his opponents in a few seconds. By the 200m, the margin was 8 lengths and widening, McDonald electing to ease up at the 100m, virtually walking to the line.

The time was fast (2-26.47), the manner of the win breathtaking, covering an enormous amount of extra ground. Yucatan only needs to reproduce that performance, secure reasonable luck in transit and the Melbourne Cup is on its way to the master of Ballydoyle.

When an overseas horse arrives in such devastating form (examples being Media Puzzle, Americain, Dunaden generally means the horse is in the zone. The Herbert Power form was tested in the Hotham Handicap last Saturday – and stood up to the test, the place-getters completing the Hotham quinella. 

Stable companion, The Cliffsofmoher has contested some serious high-grade races in Europe over the last 18 months, 11 of his 17 starts being at Group 1 level. A second in the English Derby of 2017 is the standout where he beat home Cracksman, Benbatl, Best Solution, Capri and Rekindling.

He lost touch with Best Solution at a crucial moment in the Caulfield Cup, his final 800m fractions indicating he had too much to do from the moment the sprint went on. A steadier tempo, Ryan Moore on and this horse has the class to carry his 56.5kg to victory. Is there a query at 3200m?

Possibly, but the majority of Melbourne Cup winners are invariably doing the 3200m for the first time anyway, examples being Rekindling, Almandin, Protectionist, Green Moon, Efficient, Ethereal, Might and Power, Saintly, Let’s Elope – the list is endless. With champion sire Galileo as his father, The Cliffsofmoher has the pedigree to match his natural ability.

These two horses hail from the gilt-edged crop of Northern Hemisphere 3yos of 2017 which included Rekindling of course, but also produced the 2018 Caulfield Cup trifecta of Best Solution, Homesman & The Cliffsofmoher.

Completing the top three, it’s either Godolphin’s Avilius (a faultless preparation but is by Pivotal, 3200m is a genuine query), Vengeur Masque (terrific value odds) and O’Brien’s third Cup runner Rostropovich.


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