The biggest race of the year in Australia has finally arrived as our horse racing tips focus on the 2015 Melbourne Cup, courtesy of Tim_Tips!
This is easily one of the strongest fields we've ever had in the Melbourne Cup and that's largely due to the quality of the many international runners that have made their way over for the race. Normally in the Melbourne Cup you can be assured that about half of the field won't stay the 3200m, but with 11 runners having previously run well over the distance, and a further 8 that give the indication they will stay the 3200m, it makes it much tougher to eliminate horses from the picture.
Despite the track being a Soft 5 on the weekend following some rain, the forecast is for clear weather leading up to the Cup, and the track manager has said that we will definitely race on a Good 3. Unfortunately we saw a bias develop on the rails on Saturday's meeting but the rail has been shifted out 2 meters to account for that so I think the racing will prove to be much fairer for Cup day.
For once there looks to be a lack of an out-and-out leader, so it will be interesting to see which horse is keen to take up the running. I think we should see some early moves from horses drawn out wide that will be keen to take up a position. Big Orange and Quest For More have both drawn wide but will be looking to cross the field from out wide in order to settle on speed, while horses such as Snow Sky, Prince Of Penzance and Sertorius could all roll forward too. Despite the lack of a genuine leader I think the race will still be run at a moderate pace, especially if one of the English runners from out wide decide to cross over and lead.
SNOW SKY: Arrived in Australia with some strong form from England, including a win in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes over 2400m. A big positive for him is that he has had a lead up run in Australia prior to the Cup. He ran reasonably well in the Caulfield Cup and things didn't go his way at a critical stage. He tends to improve 2nd up but there are a couple of concerns. He has never run over 3200m and I think he might struggle to stay the trip; 2800m looks about his limit. He's also got the obvious hurdle of carrying top weight. Rates reasonably well in terms of form but I don't see him as much of a winning chance.
CRITERION: Aimed at this race for a long time and has been trained specifically to get the 3200m. He's been racing in terrific form since arriving back in Australia and his run in the Cox Plate last start was outstanding. The concern is obviously whether he will see out the distance. He's never run past 2400m and with 57.5kg on his back it is a tough weight to carry at his first go over 3200m. Interesting to see how they ride him from barrier 4 but I think they may try to take up a closer positon to the speed. Place chance more than a winning hope.
FAME GAME: I've been on record for months now saying this is Fame Game's Melbourne Cup and the only thing that will stop him winning is if we get any rain before the race. His form behind Gold Ship in the Tenno Sho over 3200m in Japan is the best form in the race. The key is also in his preparation for the race - three times in his career he has returned from a spell over 2200m and finished midfield before stepping up in distance and winning at his next start. He returned from a spell in the Caulfield Cup (2400m) and steps up in distance to 3200m for this race. The pattern is all too familiar and it was key for him to have that lead up race in Australia. His run in the Caulfield Cup was obviously eye-catching and from barrier 12 on a big, spacious Flemington track he will get the perfect run. If the track is a Good 3 I think he's a moral.
OUR IVANHOWE: Comes into this race as a real live chance but barrier 22 really hurts. He's been building up really nicely in preparation for this race and comes into this ready to put in a peak performance. Group 1 winner over 2400m in Germany and went on to finish midfield in the Japan Cup which is good form as we know. He profiles really well for the race and his run in the Caulfield Cup suggested he was ready to win. Will appreciate the big Flemington track but it is hard to see where they position him from barrier 22. Rates very highly.
BIG ORANGE: Talented English stayer who won the Group 2 Goodwood Cup over 3200m beating both Quest For More and Trip To Paris. Worse off at the weights against both of those today and this will be his first run in Australia which is a big negative for mine. Has to start from barrier 23 and I think they'll choose to roll forward in search of a position on pace. He loves firm ground and is sure to run the trip, but there are a couple of concerns that put a dent in his winning chances. Rates to run well though.
HARTNELL: Still not sure what to make of his performances so far this preparation. They have said all along that he's been targeted for this race and he's built up with every run. His Cox Plate run was better than it reads on paper and the major question is whether he will stay the 3200m. His only try at the distance was obviously when he led in the Sydney Cup and pulled up lame after failing. Barrier 17 makes it hard but they'll ride him cold again and he could be one of the better local hopes. I don't see him winning though.
HOKKO BRAVE: Disappointing run in the Caulfield Cup but I think we can almost put a line through that as nothing went his way. I think $41 is a big price as we know he has the form on the board over 3200m back in Japan. The positive is that he's had a lead up run in Australia before today's race and off 55.5kg he is certainly weighted well. Barrier 20 once again makes it very tough for him though. Interesting to see if they choose to ride him at the back of the field again or whether they take a gamble and ride him closer. Over the odds in my opinion but Fame Game is a much better horse and certainly has plenty more in his favour.
MAX DYNAMITE: Big winner of the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup over 3300m last start in the UK and did beat home a few of his rivals that he faces again here. That race was on a soft track though which probably made the win a little flattering and it doesn't look like we'll get a wet track here. He is no doubt of getting the trip but he's another that will be having his first start in Australia here which is a negative. Not sure he has the overall quality on a firm track against some of these horses, especially given he has contested jumps races in the past!
RED CADEAUX: Back for his 5th tilt at the Cup which is remarkable and one thing I learned during the Autumn was no matter how ordinary his form is prior to coming to Australia you can never discount him once he's here. He just seems to improve out of sight when he gets to Australia and never runs a bad race here. We all know he's run 2nd three times in the Melbourne Cup, so he obviously likes the track and is sure to get the distance, but it was his performance behind Criterion over 2000m in the Autumn that really struck me. He was fantastic that day and it was over a distance well short of his best. He is weighted well this year off 55kg and he's drawn to get a great run. He rates terribly based on his overall profile but at $41 there is no way I'll be leaving him out again. He's a chance.
TRIP TO PARIS: Profiles well, largely based on the fact he has had a superb lead up race in Australia before the grand final. He ticks a lot of boxes - he is sure to get the trip given he won the Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup over 4000m, he's shown in the Caulfield Cup he has a turn of foot, he's drawn well, weighted well, and improves sharply 2nd up from a spell. I think his price is short enough at $9 but he looks to be flying and rates highly.
WHO SHOT THEBARMAN: Ran 3rd in this race last year and ran 2nd in the Sydney Cup over the same distance in the Autumn. Been steadily building into this race and looks ready to peak. We know he appreciates Flemington having won twice and placed once from four starts at the track, and from barrier 6 he is sure to get a good run wherever they choose to ride him. Rates well and $18 is probably a suitable price for him.
SKY HUNTER: Godolphin runner that's had the 11 career starts for 6 wins. He's a Group 2 winner and a Group 1 placegetter over 2100m and while he is yet to run over 3200m, it doesn't look like it will pose much of an issue for him. Should get a great run from barrier 7 and I think he gets in well at the weights given he is a 6YO that has probably yet to peak given how lightly raced he is. However, another that has his first start in Australia in the Melbourne Cup without a lead-in race and I see him running well without winning, as most foreign Godolphin horses have done in the past.
THE OFFER: One-time Melbourne Cup favourite last year after winning the Sydney Cup in dominant fashion. Has struggled to regain that form since but did measure up well to win the Bendigo Cup last start,albeit against an average field. We know he gets the distance and we know he loves the big tracks like Randwick, Bendigo and Flemington. Would come into contention a bit more if we had a big downpour of rain before the race but it looks like we will get a firm track and that sees him fall behind a lot of horses based on class. Happy to avoid him.
GRAND MARSHAL: This horse could be a bit of a smokey and definitely one to include in trifectas and first fours. He's had one go over 3200m which was earlier this year when he pulled off a remarkable Sydney Cup win, and while that was on a wet track he has shown in the past he has the ability on a dry track too. He's only had the one race at Flemington which was a win over 2800m, so we know he saves his best for the long trips and the big tracks. Gets in with 53.5kg and the barrier is no issue as he is a horse that needs to be ridden dead cold anyway, so expect him to go back to the rear and be running home well. Roughie.
PREFERMENT: Rates well here. He is flying this prep and his two wins over 2000m at Group 2 and Group 1 suggest he has made a big step up. Untested over the distance but he is one that gives the indication that he will relish the trip. Undefeated at Flemington and his wins over 2000m show he has the necessary turn of foot to be competitive in a Melbourne Cup. 4YO's have a great record in the race and off 53.5kg he gets in well given he carried 56.5kg to win a Group 1. Put a line through his Cox Plate run as he had absolutely no chance from where he was, and Waller is going better than ever so he should be tuned up for this. Wouldn't be surprised if they sat a bit closer from barrier 11.
QUEST FOR MORE: Can't understand the $126 price about him and he's clearly the best value in the race for mine. If you are willing to forget his Geelong Cup run (which was horrible) and look back to his UK form, then you'll realise why he is over the odds. Three starts back he beat Max Dynamite over 3200m and followed that with a 2nd placing to Big Orange in a Group 2 over 3200m where Trip To Paris was back in 3rd. He has 2 wins and 2 placings from 4 starts over 3200m and he's only missed a place once when he's 2nd up. There are obviously concerns around his poor performance in the Geelong Cup, and there's also a concern around his lack of turn of foot possibly required to win a Melbourne Cup, but I still think $126 is a ridiculous price. I think they will press on towards the lead from barrier 21 and if the pace is slow he might just run a place.
ALMOONQITH: This is the one they are all talking about, and fair enough after he put away a decent Geelong Cup field with ease. He had been crying out for the step up in trip and a long straight and when they put blinkers on for the first time he gave them a hiding. He's a Group 3 winner over 2800m and finished midfield behind Brown Panther in a Group 2 over 3200m. The way in which he won the Geelong Cup suggests the 3200m should be okay for him. Drops right down in the weights and we know how well the Geelong Cup form has lined up in previous years, so from barrier 10 he will have every chance. I have him about 4th on overall ratings.
KINGFISHER: Winner over 2800m in Ireland and runner up to Trip To Paris in the Ascot Gold Cup over 4000m, so we know the trip is no problem for him. I do have concerns over his last two runs, where he was beaten 16 lengths back in 3rd behind Order Of St George and Sea Moon (who didn't live up to expectations in Australia) and last start dropped out to run 43L behind Order Of St George in the Irish St Leger. Draws barrier 9 and only carries 53kg but he'd need to completely turn things around to win this, and once again he's not had a lead up race in Australia which is a negative. Happy to be against him.
PRINCE OF PENZANCE: Been going pretty well all prep and they put the blinkers on for the first time last start when he was just run down by The United States in the Moonee Valley Cup. It will be interesting to see if they try and lead with him like they did last start, and given the fact they wanted barrier 1 (and got it) my feeling is they will try and be in the first 4 in running, if not leading. Not sure he is up to this class however so happy to look elsewhere.
BONDI BEACH: Really interesting runner. He's only had the 5 career starts but he's never finished outside of the top 2. The really strong formlime he carries into this race is his victory over Order Of St George, who went on to win the Irish St Leger by 11 lengths! He has since won the Group 1 St Leger at Doncaster on appeal before losing it once again on appeal, and that kind of form puts him right in the mix here, especially given he drops to 52.5kg here. Barrier 18 is his major negative, and I wonder if they might press on to sit somewhere up near the lead with his light weight. Another negative is the fact this is his first start in Australia. Is he seasoned enough to win a strong 3200m race at this stage of his career? I'm very respectful of his chances.
SERTORIUS: The only Australian bred, Australian owned and Australian trained horse in the race. He has absolutely no hope.
THE UNITED STATES: Progressive horse that was originally trained in the UK before being brought over to Australia by Lloyd Williams. He has been flying this preparation and his win in the Moonee Valley Cup last start was exceptional. Untested at 3200m but the way he won the race over 2500m last start suggests that the step up to 3200m could be within his capabilities, and from barrier 3 with 52.5kg he will be given every chance to do so. He has a great turn of foot but my concern is whether at this stage he is ready to run a strong enough 3200m that will win the Melbourne Cup. I have him rated in the first 8 or so but I'm not sure he is a great winning chance.
EXCESS KNOWLEDGE: Winner of the Lexus who is backing up 3 days later into the Cup. We saw Signoff do the same thing last year and run 4th under the same conditions, but the field this year is much stronger and the form out of the Lexus is questionable. He should run the trip, and 51kg certainly gives him every chance to, but barrier 24 is the killer. Not good enough here.
GUST OF WIND: Flying under the radar a bit this girl. Comes into the race as the only mare in the field and this has been her target all along, with her trainer continually saying she is an out-and-out two miler. She ran 4th in the Caulfield Cup which was still probably a bit short for her but she kept finding the line nicely. Stays on 51kg here and it's going to be very interesting to see how they ride her from the gate. I wouldn't be surprised to see them roll forward and take advantage of her low weight, but I also wouldn't be surprised if they took her back to last. She has a massive final 200m on her and if the tempo is hot she could spring a surprise. Maybe not this year but I'm keeping her safe nonetheless.
Nothing other than a torrential downpour of rain on the day is going to take me away from backing FAME GAME. Even though I've backed him at a much longer price than what he currently is, I still think somewhere around $3.80 - $4.00 is his correct price, regardless of how short some think it is. This is a horse that has run within a head of Gold Ship (Japan's best horse) over this distance and we know how good that form is. The big thing to consider is that the horse is ready to peak. There is a pattern to his wins which we have seen throughout his career. January 2014, he resumed from a let up and ran 6th over 2200m before winning his next start over 3400m by 1.5L. September 2014, resumed from a spell and ran 6th over 2200m before winning his next start over 2500m by 2.5L. January 2015, resumed from a spell and ran 12th over 2200m before winning his next start over 3400m by 2L. October 2015, resumed and ran 6th in the Caulfield Cup over 2400m, next start he steps up to 3200m at Flemington! See the pattern? He rates clearly on top and I have never been more confident in a Melbourne Cup. I am going to have egg on my face if he doesn't win, but I think at $4.40 he is still backable.
Behind him it is a really interesting contest. OUR IVANHOWE is a Group 1 winner over 2800m and also has Japanese form under his belt; his run in the Caulfield Cup was outstanding and he is ready to peak for this. Despite the wide barrier he is a great chance. I think HOKKO BRAVE can run better than his odds suggest. He has Group 1 form in Japan and nothing went right for him in the Caulfield Cup. TRIP TO PARIS rates as a huge chance after his blistering run in the Caulfield Cup and the fact that he's had a good lead up race in Australia really enhances his rating. I think his price is short enough but he rates well. His stablemate Red Cadeaux just excels in Australia and despite his ordinary form overseas, I've learned to look past that as he turns into a different horse in Australia. Don't leave him out of trifectas or first fours. WHO SHOT THEBARMAN is expected to run well again and could fill a place, while PREFERMENT and ALMOONQITH are probably the two best hopes of the locally trained horses. QUEST FOR MORE represents huge value if you can look past his Geelong Cup run - he has form over Max Dynamite and Trip To Paris. BONDI BEACH is the one I am paying a lot of respect to. I don't quite think he will win, but he looks to be the one most open to improvement and could very well prove me wrong.
History suggests that it is nearly impossible to win the Melbourne Cup in your first race in Australia, so I am happy to look past the likes of KINGFISHER, SKY HUNTER, MAX DYNAMITE and BIG ORANGE.
I am really confident on FAME GAME, but behind that I found it incredibly tough to work out, so I've gone with a bit of value in my top 5 as I believe there are a few that could run better than their prices suggest:
1 - FAME GAME
2 - RED CADEAUX
3 - OUR IVANHOWE
4 - TRIP TO PARIS
5 - QUEST FOR MORE
Top Pick: Motown Lil
Roughie: Stop Making Sense
Top Pick: Zarzali
Top Pick: Gingerboy
Roughie: Pop 'n' Scotch
Top Pick: Malaguerra
Top Pick: Spill The Beans
Top Pick: Denpurr
Top Pick: Malice
Roughie: Jacquinot Bay
Top Pick: Griante
Top Pick: Wawail
Roughie: Sultry Feeling
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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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