The Melbourne Cup is now under two months away and we are starting to get a clearer picture of those horses being aimed at making the final field of 24 to compete in the $6 million race. Last week the nominations for the Cup were announced, which included 31 international horses among the 140 in total. There were an additional 4 late nominations to take that total to 144. Future betting markets have been adjusted accordingly and most punters will be keeping a keen eye on their fancied runners for the big race on Tuesday 3rd November.
Weights for the race will be announced on September 15, and it is very likely this will have an effect on the betting markets, especially for the international horses towards the top of the market.
It’s now time to start previewing some of the more fancied runners as well as those that may still represent some value, and give some early insight towards which horses I believe could be the key players in the 2015 Melbourne Cup.
Below are my thoughts on some of the big international players entered for this year’s Melbourne Cup.
FAME GAME (JAP) - $12 at CrownBet
Every time I look at this 6YO gelding’s form and profile I become increasingly excited about his chances. We’ve seen just how powerful and dominant the Japanese raiders have been over the past 18 months when competing in the Melbourne and Sydney carnivals, with their stayers clearly superior to the locally bred horses in Australia. Admire Rakti – last year’s Caulfield Cup winner and the 2014 Melbourne Cup favourite – was considered a B or C grade horse among the Japanese staying ranks. Fame Game has won two Group 3’s over 3400m, a Group 2 over 2500m and most recently produced a career best performance when runner up to Gold Ship in the Group 1 Tenno Sho (3200m) by 0.3L. He will run in the Caulfield Cup but he is clearly better suited to the 3200m of the Melbourne Cup and the spacious Flemington track will be ideal. Finally, he has champion Hong Kong jockey Zac Purton booked for both races. Purton rode Admire Rakti to victory last Spring and rates in the top 5 jockeys in the world in my opinion. I took the $21 for Fame Game when it was available and his best price is now $12. He is the clear stand out as it stands.
BIG ORANGE (GB) - $41 at William Hill
Big Orange is a 5YO gelding trained by Michael Bell in the UK and is a winner of 5 races from 12 starts, ranging from 2000m to 3200m. His biggest success came in this year’s edition of the Group 2 Goodwood Cup over 3200m, where he beat fellow Melbourne Cup hopeful Trip To Paris. Following the win, Bell said, “He obviously stays two miles and he's got the boot to win a Group 2 over a mile-and-a-half, so I would say he ticks a lot of the boxes.” This horse is a close relative to Red Cadeaux, and actually finished 4th to Hartnell in a Listed race over 3200m in June 2014. With proven form over 3200m, as well as the turn of foot required to be competitive in a Melbourne Cup, Big Orange could represent a bit of value at 40/1 in the current betting markets. My only concern is he won’t be having a lead up race in Australia before the Melbourne Cup.
AGENT MURPHY (GB) - $51 at Bet365
This 5YO colt came into Melbourne Cup calculations with a good win over 2400m at Royal Ascot back in May. He is very lightly raced for a 5-year old with just the 8 runs under his belt, but 4 of those have been wins. Agent Murphy won a Group 3 impressively over 2600m at Newbury in August, with Red Cadeaux finishing back in 3rd. Over the weekend (13 September) he finished 2nd behind Order Of St George in the Group 1 Irish St Leger (albeit beaten long way), but was doing his best work at the end of the 2800m. He now heads into quarantine before travelling to Australia, and he is sure to relish the 3200m of the Melbourne Cup, although he appears more of a grinding type rather than having a turn of foot. His current quote is as much as 50/1.
This 6YO gelding is the first of the Godolphin runners travelling over from the UK in their attempt to finally breakthrough in Australia’s greatest race. He is very lightly raced with only 7 career starts under his belt, 4 of which he has won, although he was subsequently disqualified in one of those wins. Including the 2000m Listed race he was disqualified from, Sky Hunter has won his last three races – two starts ago he romped in by 9 lengths in a Group 3 race over 2000m before winning a Group 2 in Dubai over 2400m back in March. He pulled up from that race with signs of heat stress and hasn’t been seen since. That means he will head into the Cup very fresh but he profiles very well and it will be important to see what weight he gets given next week. He currently sits at $35 which is a good price, but whether he makes it to Melbourne is another issue.
Update: The $200 price currently being offered at Betfair may suggest that he may not make the trip.
WADI AL HATTAWI (GB) - $100 at Betfair
Wadi Al Hattawi is another UK based Godolphin runner and probably their best hope in my opinion. This 5YO gelding is also lightly raced with 4 wins from 11 starts to his name. He landed a 2400m contest at York in July before he was pulled up after just 400m at York when he lost his action, but returned to the track one week later to win a 2600m handicap under top weight in good style. He currently sits at $51 on most sportsbooks, but you can get $100 at Betfair which looks decent value for a horse in such good form over similar distances in the UK, especially given he is one of Godolphin’s leading chances. Interested to see what weight he is given.
SECRET NUMBER (GB) - $81 at William Hill
Secret Number is the other horse Godolphin trainer Saeed Bin Suroor fancies as a Melbourne Cup hope. This 6YO gelding has spent a lot of time off the track in the last 2 years. He recorded a Group 3 win over 2400m in October 2013 and wasn’t seen again until September 2014 where he finished runner up to Prince Bishop in another Group 3 over 2400m. Prince Bishop then went on to defeat California Chrome in the Dubai World Cup so the form out of that race is strong. Secret Number then spent another 12 months out and made his return to the track last weekend (12 September 2015) where he won a Listed race over 2400m. That takes his overall record to 4 wins from 11 starts but his success has all come over 2400m so it is unknown whether he will be suited to the 3200m of the Melbourne Cup. It is impressive, however, that he has come back in winning form after 12 months off, and he will now head to Australia for a run at the Cup. $81 is available for him which looks a big price for a horse Godolphin considers in its top 2 chances.
SNOW SKY (GB) - $21 at Sportsbet
This very talented Sir Michael Stoute-trained stayer is a dual Group 2 winner in the UK over 2400m and 2800m. He is only a 5YO with just the 14 starts to his name so he profiles very well for the Melbourne Cup if you look at the historical stats. Two starts ago he defeated Brown Panther who finished 8th in the 2013 Melbourne Cup despite badly lacerating his hind leg. My concern with Snow Sky is his ability to stay the 3200m, and even after his victory over 2800m Sir Michael Stoute admitted he thought 2800m was just about his limit. The 2400m of the Caulfield Cup may suit him better than the 3200m of the Melbourne Cup, although he is not yet a confirmed starter in the Caulfield Cup and has been allocated 58kg if he were to take his place. He currently sits at $67 for the Caulfield Cup and $21 for the Melbourne Cup.
TRIP TO PARIS (IRE) - $26 at Ladbrokes
Stable mate to the mighty Red Cadeaux and is getting his shot at the Melbourne Cup after winning the Ascot Gold Cup over 4000m earlier this year. He followed that win with a very narrow 3rd placing behind Big Orange and Quest For More, but had to carry 4lb more than the rest of the field as a penalty for winning at Ascot. His most recent run was a distant 5th behind Max Dynamite, but he was unsuited by the soft ground. Trip To Paris is sure to relish the trip (his record over 3200m is 4:1-1-1) and he is likely to have a lead up race in Australia before the Melbourne Cup. Definitely one worth watching and you can get him at $26.
RED CADEAUX (GB) - $50 at Betfair
This warrior is returning for his 5th Melbourne Cup and aiming to finally break his bridesmaid tag in Australia. My concern with Red Cadeaux is always his form leading up to the Melbourne Cup, but every time he comes to Australia he seems to run brilliantly regardless of what form he has been showing overseas. History is completely against him, especially as a 10YO now, but one thing I learned last year was no matter what history says, this horse is one that you can’t write off when competing in Australia. His price is still at $41 at most sportsbooks, currently $50 at Betfair, and he has to be considered one of the top chances again this year.
MAX DYNAMITE (FR) - $21 at Bet365
Max Dynamite shot into Melbourne Cup calculations with a blistering 4 ½ length win in the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup (3200m) at York on August 21. Among the field he demolished were fellow Melbourne Cup aspirants Big Orange and Trip To Paris. Previous to that win he recorded consecutive 2nd placings, both over 3200m, meaning he has finished in the top 2 at all of his past three runs over 3200m. That already gives him a significant advantage over many of the other horses that have queries over their ability to stay 3200m. His trainer, Willie Mullins, thinks he is a better prospect than stablemate Simenon (who finished 4th in the 2013 Melbourne Cup) as he is younger and has more potential. His win saw him plummet in the betting market as low as $12, but his best price at the time of writing remains $21 with Bet365.
QUEST FOR MORE (IRE) - $61 at William Hill
Quest For More originally wasn’t going to be aimed at the Melbourne Cup this year as his trainer Roger Charlton didn’t think he had the necessary turn of foot required to win. Those plans seem to have changed, however, as this 6YO gelding has entered quarantine and will be on the first shipment to Melbourne. Remarkably, he has finished in the top 2 in 8 of his last 9 races, with 4 of those being wins. From 4 starts at 3200m he has two wins and two 2nd placings, so the 3200m of the Melbourne Cup will be right up his alley. At his most recent run, Quest For More finished runner up in the Group 2 Goodwood Cup over 3200m on July 30, beaten a neck behind Big Orange but beating home the Gold Cup winner Trip To Paris. Previous to that he defeated Max Dynamite off level weights when winning over 3200m at Newcastle. He definitely has the form on the board to suggest he could be a major player and currently sits at $61 in Melbourne Cup betting markets.
Plenty of water still to run under the bridge with regards to just which international horses will eventually line up in the Melbourne Cup, and futures markets are not normally something I get involved with purely because of the risk involved so far out from the race. However, a few of these are certain to start and still represent a price worth taking a risk on. Below is my current top 5 of the international crop above, with Fame Game on top and the remainder in no particular order:
- FAME GAME (JAP) - $12
- TRIP TO PARIS (IRE) - $26
- WADI AL HATTAWI (GB) - $51
- QUEST FOR MORE (IRE) - $61
- RED CADEAUX (GB) - $41
Prices correct at the time of writing. Make sure to read full terms and conditions of any betting promotion or market before placing any bets. Note than "antepost" or "all in" markets mean that you will lose your wager if the horse doesn't start in the race.
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Take note: Any of the tips in this article are simply the author’s opinion, so bet at your own risk and always gamble responsibly. Also be sure to check out the Before You Bet Twitter Page for all our thoughts in the lead up to bets! Happy punting!
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