Monday, 30 November 2015

Inter Dominion heats - Round 2

It's an arduous road to winning the Inter Dominion - three heats over different distances within eight days, highlighting the toughness of the breed. After Friday night's first round at Gloucester Park (the track you often see when watching TV coverage of cricket matches at the WACA), the second round moves to Bunbury for the mile races. Our regular analyst, Trent Orwin, @themightytrent3, travels down the highway to preview the meeting.


Inter Dominion Heat Previews
Form analyst: Trent Orwin
Website: BettingPro
Twitter: @themightytrent3

The first round of qualifying heats was entertaining and the second should be equally-impressive over the mile at Bunbury. Tuesday will also see a new track record holder as the 1:54.1 mark set by Lincoln Beach Girl in 2011 could fall by a couple of seconds. I will analyse the chances of each runner per heat while listing the biggest odds on offer at the time of writing along with the bookmaker that is offering those odds.

Race 3 – INTER DOMINION HEAT 4 – 1609m
1750 local, 2050 AEDST, 0950 GMT

1. Franco Ledger ($6.50 UBET) – Should be able to land the back of Mach Beauty during the run and has a nice turn of foot which should be on display here. No sprint lane in play means he will need an element of luck but one of the leading chances.

2. My Hard Copy ($4.20 Ladbrokes) – Another devastating sit-sprinter that is well drawn. He will be looking to race close to the speed and is an each-way chance.

3. Mach Beauty ($2.80 UBET) – Pet distance and drawn to get an easy lead without a speed battle this time around. Will be the big improver but the quick back-up is the main concern following a gut-buster on Friday night.

4. Billies A Star ($18 Bet365) – Probably doesn’t want to do the bullocking work outside Mach Beauty here so taking cover looks preferable. Can improve but not for me in this one.

5. Bettors Fire ($8 Luxbet) – Hard to predict whether he runs the gate to find the breeze early or is driven cold this time around. Each-way chance from the draw.

6. Major Crocker ($31 Bet365) – May be driven forward here and has shown he likes the sprint trip. I’m expecting him to be the big improver and looks the best each-way value.

7. Our Hi Jinx ($34 Sportsbet) – Draw really hurts his chances as he goes back at the start and gives most of them a headstart. Happy to oppose.

8. Cold Major ($81 Ladbrokes) – Horrible draw for him and all scenarios lead to him struggling in this event.

9. Crusader Banner ($21 Sportsbet) – Good run in the first round and gets a soft draw to trail Franco Ledger. Each-way chance in the race.

10. Our Blackbird ($21 Luxbet) – Ran second behind Lennytheshark but tougher here. Could be four back on the markers. Include him in exotics but place chance at best.

Selections: 1. Mach Beauty, 2. Franco Ledger, 3. My Hard Copy
Suggested Bets: Franco Ledger to win, Major Crocker each-way

Race 5 – INTER DOMINION HEAT 5 – 1609m
1850 local, 2150 AEDST, 1050 GMT

1. Northview Punter ($31 UBET) – Will be crossed by Easy On The Eye and will try to hold leader’s back. Not up to Lennytheshark so place best scenario.

2. Easy On The Eye ($31 Luxbet) – Dreadful on Friday night but this may be more suitable. Doesn’t have the class of Lennytheshark and will probably be a sitting shot late. Place best.

3. Lennytheshark ($1.40 William Hill) – Has a mortgage on this race and may race without cover or take cover behind Avonnova. Hardest to beat and is long odds-on for a reason.

4. Meadowbranch DJ ($501 Bet365) – Was easily beaten in the opening round and will be looking for the pegs early. Could beat a runner home here but no chance of winning.

5. Libertybelle Midfrew ($61 Bet365) – Superstar mare that could surprise in this one. Not sure whether they stay in the moving line or head for the fence but could place at big odds.

6. Shannonsablast ($51 Sportsbet) – Didn’t impress me in the opening round despite running third. Happy to be against him.

7. Lovers Delight ($67 Bet365) – Underrated local with very good gate speed. Probably has to restrain and come late with one run. Maybe a blowout place chance.

8. Avonnova ($14 Luxbet) – The Queenslander loves a poor barrier draw. May have no option but to go forward and hope Lennytheshark hands up to him. Place best.

9. Waylade ($6.50 Ladbrokes) – Well under the odds in this event and is going to have to do a mountain of work in order to win. Place chance at best.

10. Jason Rulz ($17 Bet365) – The horse that I believe is the only other winning chance. Should follow Easy On The Eye through and could land Lennytheshark’s back. May not get over him but strong each-way chance.

Selections: 1. Lennytheshark, 2. Jason Rulz, 3. Easy On The Eye
Suggested Bet: Jason Rulz each-way – tailored more towards the place

Race 6 – INTER DOMINION HEAT 6 – 1609m
1917 local, 2217 AEDST, 1117 GMT

1. Dynamite Dude ($41 Luxbet) – Better known as a standing-start stayer, he may surprise a few in this race and could be a knockout place hope.

2. For A Reason ($26 UBET) – The racing career of this million-dollar earner are almost over (stud beckons) but he has to be an each-way chance from the draw.

3. Mach Alert ($10 Luxbet) – Speedy beginner that will be trying his best to at least find the pegs (likely) and then may try to hold up or hand up. Each-way chance.

4. Devendra ($2.25 William Hill) – Was an excellent winner of his first heat and draws to be very prominent again. Looks under the odds and could start in the red.

5. Machtu ($21 UBET) – Probably had too much hype about him but is a very good horse nonetheless. Hard to know what his tactics are here but happy to oppose.

6. Classic American ($34 Bet365) – Would have been keen on this speedster if he had drawn well. Looks too hard from here and is only a very small place chance.

7. Blazin N Cullen ($41 Sportsbet) – Not sure why but I feel he could be a big improver in this. May have a peanut on him but won’t be one of my suggestions.

8. Flaming Flutter ($18 Bet365) – Only fair in the opening round and this is much tougher. He looks a better stayer than sprinter so happy to let him go through to the keeper in this one.

9. Philadelphia Man ($2.75 Bet365) – Will be forced to come with a single run and won’t be riding Dynamite Dude’s back for luck. Best horse in the race and looks a strong chance.

10. Five Star Anvil ($81 Luxbet) – He’s been a nice horse but a number of them are better in this. Knockout place hope from the fence.

Selections: 1. Philadelphia Man, 2. Devendra, 3. Mach Alert
Suggested Bets: Philadelphia Man and Mach Alert to win

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Drinmore Novices Chase preview

Completing the trio of races from this week's new contributor John Ring from Rebel Racing, @tips_ROI, is the Drinmore Novices Chase, the only one of the four features without an odds-on favourite.


Bar One Racing Drinmore Novices Chase
Grade 1, 2m4f, €85,000
1440 local, 0140 AEDST

No More Heroes makes the market here and probably rightly so as he appears to be the class act of the field. An unlucky third in last year’s Albert Bartlett after a far from ideal preparation, he looks a Grade 1 chase winner in waiting. My only issue is his price and the trip. A strong stayer, who admittedly is far from slow, he looks an RSA type and despite the heavy ground being a plus for him in terms of a test he could find this plenty sharp enough. He’s 6/5 despite only proving he could jump at a crawl in his Beginners Chase win, and being honest he was a bit high at a few fences for my liking. He won’t get away with wasting time in the air here. All in all he’s plenty short despite being the classy horse.

Outlander is the Gigginstown second string but really impressed me in winning his Beginners Chase. He jumped impeccably, recovering well when getting in close and showing plenty of scope when seeing a stride. His jumping was without doubt the winning of the race that day. He is likely to come on a fair bit for that last run and he was also still in his coat so there looks to be lots more to come. Seeing him pricking his ears coming to the last suggested he won a bit cosier than the result suggested.

Free Expression could undoubtedly be called an unlucky loser in the same race and yet I still can’t fancy him here. Slow at a few that day there’s no doubting he was hampered twice, once at a crucial stage, but his jumping left a fair bit to be desired and he looks all over a three miler to me. The likely quicker pace here will leave no room for error and I just feel this strong stayer will be better suited by three miles in time.

Monksland won a really strong Beginner’s Chase last week at Gowran. However that took place on heavy ground which would have suited this race fit, strong stayer against Roi Des Francs who was making his comeback and didn’t appear to enjoy the ground. Monksland will definitely improve at three miles as a chaser but I’m already dead set against him being good enough to be a Grade 1 chaser at any trip and I just feel he doesn’t have the ability to win this.

Of the remainder, they set a decent standard but there also appears to be a few 3 milers among them. Captain Von Trappe was unsuited by a slowly run race over further last time so this drop in trip looks against him while Shantou Flyer is a solid Grade 2 horse but seems likely to be found out here.

At the prices Outlander looks a real each way alternative to the favourite and with Ruby up might cause an upset.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Royal Bond Novice Hurdle preview

It's a small field in the G1 Novice Hurdle but it still has to be won. Is the odds-on favourite a good thing?

Let's ask first-time correspondent John Ring from Rebel Racing, @tips_ROI.


Royal Bond Novice Hurdle
Grade 1, 2m, €85,000
1310 local 0010 AEDST

I have a very strong opinion here and it contrasts sharply to that of one Ruby Walsh. Bachasson is a stand out price here at around 7/2. A slightly small type he showed up well in the summer concluding in a Grade 3 Novice Hurdle win at Tipperary. Whilst that might not seem great form, the horse he beat on that occasion Three Stars has since gone on to win a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle at Navan. Purely on a straight line through Three Stars, many will fancy Long Dog who beat Three Stars 10 lengths when they met. However Three Stars has progressed nearly a stone with every run and there can be no doubt he was a much improved horse when taking on Bachasson at Tipperary. Deemed better on soft ground by former connections the heavy ground he will encounter here is a slight worry but I can’t help but feel the market has had a drastic overreaction to such a possibility and he did win on “very soft” in France, not to mention his high knee action suggesting he will relish a bit more dig. Bachasson is a slick jumper who’ll have no trouble jumping at speed on this relatively tight track. He has to be the bet to beat an even money or shorter Long Dog who seems better at 2 and a half miles and who whose jumping has been questionable when under pressure over two miles.

Of the remainder Gunnery Sergeant looks the best as suggested by the book. He looked the most likely winner when coming to grief two out in a Novice Hurdle at Gowran Park last weekend but he has a quick turnaround here and Noel Meade basically said during the week he’s going because Gigginstown want to support the race.

Archive is a horse I like but I feel he will need 2 and a half miles to show his best form as a novice hurdler. He is one who could win some sort of a graded race as I definitely think he can run into the 140’s when conditions fall right for him. That said, he is likely to be caught for toe here.

Baily Cloud is a lovely consistent horse but he’s fully exposed at this stage and this looks like a stopgap before going into handicaps around Christmas time.

Hatton's Grace Hurdle Preview

The action at Fairyhouse continues, with the Hatton's Grace Hurdle. Taking on Sunday's trio of Grade 1s is blog debutant, the astute John Ring from Rebel Racing, @tips_ROI.


Bar One Hatton’s Grace Hurdle
Grade 1, 2m4f, €85,000
1340 local, 0240 AEDST

Unfortunately a Grade 2 in all but name here but we get to see one of the most underrated horses in training in the form of Arctic Fire. Second in the Champion Hurdle last year, admittedly seemingly suited by the slowly run race, he is undoubtedly the class act in the field. He made a more than satisfactory return at Navan recently when beating the talented Monksland despite every possible thing that could go wrong going wrong. Held up off a slow pace, Ruby was slow to get after him when they quickened and he seemed at sea for a moment before storming up the rising ground to head the game Monksland (given a great ride) near the post. There can be no doubting he is the class act of this field on paper and I’m slightly surprised he is as big as 8/11 in places as he probably has a stone in hand here.

The young pretenders are many and very interesting horses going forward. We start with the Grade 1 placed Alpha Des Obeaux. He again steps up in class here having been a promising novice and looks one that should progress again. Always seen as a long term project by the wily Mouse Morris he was there or thereabouts in Grade 1 company last term only to come up short a few times. He is likely to need the run here, and 3 miles in time, but it’s interesting that he returns over hurdles and it may be that Mouse targets him at the Irish staying Grade 1’s which admittedly aren’t anywhere near up to scratch at the minute.

The glass horse Clondaw Court has a rare run as well. Off the track over a year Willie Mullins has openly admitted they have to run him here because they’ve managed to get him right and it’s the only available race for him, hardly confidence inspiring talk. However it should be interesting to see how he fares in this company, he is completely unexposed but has always been well thought of and we should find out a lot more about his ability here but the trip is likely to be short for him and it’s odds on he will need the run as well after so long off.

The really interesting one for me here is Gwencilly Berbas. He is unlikely to be anywhere near good enough to beat Arctic Fire if he is anywhere near his best. However as a 4 year old he receives four pounds from the older horses and has race fitness on his side. I had him running to 142 last time out and with the step up in trip likely to bring about further improvement he could be one to consider in the without market.

Snow Falcon is a horse who has a slightly inflated rating in my eyes and may well be one who struggles this year. He won last time despite some awful jumping and he really looks like a 3 miler. They are likely to go too quickly here for him and he might be difficult to place for Noel Meade this season.

Taglietelle is most definitely overpriced here. He is fully exposed on a mark of 148 but unlike many has race fitness on his side, is fully adept at the trip and seems as consistent as they come. The only negative would appear to be the likely heavy ground. Purely from a bookmaking side of things he is overpriced but at the same time I find it hard to see him even finishing second.

Thomas Edison simply has no hope, he’s rated on his Galway hurdles runs but he is about as likely to run to a mark of 150 as I am of being Champion Jockey this year.

To finish I find it odd that Arctic Fire is such a price at this stage. He is race fit and the class act in the field. On all known form he must be at least a stone clear and it would be surprising were he not to collect. In the without market I fancy Gwencilly Berbas to be second although he won’t be a big price either.

Bar One Racing Juvenile Hurdle preview

A great card of National Hunt racing at Fairyhouse on Sunday with several of the feature races to be covered. First up, it's regular contributor, the astute Dave Stephens, @davestevos, to cover the juvenile feature which opens the card.


(Grade 3) (3yo) (2M) €30,000

Sunday is a big day at Fairyhouse with the Drinmore and Hatton's Grace the main attractions. They should be two fascinating Grade 1 contests but there could also be some festival clues to be found in the day's opener, a Grade 3 Juvenile hurdle that has been won by useful sorts like Anafilet and the ill fated Our Conor in recent years.

Willie Mullins has won it the last two years in a row but he has no runner this time around. The last seven favourites have won and the biggest priced winner in the last decade was 5/1. It looks a more open heat this season and there are a quite a few interesting runners in the field. You can check out my opinion on each individual competitor and find out my selections below.


Flat bred son of Manduro who is a half brother to Irish 2000 Guineas runner up Rayeni. He didn't pull up any trees on his sole flat outing over 7f at Dundalk but he has looked a different proposition over timber and has hosed up on both his hurdle runs. He won on good to yielding ground at Roscommon by 6L in a 2m maiden and while the form hasn't worked out he couldn't have done it more impressively.

He followed that up with another facile win at Listowel, this time on soft ground, and he landed the odds with the minimum of fuss. He had Lake Champlain 19L back in third that day, the exact distance that Missy Tata beat the same rival by. That filly is 4/6, so at odds of 6/1 Rashaan looks to represent serious value. He has the pedigree to be a quality horse and it will be fascinating to see how he gets on upped in class for Carlow based trainer Colin Kidd. Mikey Fogarty keeps the ride.


Formerly trained in France, this son of Footstepsinthesand made a good impression on his second hurdles start, sent off at short odds and justifying market confidence with a dominant performance on good to firm ground at Thurles (2m). Worryingly though he was a faller and looked held on his previous run at Ballinrobe when the ground was soft.

His pedigree suggests that quick ground will suit him best, and his dam's best run came on a sound surface. It lashed rain on Friday in the Fairyhouse area and it will more than likely be very testing on Sunday. His previous runs on soft combined with his breeding would suggest that conditions won't be to his liking this weekend, and he looks way too short at odds of 8/1.


Jessie Harrington's string has been in brilliant form in recent weeks and she has been firing in the winners at a relentless rate. Those that haven't won have been mostly hitting the frame and this son of Kodiac has run well on his couple of hurdle runs since switching from the flat. He was rated 80 on the level at one stage, even though he failed to win a race.

He started off with a decent first effort over hurdles behind the well regarded Jer's Girl at Limerick (2m soft) and built on that with a good run behind Thywillbedone at Punchestown, again over 2m on soft. He hasn't shown the same level of ability as his opponents over timber but a big run would come as no surprise given his connections' form. If he can reverse the form with Thywillbedone he has a place chance at best at odds of 16/1.


Represents strong connections and this son of Mafki was a decent sort on the flat for Andrew Balding, winning twice over a mile (a/w and good to firm). He ran a cracker off 85 on his final flat start at York (10.5f good to soft) and he was snapped up at the sales by Gigginstown for 57000gns. That last flat run suggests that 2m over hurdles should be within his compass but the worry has to be the ground.

He ran well on good to soft at York but it will be a lot more testing at Fairyhouse this Sunday and his young sire Mafki's stats with soft ground runners doesn't inspire confidence (1/9 on heavy). His dam is exceedingly well related and is a half sister to top class performers Reefscape, Martaline and Coastal Path. He is bred to be useful and his trainer will have him well schooled for his hurdling debut. However, he was well beaten his sole flat start on soft, and at 14/1 he is best watched until getting better ground.


Sandra Hughes' father Dessie took this with Our Conor back in 2012 en route to a scintillating success at Cheltenham. It looks unlikely that this son of Windsor Knot is in the same league as that one though. He was poor on the flat, well beaten in two maidens, but he absolutely hosed up on his hurdling d├ębut at 33/1 on good ground at Punchestown.

However, worryingly in the context of the likely conditions at Fairyhouse, he bombed out on soft ground next time over the same course and distance, a good 40L behind Newberry New and Thywillbedone. His dam is well connected, but those relations were best on a sound surface, and that could well be the case with Sports Barrow too. He can be backed at 33/1 but looks best left alone until he gets his preferred good ground.


Hails from a yard that has started the season in superb form and this son of Muhaymin was a smooth winner on his first start for this stable in a soft ground 2m maiden at Ballinrobe. He had Double Windsor 9L back in 2nd but the form hasn't been franked and it looks well below what some of his rivals here have achieved.

He was well beaten by Lake Champlain and Missy Tata on his next outing at Down Royal and he had no obvious excuses for that run. He has a decent pedigree but it doesn't appeal as much as some of his other rivals. That last effort leaves him with an awful lot to prove in this field and it would be a big surprise if he could win at odds of 14/1.


The second of the Elliott contenders and she is well fancied by the bookies to take this prize. She gets a handy weight for sex allowance from her male rivals and that 7lb could make a huge difference on what looks sure to be bottomless ground. This daughter of Astarabad dotted up on her debut for this yard and had a couple of these well behind in an impressive display on soft at Down Royal (2m).

She previously had three runs in France, failing to win but showing some excellent form in finishing less than 2L behind a subsequent Grade 1 winner on her last French start at Auteil (17.5f very soft). That is by far the best form on offer and she could well prove to be a cut above these rivals, especially in receipt of weight. However, she is priced up accordingly at just 4/6 and while she does look the most likely winner there is possibly better value to be found elsewhere.


Poor flat maiden who has progressed with each outing over timber, culminating in a half length defeat of Newberry New on her last run at Punchestown (2m soft). She meets that rival on identical terms here and yet she is almost double the price. That run was her first time to encounter soft ground, and this daughter of Holy Roman Emperor relished the underfoot conditions.

She did it the hard way too, attempting to make all and finding gamely when challenged and briefly headed by the Harrington horse in the closing stages. She is entitled to uphold the form with that one but whether she is good enough to trouble the best of these is unlikely. Looks set to battle it out for minor honours and if eight go to post she could sneak a place for each way backers at 25/1.


This is an intriguing Grade 3 contest with a number of promising types in the line up. A few will have big concerns about the likely ground conditions and with plenty of rain about it is not going to improve. It will be very testing and they will probably be strung out like the washing by the finish. Thywillbedone appeals as an each way bet at 25/1, if all eight go to post, as she is unexposed on soft and beat Newberry New fair and square last time.

The two to be interested in for the win are Rashaan and Missy Tata. Slight preference is for the former, mostly because of his price of 6/1. There is very little between the two on form if Lake Champlain is used as a yardstick, but I was extremely impressed with how the Kidd horse jumped and travelled in his two victories and he looks to have stamina as well as a decent turn of foot. It won't be easy conceding 7lb to the Elliott filly, but hopefully Fogarty can boot Rashaan home in front and land a blow for a smaller trainer for a change in an Irish Graded race.


Friday, 27 November 2015

Fighting Fifth Hurdle preview

The jewel of northern National Hunt racing is the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. And for the first time in years, the track might not be on the swamp side of heavy!

Time to welcome back northern racing expert Mark Rowntree, @uptheirons007. And you can read more of his work on his blog.

--------------------------- Fighting Fifth Hurdle
Grade 1 £105,000
2m 98y
1405 local 0105 AEDST

The weather gods have shined on Newcastle for once with the Grade 1 2015 Fighting Fifth Hurdle set to be the most enthralling renewal for a number of years.

The 'A-Listers' Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins are all represented in a race which has attracted a field of seven. Ground conditions will be soft, but a strong covering of grass and the lure of a racecourse which hasn't witnessed National Hunt racing since March has proved a strong one.

Last year’s winner Irving forms the most logical starting point. A return to Tyneside was initially on the agenda following his comeback success in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton. However, his participation in the Fighting Fifth appeared much less certain when it was announced he’d take his chance in the Betfair Price Rush Hurdle at Haydock.

Nevertheless, a workmanlike Haydock success (on soft ground) did provide further evidence of his wellbeing. This bearing relevance following the ongoing foot problems which had hindered his previous campaign. It's also important to note that Irving was also the beneficiary of a summer wind operation prior to his comeback victories at Wincanton and Haydock.

However, asking a horse to race three times in a calendar month at this level (including on successive weekends) is a massive risk. Sidestepping Haydock- as he did in 2014 after a fall in the Elite Hurdle- he’d have been the likeliest winner, but I fear he could well have left his race in the Lancashire mud.

Nicky Henderson saddled My Tent or Yours to victory in 2013. This year he relies upon Top Notch. Top Notch was beaten one and a quarter lengths by Irving on his seasonal reappearance at Haydock last weekend.

Prior to that, the Munir and Souede owned gelding was unbeaten in three starts as a juvenile at Newbury, Ascot and Haydock before concluding his previous campaign in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.

In the Triumph, Top Notch split stablemates Peace and Co and Hargam (both held initial entries for this race), going under by a neck to the former named who is bound for The International Hurdle at Cheltenham next month.

On balance, there is every reason to believe that Top Notch will reverse the Haydock placings with Irving. A third quick race for Irving, will surely see his finishing kick tested to the absolute limits by a much wiser Daryl Jacob and stronger Top Notch with the benefit of Haydock now under their belts.

As was the case in 2012 (with Countrywide Flame), the Triumph Hurdle holds a good clue to the race. This year, in addition to runner up Top Notch, the sixth placed Beltor represents Robert Stephens. Beltor will be a first runner at Newcastle for Stephens. Many would believe with justification that we're still to see the best of Beltor.

Beltor was probably the surprise package the juvenile ranks last season, and is more lightly raced than Top Notch over hurdles, although he does sport extensive Flat experience. Despite hailing from one of the less fashionable yards, he is respected. However, he'll need to be at the very top of his game to come straight off a break and beat six fully race fit rivals in a Grade 1 contest. He sports a similar profile to another couple of horses in the race, but at only fraction of the odds.

John Ferguson held a strong hand at the initial entry stage, but is left to solely rely upon Purple Bay.

The 6yo gelding was a bitter disappointment when trailing in last of four at Aintree earlier this month behind Bobs Worth and Simonsig. However, in his defence, the race was over a new trip (2m4f) and his trainer had indicated he’d benefit considerably for the reappearance.

Dropping back to 2m is the key for Purple Bay, and Newcastle looks sure to suit. However, soft ground certainly doesn't suit, and time will tell whether Purple Bay actually runs or not.

Supplementary entry Wicklow Brave is as tough as teak and a talented dual purpose performer. He leads the Irish charge, and his inclusion in the race is a massive coup for the Newcastle Executive.

Whilst Hatton's Grace bound Arctic Fire finished third in the Fighting Fifth for Mullins in 2014, neither Mullins or Walsh made the trip to Newcastle on that afternoon. However, both are scheduled to be in attendance on Saturday which adds markedly to the race.

Despite being a scintillating eight-length winner of the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, Wicklow Brave has arguably scaled even greater heights on the level this summer.

He firstly chased home Litigant in the Ebor at York, and then finished third in the Irish St Leger to Order of St George. His campaign concluded in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot on Champions Day in October where he was arguably an unlucky two lengths third to Flying Officer and Clever Cookie.

A 152 rated hurdler (106 on the Flat), the bulk of Wicklow Brave’s winning form has come on either a soft or heavy surface.

Whilst he has improved during the course of 2015, his eleventh of 20 in the Galway Hurdle wouldn’t normally be good enough to take the Fighting Fifth. However, the proximity to stablemates Nichols Canyon and Faugheen in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown suggests he’s translated his summer Flat improvement back to Hurdling. On the basis alone he's more than a worthy favourite, but equally he's highly likely to be over bet simply because of the Mullins/Walsh combination.

The inclusion of Henry De Bromhead's 5yo Kayf Tara gelding Identity Thief also further boosts the Irish hand.

Identity Thief is three from six under National Hunt rules. Making all and staying on strongly, he took the Grade 2 Down Royal WKD Hurdle by three and a half lengths from the Willie Mullins trained Whiteout. The 4yo filly Whiteout being as short as 25/1 for the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham in March (which is likely to be headed by her stablemate Annie Power).

Identity Thief is versatile with regards trip having also won over 2m4f in soft ground in a Leopardstown Maiden Hurdle (December 2014). However, his revised Irish mark of 144 suggests he has a little to find with the principals. Furthermore, he was found out on his only try at Grade 1 level when pulled up behind Nichols Canyon in the 2m2f Leopardstown Deloitte Novices Hurdle. Read literally this assumes Identity Thief is unlikely to trouble the Willie Mullins-trained Wicklow Brave.

Taking a reasoned leap of faith in seeking greater value, the selection for the race is Intense Tango (25/1).

The Karl Burke trained filly is the sole female representative in the line up, and truthfully, after seeing the initial entries a few weeks back, Intense Tango didn’t figure on my radar as a likely bet. From a mark of just 138, she clearly has plenty to find.

However, her odds reflect this fact (unlike with Beltor and Identity Thief) and so she rates as a reasonable value ‘outside’ bet. Being a filly, she will receive 7lbs from all of her six rivals which does at least go a small way to reducing such a disparity in official ratings.

Intense Tango is owned by Cosy Seal Racing Limited which represents a business interest of Paul Gaffney. Gaffney’s ill-fated but talented mare Cockney Sparrow finished runner up in the 2013 Fighting Fifth to My Tent or Yours. This bears relevance to Intense Tango who has charted a massively similar path to the race as Cockney Sparrow.

Both Intense Tango and Cockney Sparrow raced in the same events at Catterick, Doncaster and Aintree before a summer campaign on the Flat. Crucially, both horses also reappeared in the Mares Hurdle at Wetherby as their pipe-opener before a crack at Newcastle's Grade 1 event.

Intense Tango has raced six times over hurdles, scoring in a 2m Catterick Juvenile Hurdle in January, before following up in a Mares Grade 2 at Doncaster later in the month. On the latter occasion she made the most of a sizeable 4yo allowance.

She then faced a tough task as a younger horse (off 140) in the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso, but shaped well, a fair eight lengths third to the progressive Glingerburn and the scopey Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Bristol De Mai.

Intense Tango concluded her 2014/15 National Hunt season at Aintree in the Betfred 4yo Juvenile Hurdle finishing fifth to All Yours. From a mark of 139 she conceded 7lbs to the winner who was also initially entered for this race.

Like Cockney Sparrow, Intense Tango made steady improvement on the level during the summer months. Her official Flat handicap mark rose from 78 to 87 on the back of just four runs. Although this leaves her 19lbs behind the 106 (Flat) rated Wicklow Brave, her best effort came when a three and three quarter lengths third to the ill-fated Saeed Bin Suroor trained Wadi Al Hattawi in a £45,000 added 1m5f Newmarket handicap. She has registered a sole victory from twelve starts on the Flat (at Haydock in August 2014).

Whilst Cockney Sparrow plundered the Mares Hurdle at Wetherby’s Charlie Hall meeting en route to the Fighting Fifth, Intense Tango could only manage second best two years later. Nevertheless, she lost little in defeat giving 8lbs to the Harry Fry trained Blue Buttons in soft and tiring ground. Beaten by just five lengths, she’s likely to find the fresher and less testing soft ground at Gosforth Park to her liking.

Intense Tango would not only need to improve, but also buck the trend of four year olds generally not winning the Fighting Fifth. Countrywide Flame in 2012 was the first 4yo to take the prize since Out of The Gloom in 1985. Additionally, Fillies have a particularly poor record in the race, but this is more understandable with only a small number competing each year. However, Cockney Sparrow has demonstrated that fillies can compete if well prepared by their trainers.

Without doubt, the late supplementary entry of Wicklow Brave tempers confidence, but at odds of 25/1 Intense Tango is more than a sporting selection in a thoroughly intriguing contest.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Inter Dominion Heat Previews

The toughness of the standardbred is one of the best advertisements of the breed, none of this four starts in a season and then off to stud primadonna stuff of the galloping world. The rejuvenated Inter Dominion series is a time-honoured battle between Aussie and Kiwi pacers and consists of heats and a lucrative final.

This year it's over in the west, so I've recruited the Gloucester Park specialist, Trent Orwin, @themightytrent3, to do the form.


Inter Dominion Heat Previews

Form analyst: Trent Orwin
Website: BettingPro
Twitter: @themightytrent3

The most prestigious harness racing event on the calendar is upon us with the first of three rounds of qualifying heats. I will analyse the chances of each runner per heat while listing the biggest odds on offer at the time of writing along with the bookmaker that is offering those odds.

Series best bet: Lennytheshark
Series best value: Mach Beauty

Race 4 – INTER DOMINION HEAT 1 – 2130m

1. Machtu ($7.50 Sportsbet) – Lacks gate speed and will be crossed at least once. Stablemate Waylade looks the most likely leader but Easy On The Eye is the quickest beginner. Will appreciate a soft draw and looks one of the better chances in the race of running in the money.

2. Waylade ($1.45 William Hill) – He is one of WA’s leading chances for the series and should accumulate close to top points courtesy of his draw. Hard to see him missing the place but doesn’t represent any value.

3. Shannonsablast ($21 UBET) – Should settle close to the speed in the moving line but also has the option to look for the breeze. Looms as an each-way chance in the race.

4. Devendra ($11 Luxbet) – Possesses gate speed and wouldn’t surprise to see him trying to cross them early. Maps to land a prominent position and is an each-way chance in the race.

5. For A Reason ($51 Luxbet) – Placed twice in the Inter Dominion and father time may be catching up with him. Hasn’t won in 15 starts and won’t be winning here. Can’t make any case for and would pay to watch how her performs.

6. Libertybelle Midfrew ($31 UBET) – The only mare in the series and this draw significantly hurts her chances. May have to settle for a midfield finish and will be hoping for better draws in the next two heats.

7. Easy On The Eye ($81 Luxbet) – One of the rank outsiders according to the market but my best value bet in the race. Definite chance to cross and if he leads then he will take some catching. Hunter Cup placegetter and Miracle Mile starter that looks closer to a $10 chance.

8. Our Hi Jinx ($31 Bet365) – Recent Queensland Pacing Championship winner that had excuses at Melton last start. Will need plenty of luck here and place chances look best.

9. Dynamite Dude ($151 Sportsbet) – Standing-start specialist that will find this far too tough. He’s a chance to beat a runner home if he looks for the pegs but can’t win or place.

10. Jason Rulz ($12 UBET) – Ideal draw for this sit-sprinter. He will need some luck to see any daylight in the home straight but is a definite place contender.

Selections: 1. Waylade, 2. Machtu, 3. Devendra
Suggested Bet: Easy On The Eye each-way

Race 6 – INTER DOMINION HEAT 2 – 2130m

1. Our Blackbird ($17 Bet365) – Looks a great draw for the sit-sprinter and should trail Flaming Flutter throughout. Looms as more of a place chance than winning hope.

2. Flaming Flutter ($6 Luxbet) – Should work forward and find the lead before assessing whether to hand up to Lennytheshark. Should be running top three and is an each-way chance in the race.

3. Five Star Anvil ($34 CrownBet) – Could lob handy but he looks a level below Lennytheshark and can’t see him winning. Place chances at best.

4. My Hard Copy ($8.50 CrownBet) – The WA Pacing Cup winner won’t be too far away from them and his closing speed makes him an each-way chance.

5. Billies A Star ($15 UBET) – Promising horse that is probably a place chance at best. Needs better draws to be figuring in this company.

6. Classic American ($67 Bet365) – One of the quickest point-to-point horses in WA but not up to them in this series. Don’t like his chances in this event.

7. Lennytheshark ($1.60 William Hill) – The horse to beat in this race and the series. Could potentially find the lead or sit outside them and even then may be too strong.

8. Major Crocker ($41 Sportsbet) – Does his best racing close to the speed and not likely from back in the field.

9. Blazin N Cullen ($51 Sportsbet) – He’s not good enough from this draw.

10. Mach Alert ($34 Bet365) – Fairly disappointing last start and needs plenty of luck to see open spaces in this race. Place chance at best.

Selections: 1. Lennytheshark, 2. Flaming Flutter, 3. My Hard Copy
Suggested Bet: Flaming Flutter each-way

Race 8 – INTER DOMINION HEAT 3 – 2130m

1. Lovers Delight ($16 UBET) – May have to use a bit of petrol early but is going to enjoy a soft run afterwards and is the best each-way chance in the race.

2. Bettors Fire ($5 Bet365) – Has brilliant gate speed and may try to cross Lovers Delight. Could land 1 out 1 back if he doesn’t cross and looks one of the leading chances in the race.

3. Northview Punter ($61 Sportsbet) – Hard to make a case for him in this race or the series. Place chance at best.

4. Mach Beauty ($3 Luxbet) – Flies the gate and should be leading this for a long way. Really liked his hit-out at the track last week and looks hardest to beat. My best each-way value bet for the series.

5. Meadowbranch DJ ($301 Bet365) – Irish raider that was smashed in his Australian debut. Doesn’t have any hope and could be beaten 100m here. Not even the luck of the Irish would see him run a place.

6. Philadelphia Man ($3.50 UBET) – Expect Philadelphia Man to let them burn early and press forward to the breeze. At his best he would be the horse to beat but is my second pick here.

7. Crusader Banner ($34 Bet365) – Should go back at the start and needs a soft run. Can’t win.

8. Cold Major ($81 Sportsbet) – Doesn’t have any hope from this draw. Wait for him to draw an inside barrier.

9. Franco Ledger ($34 Sportsbet) – Sit-sprinter who will be hoping they go like the clappers early. Place chance at best.

10. Avonnova ($14 Luxbet) – Queensland star that trails Lovers Delight and is an each-way chance tailored towards the place.

Selections: 1. Mach Beauty, 2. Philadelphia Man, 3. Lovers Delight
Suggested Bet: Lovers Delight each-way

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Emirates Stakes preview

The four-day Flemington carnival closes with my favourite race of the week (indelibly linked to the pocket), the Emirates Stakes. The handicap metric mile is always a cracking race, and there's a great mix of formlines to decipher again this year; the new Aussie star at the mile, three internationals with one local run behind them, the Kiwi gun who sets a sizzling pace, the ex-WA star and several more you shouldn't underestimate (roughies have a strong record in this race - just four winners under $10 since 2000, and only eight since 1983).

After so much rain on Thursday and three days of racing, who knows what the track is going to do. Time to take in the advice of the sharp guys at Premium Racing Services, @PremiumRacingS, and look at the forecast.


Emirates Stakes
Group 1, 1600m
AU$1 million
1620 local time, 0520 GMT

Form guide

PRS Speed Map

Is certain to be genuinely run with five to six horses wanting on pace positions. Like last start expect Turn Me Loose to cross and lead outright. With enough runners drawn to the inside likely to dig up and park behind him it leaves the likes of Coronation Shallan & Arod to find it difficult to find cover within 2-3L of the leader.

Our Market:

This market is of our system's ‘raw’ prices which is set to 100% with every runner rated >$21 eliminated. PRS clients get a market <100% on a wagering sheet which also blends in the public price of each runner to find a wagering edge.

As you can see on our raw market, it is a very open race. The three current overlays are all backing up from Derby Day.

Current overlay runners:
DISPOSITION – Was quite surprised he race on Saturday in a Group 3 and he was certainly too strong for them after a bold ride from Oliver. Excellent SP profile backing up back to a mile, a trip he has run two G1 2nds recent in Rupert Clark & Toorak Handicaps. 11/12 quinellas so far shows he can very must be trusted and expect him to go close.

POLITENESS – Springboarded in G1 Myer on Saturday to win it producing new PB rating, was a good run against the pattern for the meeting. Backing up hard a good move, generally restricts how much they do rate down compared to a traditional break or freshen up. Can still rate down and with plenty of speed late threaten again.

MAY’S DREAM - Caught three wide when midfield in G1 Myer last Saturday but still stuck on soundly to the line. Backing up into this a wise move. Map a small issue but we do have her finding cover. Coming into a race with more speed present is worthy a play at the current large price.

Recommended Bets:
Although not overly confident, there are some overlays present worth backing.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Melb Cup preview III

And to complete the set of Cup previews, it's over to regular Aussie feature race contributors, Premium Racing Services, @PremiumRacingS.


Race 7 - 3:00PM G1 Melbourne Cup (3200 METRES)

Historical Factors

These factors are considered annually in this race, and do include the internationals:
• Personal best career run in their prior race
• Abbreviated autumn campaign of three races or less
• 5th up
• Have had to have run a race this campaign in Australia
• Progressing into the race - form is on a gradual rise

PRS Speed Map

As any speed map with two dozen horses present it does look busy on paper, with Big Orange the one likely to push on and try to lead. Prince Of Penzance then has the opportunity if desired like his last start to be in the early battle. Snow Sky will be in the first few also. Am unsure whether Gust Of Wind’s connections intend on pushing forward also like in Caulfield Cup last time. As like every cup there will be horses trapped deep around midfield/off-midfield and the horses drawn the wider gate will likely be the ones to do so.

Our Market:
This market is of our system's ‘raw’ prices which is set to 100% with every runner rated >$21 eliminated. CP clients get a market <100% on a wagering sheet which also blends in the public price of each runner to find a wagering edge.

As you can see on our raw market, there is some value present. The public market is expected to change on race day as Fame Game inevitably drifts.

Current overlay runners: OUR IVANHOWE – Third up advanced again in the Caulfield Cup when looming up and looking the winner for two strides before the eventual winner raced clear. Is fourth up into this, prefer if he had one more run but no doubt he is fit. Gate is a little worry, likely has to settle further back than desired. Collateral figures in Germany are very strong for this race and if the rain hits the track it will only benefit him.

TRIP TO PARIS – Certainly ticks a lot of boxes into this race. Excellent performance in the Caulfield Cup when staying to the inside and working through the line very well. Beat third and the rest of the field quite well. Like international horses that have had starts in Jul/Aug at home. In June he also obviously won Ascot Gold Cup over 4000m. Having a start already in Australia which was also an =PB rating are significantly positive factors into this race. Can win.

PREFERMENT - Never in the Cox Plate race, stablemate obviously dominated. Efforts prior solid including Turnbull Stakes win here. In the past runners, in particular Efficient & Green Moon for Lloyd Williams, have raced flat in the Cox Plate and bounced back in the Melbourne Cup to win. Those two runners were utter stayers like this entire, unlike a star like Fiorente who was accomplished over shorter trips. Comes into this fifth-up with a current dominant jockey/trainer combination this spring.

BONDI BEACH – The most talented on the UK starts and am shocked at his current price compared to his UK counterparts. Last three starts all rated strongly in his short career thus far. Also have been between 2400-2900m so doubt the 3200m will be an issue. Having runs in late August- mid September beneficial for this. The major query is that he is yet to have a start in Aus for this. Although obviously an overlay am only prepared to have a place ticket on him.

THE UNITED STATES – Bold effort and super ride by Hugh Bowman to win MV Cup. Bowman comes off for Moreira so doesn’t lose too much there although the Magic Man hasn’t shown anywhere near his best form outside of HK where he is winning over a quarter of his rides. Last start was a PB performance, but was that his peak performance? Carrying the light weight with a cosy run may get away with rating slightly down or similarly and still threatening.

Recommended Bets:
Back the overlays on our market, excluding BONDI BEACH who you can have a place ticket on staked proportionally to a number you’re comfortable with.

Melb Cup preview II

After Davy Lane, @LosCharruas, declared Protectionist an absolute moral last year, then it's only fair he gets another go again this year!

The Melbourne Cup through the eyes of a devoted believer...

1. Don't believe the prevailing narrative that he was bought to go hurdling in Ireland.

2. Max Dynamite is of imperious Japanese and German stock. He is by Japanese sire, Great Journey (out of the great Sunday Silence) and his dam is by Monsun (sire of last year’s winner, Protectionist). This is a Normandie bred French GROUP 1 Classic contender, masquerading as an Irish hurdler.

3. Dettori (who is close to Willie Mullins) rode Max Dynamite in the 2013 Prix Niel, Arc prep. race. He lost to the Japanese Derby winner, Kizuna, and English Derby winner, Ruler of the World, in a bunch finish. He was soon acquired by Ricci for Mullins and next up romped home in a 2 Mile hurdle race under Ruby Walsh. My hunch is that Dettori (who is on the record as saying the Melbourne is the race he most wanted to win) had a word with Mullins. Mullins had a word with Mr. Ricci. And then Mr. Ricci had a word with Mrs. Ricci. The horse’s hurdling races was only ever designed to get his stamina right for the two miles at Flemington.

4. Max Dynamite’s return to the flat in the Northumberland Plate was designed to test the horse’s ability to handle large fields. He finished a fast closing 2nd after weaving through the pack from last in the final furlong. Once he was drawn wide, you can bet the instruction to Martin Harley to do just that. They were teaching the horse to bob and weave. The 2nd in the Galway Plate was both a stamina test and another large field exercise. Next at York, they tested his afterburners. He blew the field away, including Ascot Gold Cup winner, Trip to Paris, who lagged 5 lengths behind. It was interesting to note the reaction of Dettori after winning the Lonsdale Cup. He kept referring to the Ascot Gold Cup. This showed to me that Dettori was in on it. Max Dynamite had long been entered been in the Melbourne Cup, yet not a word was said about it by Dettori or Mullins. The Mullins crew like a bet.

5. Willie Mullins has won more than his fair share of 2 mile plus races at Royal Ascot in recent years. He has perfected the stamina training technique down for stayers. Generally Mullins does this with reformed hurdlers and handicappers, but Max Dynamite is not some long in the tooth retread. He is Group 1 beast. Big difference.

6. Like Andreas Wohler last year, Willie Mullins has made a preliminary trips to Werribee a couple of weeks ago. Neither Roger Charlton, Ed Dunlop, Aiden O’Brien, Sir Michael Stoute and Saeed bin Suroor did so. Another clue is that he sent the recently retired jockey David Casey along with the stable lass to watch over the horse 24/7. The preparation has been meticulous.

7. While Ryan Moore (UK) and Joao Moreira (Hong Kong) and Javier Castellano (USA) maybe the best jockeys in the world in recent seasons, FRANKIE DETTORI has been the best for the past two decades. This is the race Frankie wants.

8. And the intangibles have been falling Max Dyanmite’s way. Two of his main contenders Mongolian Khan (colic) and Amralah (cortisone overdose) are out of the race. Max Dynamite was drawn 2. Perfect for Frankie to put the pack to sleep. It has rained at Flemington, which favours Max Dynamite and makes life harder for other main rival, Fame Game, who has never raced on anything but firm. His other main contender Our Ivanhowe has drawn 22. This complicates the ex German stayers chances, no matter what Lee Freedman says. The same poor draw will also inhibit live bottom weight, Gust of Wind. Other threats such as Snow Sky and Criterion have too much weight. And the United States needs more than a Magic Man. Bowman, Buick and MacDonald are always dangerous, but it’s not clear their horses are as dangerous as Max Dynamite. BET THE FARM! KABOOM!

Melbourne Cup preview

The great race, the greatest week of the year, it all comes down to this.

For the most comprehensive preview of the race you'll find anywhere with videos, stats and price trends, check out Andrew Hawkins' blog. It's what I'd like to have done but he beat me to the punch and actually pulled it off. So instead, you have this below from me...


Emirates Melbourne Cup
3200m Group 1 Handicap
AUD 6,000,000
1500 local time, 0400 GMT

Form guide
Odds Comparison

Saturday's meeting threw an absolute spanner in the works with the rail being the only place to be in the straight. For Tuesday, it has been moved out two metres, but further than 10m out, the track is rated Soft 6, while the inside section is rated Good 4. Not much rain expected, one or two millimetres at most. That rail position and the lanes make this very tough to decipher - and I hate betting overnight on a race when you need to see the earlier races to determine any pattern. Anyway, this is how I've lined it up...


Snow Sky - the wraps are strong from the UK but I'm not convinced he's the right type for a Cup. He won the Hardwicke easily but Dettori and Kirby on the two favourites were slammed for poor rides and letting Snow Sky get away. Then at York those same two horses ( Eagle Top and Postponed ) beat him comfortably, but the stable blamed the soft going. So his true ability is probably somewhere in between, which fits with his HK Vase and Caulfield Cup form; very nice horse but just a few lengths off the best ones in this class. Going back over the Caulfield tape again and the stop-start tempo certainly worked against him, locking him up on the rail as most of the field made their run. He wants steady/building tempo and to work his way clear when half the field are gasping for air. That is very possible in a race like this where the tempo is more likely to be genuine the whole way through. History against him carrying the top weight, only Makybe Diva and Think Big have won with 58kgs or more since the advent of metric measurements, but I rate tempo as more important than one or two kilos, so it will be up to the genius Ryan Moore to settle him and keep him running if the leaders hit the brakes at any stage. Unlikely winner, but if he's going around at 66/1, there are sillier things to do with your small change. Goes in exotics.

Criterion - has thrived this year, winning the Queen Elizabeth at Randwick then taking on the best middle-distance turf horses in the world at Royal Ascot and York, before winning the Caulfield Stakes and running a strong second in the Cox Plate. Now stepping into unknown territory out to two miles, can a Sebring run that far? Similar doubts were expunged in the ATC Derby last season so perhaps we just have to have faith in the trainer. Hayes said he settles, goes to sleep, and lets go when asked. Any repeat of that and he is right in this. Big weight to carry in a high-pressure race though.

Fame Game - the star quality. It was clear from the start that their only focus on this trip was the Melbourne Cup, and gate one at Caulfield only made that more obvious. Just how Zac Purton got away with it is another story, but that's water under the bridge now. This horse is all class, can unleash great sectionals at the end of staying races and is better suited at 3200m. Japanese stayers are the best in the world, has to be favourite but way too short on opening prices. 5.0 is more realistic in a race like this. Have to oppose him purely on value if he is sub 4.5.

Our Ivanhowe - much improved in the Caulfield Cup but had every chance. Now steps up to 3200m for the first time. Possessed high class form in Europe, winning the G1 Preis von Baden, then running sixth in the Japan Cup but appears to be a bit short of that here. CC placegetters have a good record in the Melbourne Cup but drawing 22 is going to make life tough for him.

Big Orange - won a pair of British Group 2 races in July, at the undulating courses of Newmarket and Goodwood. Three other starts this season though, at Chester and York (x2), he's been beaten out of sight, fitting with his record of five wins and one second from 13 starts. It's all or nothing for him, so if you plan to take him on, the place lay makes more sense. Beat some very handy horses in those July victories - Second Step, Gospel Choir, Quest for More and Trip to Paris, so if he's on song, he could be right in the mix.

Hartnell - hype on this horse has been massive but never quite seems to live up to it. Won the BMW in Sydney in the autumn but hasn't run a place in his next four starts - including flopping in the Sydney Cup at odds-on. Close up in the Turnbull then did OK last week considering he wasn't in the privileged inside lane. You've got to be mighty good to win a Cup on this sort of weight. McDonald is a superb jockey but I'm happy to let him run against me.

Hokko Brave - didn't see much from him at Caulfield, but like Fame Game, this was always the end game. Was rated better than Fame Game a couple of seasons ago and beat him in the 2014 Autumn Tenno Sho, not really seeing it now. Perhaps improved fitness and the wider spaces of Flemington will give him a lift. Might be one to keep grinding away into third or fourth to put value into your exotics.

Max Dynamite - the mystery horse who is tough to line up. Forget the fact he has run over hurdles. He's trained by Willie Mullins, jumps racing is generally all he cares about so that is only a good thing, plus he was good enough to run at Cheltenham, so he's no slouch. Cast an eye back to his early Flat career in France, he was running in the Derby, the Grand Prix du Paris, the Prix Niel - the elite 3yo staying races. Never a real chance in those races, going around at huge odds, he was always running on at the end, and was snapped up by Rich Ricci with an eye to going hurdling - or was it to win the Melbourne Cup? Probably should have won the Northumberland Plate but his running style of dropping back then trying to weave through the field didn't help on a track with a relatively narrow straight. After that he ran second in the Galway Plate, flying home in a high class handicap hurdle, then won the G2 Lonsdale Cup at York, with Trip to Paris, Big Orange and Simenon all in his wake. Dettori on board, hasn't had the greatest luck in Australia but has had a sensational year, just 12 months when everyone had written him off. My big concern with this horse is where he settles. Drawn 2 and always dropping back, he'll be stuck on the rail and that leaves a lot of traffic ahead of him. Mind you, Protectionist was well back on the fence last year...

Red Cadeaux - the veteran who we keep writing off each year and he makes us look like fools. Trust Ed Dunlop to have him in great shape again. Loomed up to win the Geoffrey Freer in August but then died on his run. He has done everything but win this race in the past but have to think this run is more about a farewell tour than being a genuine winning chance. Throw him in the exotics for the place again.

Trip To Paris - dispelled the 4000m plodder reputation with the fastest sectionals for the last 800m at Caulfield. Nobody missed that run so are his odds too short now? That turn-of-foot though means he can adapt to any race pace and shape, he just needs to be clear at the right time. Won't get the cold smother on the rails this time. Won the Ascot Gold Cup because of a canny ride avoiding the interference in the straight (Kingfisher should have won). Dunlop-trained, Tommy Berry aboard, right in the mix.

Who Shot Thebarman - third last year off the back of a marginally closer finish in the Caulfield Cup than he ran this year. Down slightly in weight which suggests this is a stronger contest than 2014. This is the race he has been set for. Not one of my favoured horses but he's honest and will be collecting a cheque. Whether that's for ninth or second is another matter. Goes in the exotics.

Sky Hunter - This year's Godolphin raider and they always run honest races but fall a few lengths short. Go back over his old form - he runs third in a French Derby (2013), started 6/5 favourite against Noble Mission and Telescope in the Gordon Richards, and has been sparingly raced this year. Very good strike rate winning six from 11. Hard to line up. Drawn well, you know he will be fit, goes in exotics.

The Offer - has come up ridiculous unders on the totes, based on the Gai Waterhouse factor. Won Bendigo Cup last week and that was a terrible race. Has been up since June, carrying big weights, but not producing a level which is competitive in a Melbourne Cup. 50s with bookies is the right price.

Grand Marshal - the farewell ride for multiple Cup-winning jockey Jim Cassidy. Won the Sydney Cup by a nose ahead of Who Shot The Barman (who had the cheap rails run), and the odds-on favourite Hartnell who flopped. 100% record at the track and at the distance (different races), but can't have him in this.

Preferment - genuine star horse who can break the trend of foreign-breds dominating the Cup. Won the VRC Derby last year as a maiden but has kicked on since then. Won the Hill Stakes in Sydney at big odds, then did it again in the Turnbull at Flemington, making his record here two from two. Had no chance in the Cox Plate with the rail being the yellow brick road. Bowman back on board (chose to ride Winx in the Cox), drawn ideally in 11, clearly best of the locals and could just be the one to put C.Waller on the Cup honour roll for the first time.

Quest For More - nice European form but flopped badly in the Geelong Cup, at least on pure result. Caught wide, worked to sit outside the leader and then when condition gave out in the straight, the jockey put the stick away and eased him up. Not as bad as that run suggests but drawn 21 in a much tougher race, can't see this being any easier for him. Probably goes forward.

Almoonqith - the second Hayes/Dabernig runner who burst into calculations by winning the Geelong Cup a fortnight ago, with a bold ride from James Macdonald, sweeping around the field when the pace slackened. Not sure many other jockeys could get away with that, Dwayne Dunn couldn't. Had been OK but nothing special in his other Australian runs. Previous form in Dubai, didn't appear much left in the tank at end of the Dubai Gold Cup. Big step up from the Geelong Cup here, he's no Americain or Dunaden having their tune-up run. Not for me.

Kingfisher - allegedly the one Coolmore have had lined up for the Melbourne Cup for two years. Consistency is my biggest gripe with this one - some excellent runs mixed in with absolute shockers. Should have won the Ascot Gold Cup in June but for repeated interference, but his two runs since have been terrible, beaten 16 and 43 lengths. The stable have declared he will race forward, his work at Werribee leading Bondi Beach had suggested so already, and he has the second or third-string stable jockey aboard, so look for him to be ensuring a steady tempo as an unofficial pacemaker, but one with some sort of chance. Stamina not in question.

Prince of Penzance - led in the MV Cup, set a hot tempo and was gunned down late. His last win was the same race last year and there have been plenty of easier races in between. Pushes through to lead, or he won't be seen at all. No hope.

Bondi Beach - lost, won then lost again the English St. Leger in September after a typical British racing stewarding farce. Robbed of the win at his previous start at York when Storm he Stars took him right across the track. Nicely weighted and well seasoned at similar distances, Coolmore have waited patiently for the right type to return to Melbourne with. Has only had five starts, never worse than second and never beaten more than half a length. The main negative is lack of competitive racing - he hasn't run in a field with ten or more runners so he better be set for a lot of bumping. Needs to overcome the poor history of European runners without a local start. Has a touch of class and suited here.

Sertorius - zero chance. Goes forward from gate five and then gets in the way of everything when the tank is empty at the 600.

The United States - MV Cup winner who took the rails run to chase down the leader, but had very little in the tank on the line. Magic Man Moreira aboard, will need to work that magic to win on this. Deserves to be a few more kilos away from the classier beasts at the top of the weights.

Excess Knowledge - gained a run by winning the Lexus on Saturday. By Monsun, massive tick. Finally showing his true colours getting out to a distance but still think there's a class gap to make up. Gate 24 certainly won't help.

Gust of Wind - 4yo mare who started the year as a maiden, then inflicted Winx's most recent defeat in the ATC Oaks in April. Had all the positives for the Caulfield Cup, barrier, jockey, weight, age trend etc, (my money not necessarily a positive) and ran a nice fourth. Draws 19 here, some query on the distance, have to let her go this time.

There are historical stats and trends which people hang onto like gold teeth, but records are made to be broken. Foreign raiders having their first start in Australia have been beaten by inches, so the 'must a local lead-up run' hoodoo must be blown away forever soon. Times change. Training methods change. The Bart Cummings blueprint is no longer. Travel methods adapt. It's an anomalous record which disappears soon, and hopefully tomorrow. Dermot Weld did it over twenty years ago and Willie Mullins is an even better trainer. And then there's Aidan O'Brien. They've won the Cox Plate, now the Melbourne Cup goes top of their list. Finding it very hard to split my top two picks so I'll be backing both, and most likely throwing the third pick in the top of my trifectas as well. The others go into all my exotics for the placings.

Bondi Beach
Max Dynamite
Trip to Paris
Fame Game
Sky Hunter
Who Shot Thebarman
Snow Sky