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The Melbourne Cup preview 2019

We're back again for the greatest race on turf, the world's richest staying race and the only race in the world which creates a public holiday for millions of locals.

Once again a fine international field has been assembled and it's worth a deep look at the race. So get a cuppa and find a comfortable seat to plough your way through my preview!


The Lexus Melbourne Cup

Group 1, Handicap, 3200m
AUD 7,750,000
Flemington 1500 local, 0400 GMT
Broadcasters - Network 10 (AUS), (worldwide), SkySportsRacing (UK)

1. Cross Counter
Trainer - Charlie Appleby (one previous Cup win)
Jockey - William Buick
Breeding - Teofilo - Waitress
Drawn 5, Weight 57.5kg

Last year's impressive winner who doesn't get the 3yo weight advantage this time. Won first up at Meydan in March but has run fourth, third, fourth in the big set weights staying races in England and Ireland, never quite making it as the next big staying star. While running close behind Stradivarius isn't to be sneezed at, fourth in the Irish St Leger was disappointing and unless he thrives under the Australian sun again, I have grave concerns for his ability to step up to the mark as topweight this year. Only the freak Makybe Diva has won from so high in the weights in the past 30 years.

Current odds: 13
SF assessed odds to 100%: 21 

Melbourne Cup 2018

2. Mer de Glace
Trainer - Hisashi Shimizu
Jockey - Damian Lane
Breeding - Rulership - Glacier Blue
Drawn 2, Weight 56kgs 

The class act of the field, winning the Caulfield Cup with ease to start the Japanese domination of the spring features. Brings a picket fence of six wins in a row, all this year. Hasn't run this far before yet the same issue didn't hold him back over 2400m. You can argue there were several unlucky runners at Caulfield but similarly this horse wasn't fully pushed out. Still improving and breeding suggests 3200m won't be a problem. The lone Japanese winner of the Cup, Delta Blues, carried this same weight in 2006 and Protectionist carried a half kilo more in 2014.

Damian Lane is going for history, to be the first jockey to ride the winner in the Golden Slipper, Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup in a calendar year. Barrier two won't help but Lane could win on a broomstick at the moment. Great story of him riding in Japan during the year and convincing the respective owners to send their horses out for the rich prizemoney of the spring carnival. Has to go close, very close, but traffic looks his biggest concern.

Current odds: 6.5
SF assessed odds: 7

Caulfield Cup 2019

3. Master of Reality
Trainer - Joseph O'Brien (one previous Melbourne Cup win)
Jockey - Frankie Dettori
Breeding - Frankel - L'Ancresse
Drawn 1, Weight 55.5kg

Formerly trained by Pascal Bary in France, was purchased by Lloyd Williams late in 2018 and sent to Joseph O'Brien. Gelded in the off-season and won first-up at 33/1 in April in the Vintage Crop Stakes, defeating Mustajeer, Southern France and Twilight Payment virtually off level weights. That form alone is good but this was five months ago at the very start of each horse's campaign, in a small field with a very slow time. While classy in its own right, for this race, this is plodder form. Doesn't have the speed or acceleration to go with these. Draws a horror gate of one, meaning he has to ping the gates to take a forward position else he'll be locked away on the fence and never be seen again. Surely even Dettori can't work this miracle.

Current odds: 26

SF assessed odds to 100%: 61 

Vintage Crop Stakes 2019

4. Mirage Dancer
Trainer - Trent Busuttin & Natalie Young
Jockey - Ben Melham
Breeding - Frankel - Heat Haze
Drawn 13, Weight 55.5kg

A tricky horse to get a handle on. Immense talent in the UK but never seemed to reach the heights he promised in his first few starts. Has placings behind Benbatl, Cracksman and Best Solution, all very solid reference points, and then finished a strong third in the Caulfield Cup at his first local appearance after settling close to the pace. The midfield draw is ideal and will allow him to roll forward to take a position. Every horse who finished around him at Caulfield has shortened in the betting, whereas Mirage Dancer has gone the other way. I find that a little strange. Not convinced he has the killer instinct required to snare a big race but will be in the mix.

Current odds: 34

SF assessed odds to 100%: 21 

Glorious Stakes 2019 win

5. Southern France
Trainer - Ciaran Maher and David Eustace
Jockey - Mark Zahra
Breeding - Galileo - Alta Anna
Drawn 14, Weight 55.5kg

Difficult one to assess. Promised so much for Aidan O'Brien, wasn't able to crack a big result. After wins at his second and third starts (runner-up on debut to leading Champion Hurdle 2020 chance Coeur Sublime), he then kept running into something better - Kew Gardens, Stradivarius, Defoe, Master of Reality, Twilight Payment, Mustajeer. Won the Irish St Leger Trial in August but this is what I call a pack animal. Form too close to the rest of the Irish visitors. Will range up, look a chance and just finish in the pack.

Current odds: 21
SF assessed odds to 100%: 67 

Irish St Leger Trial 2019

6. Hunting Horn
Trainer - Aidan O'Brien
Jockey - Seamie Heffernan
Breeding - Camelot - Mora Bai
Drawn 11, Weight 55kg

Had this one in my blackbook as early as May last year but just hasn't come on. Regularly used by Ballydoyle as either a pacemaker or their B-grade Group horse, has won only three times in 22 starts. Won a farcically-paced Moonee Valley Cup a week ago, he's a doubt at the distance in a truly-run race and a doubt on class. No.

Current odds: 34

SF assessed odds to 100%: 201 

Moonee Valley Cup 2019

7. Latrobe
Trainer - Joseph O'Brien (one previous Melbourne Cup win)
Jockey - James McDonald
Breeding - Camelot - Question Times
Drawn 22, Weight 55kg

Won the Irish Derby last year then hasn't progressed on BHA or RP ratings since. Had his copybook blotted in Aussie eyes last spring when beaten by Trap For Fools in a disappointing strength Mackinnon over 2000m, then was down the track on International Day at Sha Tin. This season's campaign has been in Group races, finishing close up regularly but only winning the Ballyroan Stakes, the weakest contest he faced. Finished ahead of Southern France and Mustajeer in the Curragh Cup (a neck behind Twilight Payment), part of the regular rotation of Irish results. Bear in mind the Williams/O'Brien focus on this target but I don't think he's good enough. Barrier 22 really doesn't help.

Current odds: 26
SF assessed odds to 100%: 81 

 Ballyroan Stakes 2019

8. Mustajeer
Trainer - Kris Lees
Jockey - Damien Oliver (three previous Melbourne Cup wins)
Breeding - Medicean - Qelaan
Drawn 6, Weight 55kg

Recent Australian Bloodstock purchase who seems to peak in the latter half of the year, particularly in big handicaps. Once owned by Godolphin, Ger Lyons took him in and achieved a fourth in the 2018 Ebor. This season's Ebor was a much stronger contest due to a sharp infusion of prizemoney and after a season of being thereabouts in Ireland, the gelding peaked perfectly at York to win the first £1m Flat handicap in Europe. Behind him that day were numerous horses aimed at this Cup, Red Galileo, Raymond Tusk, True Self, Prince of Arran, Raheen House, Red Verdon and the timeless Max Dynamite. Drew 2 that day and sat midfield. Crucially, at York, they shift off the rail in the straight towards the middle or even the outside rail, meaning there was little risk of being locked up on the rail. He worked his way up on the inside and won without any traffic problems at all, a huge advantage in a big handicap. Switched to Kris Lees, Mustajeer ran a hard-finishing sixth at Caulfield, beaten under two lengths after sitting at the back, inside Mer De Glace, and never quite seeing the space the winner did. Doubt it cost him the win but surely would have been closer at the line. Draws six here, can't dream of the perfect track through the field like in the Ebor but does have the master hands of Damien Oliver aboard. Relishes the big handicaps, wants the big open spaces, think he's over the odds, I mark him closer to 10/1.

Current odds: 17

SF assessed odds to 100%: 11 

Ebor Handicap win 2019

9. Rostropovich
Trainer - David & Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig ((one previous Melbourne Cup win for David)
Jockey - Dwayne Dunn
Breeding - Frankel - Tyranny
Drawn 12, Weight 55kg

Great run last year in fifth behind Cross Counter but has done sweet FA since. Got his antepost backers excited with an impressive trial win in early September but has gone backwards since. Forced to work hard into a strong headwind from a wide gate at Caulfield but just not in the form required to be competitive here.

Current odds: 81

SF assessed odds to 100%: 401 

See Cross Counter's 2018 Cup replay for his only recent performance of note.

10. Twilight Payment
Trainer - Joseph O'Brien (one previous Melbourne Cup win)
Jockey - Hugh Bowman
Breeding - Teofilo - Dream On Buddy
Drawn 19, Weight 55kg

Another one of the Irish brigade seemingly sharing the results around. Four solid runs for Jim Bolger this season, culminating in wins in a Listed race at Leopardstown and the G2 Curragh Cup over Latrobe, Southern France and Mustajeer at level weights. Was then purchased by Lloyd Williams and failed in the Irish St Leger alongside most of those above plus Cross Counter. A NH 6yo, he doesn't fit the profile of recent winners. We know his level, he might be honest and will start a far bigger price than all of his recent rivals, but not in the picture for the win. One for the wider exotics.

Current odds: 51

SF assessed odds to 100%: 41 

Curragh Cup 2019

11. Finche
Trainer - Chris Waller
Jockey - Kerrin McEvoy (three previous Melbourne Cup wins, incl two of past three)
Breeding - Frankel - Binche
Drawn 4, Weight 54kg 

Ran well last year when fresh off the plane, lightly raced, loves the big open spaces, likes to sit forward, drawn well, master trainer and jockey - understandably very popular in the market. Reminds me a lot of Fiorente who came back and won the Cup in similar circumstances. Won in Sydney early in the spring to show he was on track, then ran second in the Turnbull before an excellent fifth at Caulfield, when he was forced to race wide without cover. Enormous performance to finish so close in the circumstances, only succumbed in the final 100m. High class son of Frankel, red hot chance.

Current odds: 10

SF assessed odds to 100%: 7 

Kingston Town Stakes win 2019

12. Prince of Arran
Trainer - Charlie Fellowes
Jockey - Michael Walker
Breeding - Shirocco - Storming Sioux
Drawn 8, Weight 54kg

Grows the proverbial leg when in Australia, started 33/1 in Mustajeer's Ebor and finished eighth, and last in the Glorious Stakes behind Mirage Dancer (2nd), yet will start at similar prices in the Cup, such is the difference when he crosses the equator. Won the Hotham on Derby Day last year, then ran a blinder to finish third in the Cup off the three-day back-up. This year his campaign was focused on qualifying earlier so after just missing in the Herbert Power, he went to Geelong and won impressively, kicking clear at the top of the straight and fending off allcomers. That gave him the weight penalty to ensure he got a run and secured a longer break between runs. Very popular with the locals, drawn well, form figures of 1321 in his four Australian starts. Right in it.

Current odds: 17

SF assessed odds to 100%: 13 

Geelong Cup 2019

13. Raymond Tusk
Trainer - Richard Hannon Jr
Jockey - Jamie Spencer
Breeding - High Chaparral - Dancing Shoes
Drawn 3, Weight 54kg

The freshest horse in the field, not having run since the Ebor in late August. A relatively rare thing for British racing, owned by a big public syndicate, and a genuine chance in the world's richest staying race. A lightly-raced NH 4yo, he has mostly competed in Group races until his owners caught sight of the £1m pot in the Ebor. Drew wide, went to the back, had to make his way through the middle of the pack in the straight, (unlike Mustajeer who had a charmed path), made ground with ease through limited space, and then when finally clear, the winner had gone but ran home late for fourth. Still improving, hasn't been missed in the market. Barrier not ideal but doesn't have to drop so far back. Jamie Spencer is one of the best in the world, but if locked away on the paint, will need to be at his best to steer him clear. Definite chance, but slightly concerned about the draw.

Current odds: 19

SF assessed odds to 100%: 17 

Gran Premio del Jockey Club (Italian Derby) 2018

14. Downdraft
Trainer - Joseph O'Brien (one previous Melbourne Cup win)
Jockey - John Allen
Breeding - Camelot - Cinnamon Rose
Drawn 15, Weight 53.5kg

OTI-owned Irish stayer who has always been a Melbourne Cup prospect but never really progressed into a leading chance. After a pair of Listed races and a second in the Irish St Leger Trial behind Southern France, he has had two local runs - a third behind Hunting Horn in a slow-paced MV Cup, followed by winning the Hotham on Saturday to land his place, after Moses parted the Red Sea in front of him, leaving the gap after a perfect trip parked behind the lead. Drops 5.5kg from Saturday. Honest horse, obviously fit and in form but not rated as up to the best of them.

Current odds: 21

SF assessed odds to 100%: 36 

Hotham Hcp win

15. Magic Wand
Trainer - Aidan O'Brien
Jockey - Ryan Moore (one previous Melbourne Cup win)
Breeding - Galileo - Prudenzia
Drawn 24, Weight 53.5kg

Backs up after running fourth in the Cox Plate last week behind Japanese superstar Lys Gracieux. High class mare but has only won twice from 19 starts, is drawn the car park, has never run beyond 2400m and her trainer was in two minds whether to go to this race or the Mackinnon next Saturday (2000m). Some of her best runs have been close-up finishes in big fields with Ryan Moore aboard so racing in big packs shouldn't bother her too much. Does have very strong speed ratings at the highest level. If she stays, then she'll be in the mix for a decent cheque, but think this is more of a last roll of the dice before she retires to be a broodmare.

Current odds: 26

SF assessed odds to 100%: 51 

Ribblesdale win 2018

16. Neufbosc
Trainer - David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig (one previous Melbourne Cup win for David)
Jockey - Luke Nolen
Breeding - Mastercraftsman - Nonsuch Way
Drawn 23, Weight 53.5kg

Once a handy horse in Europe running placings in Group 1 and 2 races at Longchamp. Utterly useless since he was sold to Australia though, only finishing ahead of 11 horses in five runs. Needs to have been in the money in the Metropolitan or Geelong Cup to measure up here. Drawn 23, this is Luke Nolen's consolation for being bumped off Constantinople. Like getting a Matchbox Ferrari instead of a real one. When local fans complain about foreign runners keeping locals out of the race, it's horses like this one showing they have a genuine case. Absolutely nothing to suggest he has any hope at all.

Current odds: 201

SF assessed odds to 100%: 1000 

2nd Grand Prix de Paris 2018

17. Sound
Trainer - Mike Moroney (one previous Melbourne Cup win)
Jockey - James Winks
Breeding - Lando - Sky Dancing
Drawn 10, Weight 53.5kg

Former German horse who hasn't done much right since he landed in Australia, with a best result of fourth in the Tancred in March. Ordinarily that would place him in the same category as Neufbosc. BUT, I thought his run in the Caulfield Cup was enormous. Got bumped around early then sat three-wide with cover before setting off at the 700m mark. Loomed up five wide on the turn, between Finche and Vow and Declare, perhaps not going as well as them, but then got crunched between V&D and Red Verdon on his inside. Couldn't have won but might have gotten into the frame. Sat four-wide in the breeze for the entire trip last year, and understandably conked out on the home turn. Put him in your exotics, will be a huge price even to sneak a place.

Current odds: 126

SF assessed odds to 100%: 51 

2nd Grosser Preis von Berlin 2018 -  (raced as Sound Check)

18. Surprise Baby
Trainer - Paul Preusker
Jockey - Jordan Childs
Breeding - Shocking - Bula Baby
Drawn 20, Weight 53.5kg

One of the two genuine local hopes and will come up relatively short as a result. Has started just ten times in his career, highly unusual by local standards but after Cross Counter's win last year in just his eighth run, the training template has disappeared out the window. Won the Adelaide Cup in March, was beaten a lip in the Andrew Ramsden in May which could have given him automatic qualification, so then he went out and won the Bart Cummings Quality a month ago. That's as good as the domestic staying form gets before the internationals turn up. Carries 53.5kg which is slightly more than he carried to win at Morphettville - not a concern on the weight itself, more to highlight the rapid step up in class throughout the year. I have my doubts that the 'pure' local form is up to the quality of the internationals and timing guru Vince Accardi declared he'll be lucky to run in the first four. Would bring the house down if he won but think he'll be down the track.

Current odds: 15

SF assessed odds to 100%: 21 

Adelaide Cup 2019

19. Constantinople
Trainer - David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig (one previous Melbourne Cup win for David)
Jockey - Joao Moreira
Breeding - Galileo - One Moment In Time
Drawn 7, Weight 52.5kg

Another Coolmore castoff with similar issues to Southern France. Has picked up a couple of soft victories but just doesn't seem willing to win a bigger prize. Has the move to Australia changed his attitude? Was unlucky at Caulfield and Luke Nolen has been harshly dealt with IMO but there is no way I can have this horse as nearly favourite. Just doesn't hit the front often enough. In six starts this year, he hasn't been beaten even as far as two lengths, with one win and four seconds in Europe followed by a fourth at Caulfield. Super consistent but just can't get his head in front. Rekindling and Cross Counter had better strike rates in similar quality races and this horse now has to carry slightly more weight. Can't have him at the price.

Current odds: 8

SF assessed odds to 100%: 17 

2nd King George V Stakes 2019

20. Il Paradiso
Trainer - Aidan O'Brien
Jockey - Wayne Lordan
Breeding - Galileo - Famous
Drawn 17, Weight 52.5kg

Northern Hemisphere 3yos don't have quite the advantage of previous years after two wins in a row, but 52.5kgs is still a good deal for the right colt. A promising 2yo, he wasn't high in the Ballydoyle ranks for the Classics, starting at 40/1 in the Irish Derby and beaten 18L. When he stepped up in distance at his next start, his true talent emerged, winning a two-mile handicap by a dozen lengths and shooting up the ratings. Took on Stradivarius next time out, beaten just over a length in the G2 Lonsdale Cup at York. (For those of you not familiar with Stradivarius, he never wins by much, just grinds away and does as much as he needs to). At his most recent run, he finished fifth in the St Leger behind the next England staying star Logician, possibly hitting the front too early when the pacemaker ran out of steam. Beautiful chestnut colt with a wide white blaze, will be popular with those picking on mounting yard appearance alone. Drawn 17, should have enough clear space to take up a handy position by the turn. Don't worry about how little prizemoney he has taken home, this is the ideal race for him. The question, is whether he is quite good enough.

Current odds: 14

SF assessed odds to 100%: 14 

3rd Lonsdale Cup 2019 

21. Steel Prince
Trainer - Anthony Freedman 
Jockey - Brett Prebble (one previous Melbourne Cup win)
Breeding - Nathaniel - Steel Princess
Drawn 16, Weight 52.5kg

Similar formline to Surprise Baby earlier in the year, having beaten him in the Andrew Ramsden but that success meant his spring campaign would be planned differently. With a berth in the Cup locked in, Anthony Freedman could focus on the first Tuesday in November rather than the hassle of qualifying. Missed a run in the Herbert Power when played up at the barrier, then didn't perform in the Geelong Cup a fortnight ago. Will improve for getting to Flemington and out to 3200m, but just not good enough in the end.

Current odds: 61

SF assessed odds to 100%: 401 

Andrew Ramsden win, 2019

22. The Chosen One
Trainer - Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman
Jockey - Tim Clark
Breeding - Savabeel - The Glitzy One
Drawn 18, Weight 52kg

Kiwi galloper who ran fourth in the ATC Derby in the autumn and won the Herbert Power three weeks ago at Caulfield. We got excited about Yucatan's decisive win last year, this race was far more humdrum. Did beat Prince of Arran on that day though, not to be sneezed at. However since then, he's just finished mid-pack in the Caulfield Cup - drew wide but no excuses, then midfield again in the Hotham on Saturday. I was surprised he ran on Saturday as by raceday morning, he was guaranteed a start in the Cup so where he finished really didn't matter. After dropping out to last, he had no hope in that race, running on late while the winner Downdraft gained the cruisiest run you've ever seen on the rail. Overall verdict - inconclusive, but outside of that, I can't see him being up to the task anyway.

Current odds: 81

SF assessed odds to 100%: 201 

Herbert Power Handicap win 2019.

23. Vow And Declare 
Trainer - Danny O'Brien
Jockey - Craig Williams
Breeding - Declaration of War - Geblitzt
Drawn 21, Weight 52kg

The other big local hope. Connections started to dream last Oaks Day when he won over 1800m and qualified for this race via a runner-up finish in the Qld Derby and reigning supreme in the Tatts Cup over 3000m in June. Two runs this campaign have seen him run a tidy fourth in the Turnbull and that solid second in the Caulfield Cup. Just the 12 starts under his belt, still improving, will relish the distance and is ridden by a master.

Current odds: 12

SF assessed odds to 100%: 17 

2nd Qld Derby 2019 

24. Youngstar 
Trainer - Chris Waller
Jockey - Tommy Berry
Breeding - High Chaparral - Starspangled
Drawn 9, Weight 52kg

Sixth in last year's Cup concluding a strong spring whereas she ran an unlucky seventh in the Caulfield Cup and a close second to Winx in the Turnbull. This time around she has stuck to Sydney, running poorly until last time running third in the ATC St Leger. Qld Oaks winner last year but perhaps last season's Cups campaign took a lot out of her? Hasn't progressed this year, and it's only her result in last year's race which keep her even slightly in consideration now. Just can't see it, not running well enough.

Current odds: 34

SF assessed odds to 100%: 201 

Qld Oaks win, 2018


Based on a surface on borderline good/soft range, that should suit every horse with no obvious mudlarks or horses hating even a drop of water on the surface. Rain through the meeting on Saturday advantaged front-runners and the inside will have chopped up a bit, hence the rail going out 3m for Tuesday.

There are only a couple who absolutely can’t win. In the right circumstances, an outlier result like Prince of Penzance at 100/1 occurs but nearly always it comes down to underlying class and ability.

If any trainers have worked the miracle in being able to unlock a career-best beyond natural progression on the big day, good luck to them but I have to base it on what we’ve seen so far and the room left for that improvement- i.e. a 7yo having his 40th start is unlikely to get any better while a 4yo should still have more to come after only 10 starts.

I’ve narrowed it down to four

Mer de Glace - all class and has the turn of foot required to pounce at the right time. The Japanese have won everything else this spring, can become the first horse to win the Caulfield-Melbourne Cups double since Might and Power in 1997 (correction - Ethereal in 2001).

Mustajeer - comes alive in latter half of the year, can cruise through traffic before pushing the button, great run at Caulfield.

Finche - big brute of a horse who likes to bowl along. Drawn to not be parked four-wide the trip for a change but needs to jump well to not get buried on the rail. Very hard to get past in the straight.

Prince of Arran - thrives in Australia, drops in weight from Geelong, a week’s more rest this year is ideal.

As per usual, the main focus of my Cup betting is the trifecta. The pools are massive, plenty of mug money in there via mystery bets, lucky numbers and various once-a-year strategies. Get a horse outside the top half-dozen in the placings and the dividend is juicy.

Mer de Glace (2)
Mustajeer (8)
Finche (11)
Prince of Arran (12)

As above +
Twilight Payment (10)

Raymond Tusk (13)
Sound (17)
Il Paradiso (20)
Vow and Declare (23)

As above +
Cross Counter (1)
Mirage Dancer (4)
Constantinople (19)

In full:
2,8,11,12 x 2,8,10,11,12,13,17,20,23 x 1,2,4,8,10,11,12,13,17,19,20,23

Works out as 4x9x12 which is $320 for the full unit. I’ll take it for 25%

Win bets on Finche and Mustajeer.

Best absolute roughie - Sound

Best of luck! We can’t all end up winners but hope you get a collect or two, don’t go overboard, and most importantly, hope all 24 horses and riders get home safely.


  1. Bah, only a neck away from the trifecta. C'est la vie...


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