This is the best Melbourne Cup field I can remember in recent history. We’ve got world class stayers from overseas, a local brigade that have more than held their own in some lead up races and some genuine light weight X-factors. At the top of the weights is one of the best credentialed stayers in the world with a massive 58.5kg impost. Last year’s winner is a $51 chance this year, we’ve got the Cox Plate winner, the Caulfield Cup winner, the Geelong Cup winner, you name it, this field has got it.
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We know that last year’s Melbourne Cup was run at a crawl, which means you need a turn of foot, or the ability to accelerate quickly to win. I think there will be a bit more pace on this year with a few that can vie for the lead. The Joseph O’Brien pair of Master Of Reality and Twilight Payment will be on speed, with the latter unsuited by how slow he went out in front, so expect him to try and roll along a bit faster, or at least get moving earlier. Dashing Willoughby is at his best when rolling in front, because he has no turn of foot whatsoever.
He led the Caulfield Cup field and will roll forward from out wide. They’ve been riding Russian Camelot forward over 2000m and may do so again from barrier 15, but they may ride him a bit colder in order to run the trip. Steel Prince does his best racing on pace but draws barrier 21- he may push forward along with roughies Etah James and Oceanex. Prince Of Arran will look to hold leader’s back from barrier 1, and Kah wouldn’t want to be more negative than 3 pairs back the fence, which could force a few out wide to work a bit early. Anthony Van Dyck should be much closer from barrier 3 and should be in the first 6.
Verry Elleegant will settle midfield somewhere from barrier 15, Finche will be just off the speed from barrier 6, Surprise Baby ideally tries to settle midfield from barrier 7 rather than last, and current favourite Tiger Moth will be back from barrier 23. Ideally, I think Mcevoy would want to try and get on the back of a horse like Verry Elleegant in a 3 wide line.
Very tough race, as it always is. I think there’s 5-6 legitimate winning chances, and whilst you can make a case for some roughies, I do think something under $13 will win the race. I’ve landed on Tiger Moth as the horse to beat. He’s only had 4 starts, but he’s a very good young stayer who fits the modern profile of a Melbourne Cup winner. His run two starts ago in the Irish Derby was outstanding behind Santiago, who would’ve been single figures here, and he arguably should’ve won that race when having to come wide when the winner took a gap on the inside, with a big gap back to 3rd. He then went to Leopardstown and bolted in by 4 lengths in the group 3 Kilternan Stakes. He’s got a turn of foot, the 3200m on a good track will be right up his alley, and I don’t mind the wide barrier. Looking at his overseas replays, he seems to appreciate clear galloping room and I much prefer barrier 23 than an inside draw. If he gets a cart into the race at the right time, he’ll be very hard to beat for a formidable combo in Kerrin Mcevoy and Aidan O’Brien.
Surprise Baby looks the danger. He was the run of the race in last year’s Cup, getting a long way back from a wide barrier and flashing home for 4th. He goes up 1kg from last year but draws perfectly in barrier 7 and gets Craig Williams on board, who produced a masterful ride to win on Vow And Declare last year. Don’t be put off by the fact he’s only had two starts at 1600m and 2000m since last year’s Cup- Paul Preusker is an elite trainer of stayers, he’s set the horse to peak here and from all reports has improved drastically both physically and mentally from last year.
Anthony Van Dyck is the class of the field and deserves the 58.5kg. His form around Ghaiyyath and Stradivarius overseas is simply elite. He has to defy history here because it’s traditionally much easier to carry weight in the Caulfield Cup than it is the Melbourne Cup, but his run at Caulfield was enormous and he should map much better from barrier 3.
Russian Camelot has to be included. The market keeps telling us he’s an elite horse, and he has shown glimpses of the talent required. I think this race has been his target all along, and the Cox Plate was used as a lead up run (that they would’ve loved to win too obviously). If we were on a wet track, I’d be keener, but the things he still does wrong worry me. It’s near impossible to win a Melbourne Cup over 2 miles if you’re over racing and wasting energy. If he settles, I’ve got no queries on him running the trip.
Prince Of Arran importantly comes here 2nd up- the last two years he’s had to win his way into the Cup field and came into it 3rd up. I think he’s better suited here and just needs some luck from barrier 1 to feature. I’m not backing him because you simply can’t back them all, but he’s a must for exotics and I couldn’t talk you out of him whatsoever.
The best roughie could be Twilight Payment who was a touch disappointing last year, but from all reports has settled in better this year. His form overseas is good enough to win and clearly says he’s a better horse than stablemate Master Of Reality, who finished 2nd last year but was relegated to 4th on protest.
I’m with Tiger Moth on top. His run in the Irish Derby was outstanding behind a very good horse in Santiago, and he more than backed it up last start when a dominant winner in group 3 company. He gets in with 52.5kg here, he’s lightly raced as a northern hemisphere 3yo which fits the profile beautifully, and if he gets on the back of the right horse, I’ve got no problems with the wide draw. Surprise Baby is the danger and worth having something on. If he replicates last year’s run from a better position, he’ll be right in the finish.
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