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Melbourne Cup runner-by-runner preview 2021

It's a funny Cup this year, with the world still dealing with (hopefully) the backend of a pandemic and the tighter veterinary regulation over imported runners, we have a largely Australian-trained field with just a handful of exceptions. Many locals will love it, "the form is easier to read", others will hate it "it shows just how bad our depth of local stayers really is" - either way, just deal with it and get on with finding the winner!

The favourite Incentivise bids to be the first horse to win the Cups double since Ethereal in 2001 but the horse everyone keeps comparing him to is Might And Power in 1997 who won at Caulfield by a street, then literally fell in by a nostril at Flemington when Greg Hall famously thought he'd won on Doriemus.


With the favourite at around 6/4, for most punters it will come down to a simple for or against Incentivise. But don't forget there's plenty of money to chase in the exotic pools, even if the favourite does win.

This post runs through the field runner-by-runner, I'll make a further post Monday morning Aus time (Sunday night UK time) with my selections.  

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2021 Lexus Melbourne Cup
Group 1 handicap, 3200m
Tuesday Nov 2, 1500 local time, 0400 GMT
Weather forecast - Fine, 30C
Expected going - Good 3/4 

1. Twilight Payment
Age & sex: 9g (by Aus timing, NH 8yo)
Barrier: 2

Breeding: Teofilo - Dream On Buddy (Oasis Dream)
Trainer: Joseph O'Brien (won 2017,2020)
Jockey: Jye McNeil (won 2020)
Weight: 58kg
Career Record: 36: 9-11-8 Prizemoney: $5,682,805
Best performance: won 2020 Melb Cup
Previous Cup starts: won 2020, 11th 2019 30/1 3.8L
Last run: 2nd Irish St Leger 12/9
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 9/1

Now a 9yo in Aus time, history against etc., but Joseph O'Brien has thrown away all the rules and trends books. We hadn't seen an 8yo win since 1938! Ran 3rd in Irish St Leger last year leading in, this year 2nd in a 4lbs better performance according to Racing Post Ratings, also a career best. Won last year via a daring ride from Jye McNeil where he ran them into the ground in the fastest time since 2002. A hard, dry track will not scare him. The rabbit's out of the hat now but there aren't a swag of internationals to take him on at his own game. He couldn't...could he?

2 Incentivise
Age & sex: 5g
Barrier: 16
Breeding: Shamus Award - Miss Argyle (Iglesia)
Trainer: Peter Moody
Jockey: Brett Prebble (won 2012)
Weight: 57kg
Career Record: 12: 9-0-0 Prizemoney: $4,643,300 Best performance: Won 2021 Caulfield Cup
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: Won 2021 Caulfield Cup, 16/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 6/4

Freak. Destroyed them in the Caulfield Cup, showed he didn't have to lead by parking on the pace, cruising up wide at the 1000 and bolting away in the straight. Has passed every test thrown at him this year with flying colours. Breeding doesn't scream out needing an extra 800m but he hasn't been stopping at the end of his 2400/2500m races - he's won 3/3 over that range by a collective 25L! Entitled to be this price, barring accidents, they'll need to be very good to stop him. 

3 Spanish Mission
Age & sex: 6h (by Aus timing, NH 5yo)
Barrier: 14
Breeding: Noble Mission - Limonar (Street Cry)
Trainer: Andrew Balding
Jockey: Craig Williams (won 2019)
Weight: 57kg
Career Record: 18:6-4-3
Prizemoney: $2,092,657
Best performance: Won 2021 Yorkshire Cup, G2, 2800m
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: 2nd Lonsdale Cup 20/8
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 7/1

Needed multiple vet inspections to be passed fit to run, not a great sign, but apparently it was just a skin infection. Not convinced on the hype about this horse, he's an old school UK stayer wanting at least two miles and unless Twilight Payment really strings them out again, I doubt he gets that. This time last year he was beating Selino, Sydney Cup winner, at Doncaster. Some concern about racing in a big field, best results so far have been in smaller fields (which tend to be the norm in British Group staying races). Happy to oppose.

4 Verry Elleegant
Age & sex: 6m
Barrier: 19
Breeding: Zed - Opulence (Danroad)
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: James McDonald
Weight: 57kg
Best performance: Won 2020 Caulf Cup
Career Record: 33:14-7-3
Prizemoney: $9,690,744
Previous Cup starts: 7th 2020
Last run: 3rd Cox Plate 23/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 14/1

Star mare who was a huge run last year running on late for 7th, dispelling any distance doubts. Essentially the same campaign as last year, but swapping a Caulfield Cup win for a third in the Cox Plate. Carries a very good horse's weight now, into Makybe Diva territory for a mare, but she's earned it, albeit at 2000-2400m instead. Jockey on fire at the moment, rode four winners on Derby Day.

5 Explosive Jack
Age & sex: 4h
Barrier: 4
Breeding: Jakkalberry - Extra Explosive (Ekraar)
Trainer: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace
Jockey: John Allen
Weight: 54kg
Career Record: 12:5-1-2
Prizemoney: $1,814,730 
Best performance: Won 2021 ATC Derby
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: 17th Caulfield Cup, 16/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 50/1

Resented racing inside horses after drawing the rail at Caulfield. Triple Derby winner last season, distance should be no trouble but inside gate again is the worry. Hasn't run a place in three starts this campaign (all from inside gates). Does have the flying Irishman John Allen aboard who has won the Cox Plate and the Derby in the past 10 days.

6 The Chosen One
Age & sex: 6h
Barrier: 5
Breeding: Savabeel - The Glitzy One (Flying Spur)
Trainer: Murray Baker & Andrew Forsman
Jockey: Damian Lane
Weight: 54kg
Career Record: 35:6-5-3
Prizemoney: $1,899,409
Best performance: 4th Melb Cup 2020
Previous Cup starts: 4th 2020, 40/1 2.35L, 17th 2019 30/1 5.2L
Last run: 14th Caulfield Cup 16/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 50/1

Disappointed at Caulfield but had synthetic hoof filler applied which is never a positive. Jockey reported he overraced and never settled. Went for an outside run rather than stay inside as She's Ideel did from alongside him and didn't run on. Lovely draw to take a position and go to sleep for the first 2400m if he's back to the form he had pre-Caulfield. Blinkers come off.

7 Delphi
Age & sex: 5h (by Aus timing, NH 4yo)
Barrier: 3
Breeding: Galileo - Bye Bye Birdie (Oasis Dream)
Trainer: Anthony & Sam Freedman
Jockey: Damien Oliver (won 1995,2002,2013)
Weight: 53.5kg
Career Record: 10:5-1-0
Prizemoney: $360,841
Best performance: 2021 Herbert Power
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: 13th Caulfield Cup 16/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 40/1

Drew wide, went to lead at Caulfield and couldn't handle the pressure, not helped by one-week backup. Was mighty impressive in the Herbert Power before that. Rested up now and better drawn. Forgive last time? That was only his second run on a wet track and has been terrible each time, so perhaps it wasn't just the race pressure which beat him. Needs to jump well from gate three or he gets smothered up and loses any advantage in his free-running style.

8 Ocean Billy
Age & sex: 6g
Barrier: 13
Breeding: Ocean Park - Cool Storm (One Cool Cat)
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Damien Thornton
Weight: 53.5kg
Career Record: 25:7-1-1
Prizemoney: $547,720
Best performance: 2021 Auckland Cup
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: 9th Caulfield Cup 16/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 100/1

Gets out to right distance, midfield at Caulfield looking for further. Won't be stopping, won the Auckland and Waikato Cups last summer, it's just a matter of whether he's fast enough to repeat that in this class. If you want to throw in a roughie to run third or fourth for exotics, he might be the one. 

9 Selino
Age & sex: 6g (by Aus timing, NH 5yo)
Barrier: 24
Breeding: Champs Elysees - Air Kiss (Red Ransom)
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Ron Stewart
Weight: 53.5kg
Career Record: 20:3-5-2
Prizemoney: $1,481,470
Best performance: Won 2021 Sydney Cup
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: 15th Caulfield Cup 16/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 66/1

Sydney Cup winner better suited at this trip, having two wins and three seconds from six starts beyond 2800m. Last year in the UK he twice ran second to Spanish Mission at level weights - which either means he has loads of improvement ahead of him, or the second favourite is over-rated! Did nothing at Caulfield (wide gate) and hard to believe he'll be more competitive here based on that performance unless you give enormous weight to his ground preference. He rounded the field to win the Sydney Cup comfortably at 25/1 for this jockey on a good surface, with lacklustre form in all previous Aus starts (all on soft ground). This time in, fairly ordinary but his best run was in the Bart Cummings (5th, beaten 2.05L) on the driest ground of this prep, excluding first-up at a mile, the shortest race of his career. Drawn the outside but it's scheduled to be 30C on Tuesday with no rain between now & then. Perhaps there is due cause for a shock. Also has blinkers on for the first time.

10 Johnny Get Angry
Age & sex: 4g
Barrier: 22
Breeding: Tavistock - Luminova (Zabeel)
Trainer: Denis Pagan
Jockey: Lachlan King
Weight: 53kg
Career Record: 11:1-1-2
Prizemoney: $1,268,675
Best performance: Won 2020 VRC Derby
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: 12th Geelong Cup 20/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 80/1

Marvellous story to win the Derby last season for hobby trainer and ex-AFL Premiership coach. That's his only career win to date! But that was then, this is now. This campaign, he's going terribly, beating only four horses home in four starts since that Classic win. At last two starts, the jockey has reported potential breathing problems. You'd think that would mean straight off for a wind operation rather than pressing on with the campaign. Clear favourite to run last.

11 Knight's Order
Age & sex: 7g (by Aus timing, NH 6yo)
Barrier: 9
Breeding: So You Think - Lamanka Lass (Woodman)
Trainer: Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott (GW won in 2013)
Jockey: Daniel Stackhouse
Weight: 53kg
Career Record: 21:7-0-2
Prizemoney: $473,501
Best performance: Won 2021 Brisbane Cup
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: 7th Hotham Hcp 30/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 200/1

Won the Brisbane Cup in June, but that is nothing like this level. Beaten a long way in the Hotham after leading on a hot pace, suppose that tightens him up for Tuesday but simply not in this class. Ran 4th in the plodders race on Cup Day last year, should have been there again.

12 Persan
Age & sex: 5g
Barrier: 11
Breeding: Pierro - Ofcourseican (Mossman)
Trainer: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace
Jockey: Luke Currie
Weight: 53kg
Career Record: 27:7-5-3
Prizemoney: $1,404,721
Best performance: Won 2020 Bart Cummings/ 3rd 2021 Caulfield Cup
Previous Cup starts: 5th 2020, 40/1, 2.45L
Last run: 3rd Caulfield Cup 16/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 25/1

Solid local stayer, nice third at Caulfield albeit 5L behind Incentivise, sticking on after a strong pace when he eyeballed Delphi in the lead, forced that one (second fav) to melt under the strain, . That's a higher level of form than coming in last year when he ran fifth, beaten less than 2.5L and reported feeling heat stress afterwards. Going very well this year, his 'worst' performance of the year was in the Turnbull, his first try at 2000m G1 (Set weights & penalties). Each-way chance.

13 Carif
Age & sex: 7g
Barrier: 8
Breeding: So You Think - Norzita (Thorn Park)
Trainer: Peter & Paul Snowden
Jockey: Blaike McDougall
Weight: 52.5kg
Career Record: 37:3-8-1
Prizemoney: $730,285
Best performance: 2nd 2021 Brisbane Cup
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: 7th City Tatts Cup 23/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 200/1

2nd in Brisbane Cup and Premiers Cup in May/June, 4th in ATC St Leger last month, and they were the 'better' results. Very one-paced - if he jumps well, he goes OK. Slow out, he won't be seen. His best is still nowhere near the form needed here, this is the sort of dross which gets a run when the internationals don't come.

14 Master of Wine
Age & sex: 7g (by Aus timing, NH 6yo)
Barrier: 6
Breeding: Maxios - Magma (Dubai Destination)
Trainer: M, W & J Hawkes
Jockey: Fred Kersley
Weight: 52.5kg
Career Record: 28:5-5-4
Prizemoney: $900,309
Best performance: 3rd 2021 Bart Cummings
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: 12th Caulfield Cup 16/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 100/1

Showed a spark of old form when third in the Bart Cummings early Oct (running on from the tail off a fast pace, behind Grand Promenade and Tralee Rose, ahead of Selino, Pondus, Miami Bound, Knights Order, Port Guillaume) but reverted to type when 12th at Caulfield. Was going much better last year when finished 10th at Caulfield and 8th in the Cox Plate, beaten 9L. Not won for nearly 600 days, that won't be rectified here.

15 Pondus
Age & sex: 6g (by Aus timing, NH 5yo)
Barrier: 1
Breeding: Sea The Moon - Diablerette (Green Desert)
Trainer: Robert Hickmott (won 2012,2016)
Jockey: Rachel King
Weight: 52.5kg
Career Record: 19:3-7-1
Prizemoney: $336,109
Best performance: 2nd 2021 Curragh Cup
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: 4th MV Cup 23/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 33/1

Came out last year for Joseph O'Brien, didn't qualify and ran second in the Bendigo Cup and Queen Elizabeth. Now trained by Robert Hickmott, he's run fifth in the Bart Cummings (led, went too fast) and fourth in the MV Cup (started $2.20). That's not screaming Melb Cup winner to me.

16 Grand Promenade
Age & sex: 6g (by Aus timing, NH 5yo)
Barrier: 21
Breeding: Champs Elysees - Zacchera (Zamindar)
Trainer: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace
Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy (won 2000,2016,2018)
Weight: 52kg
Career Record: 19:8-4-2
Prizemoney: $1,009,800
Best performance: Won 2021 Bart Cummings
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: 1st Bart Cummings 2/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 18/1

Outstanding record of three wins from five here (his last three), also ran second in the Andrew Ramsden in May (a qualifying race) and a fourth in restricted company last year. Raced prominently in the Bart Cummings on a fast pace (+18L vs class benchmark before the 800m) and held on as the rest stopped (-12L v class benchmark last 400m). Profile of fast pace lead-up into target race is ideal. Sits forward, can make his own luck although draw is tricky. One of four runners for Maher & Eustace, will be competitive.

17 Miami Bound
Age & sex: 5m
Barrier: 17
Breeding: Reliable Man - Arapaho Miss (Danehill Dancer)
Trainer: Danny O'Brien (won 2019)
Jockey: Patrick Moloney
Weight: 52kg
Career Record: 26:5-0-5
Prizemoney: $1,672,200
Best performance: Won 2020 MV Gold Cup
Previous Cup starts: 14th 2020, track too hard?
Last run: 10.55L 5th MV Cup 23/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 150/1

14th last year after winning MV Cup the start before, same path this year but only finished fifth. Won the VRC Oaks two years ago. Seemingly at best on wet tracks these days although showed a bit in Sydney in the autumn (3rd Tancred, 3rd Sydney Cup) on drier surfaces. Blinkers on first time, just not up to this class.

18 Port Guillaume
Age & sex: 5g ((by Aus timing, NH 4yo)
Barrier: 23
Breeding: Le Havre - Keira (Turtle Bowl)
Trainer: Ben & JD Hayes
Jockey: Harry Coffey
Weight: 52kg
Career Record: 10:4-0-0
Prizemoney: $308,688
Best performance: Won 2020 G2 Prix Hocquart
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: 10th Caulfield Cup 16/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 125/1

G2-winning French galloper who was injured last year and couldn't run in the Cups. This year he's had two decent runs at Caulfield, with a poor one at Flemington in between (caught wide in the breeze on a mad pace, punctured badly and pulled up lame). No tactical speed shown in Aus, got no hope if he keeps dropping to the tail every time. Unlikely to do anything else from gate 23, at least he won't get in anyone's way. 

19 She's Ideel
Age & sex: 6m
Barrier: 20
Breeding: Dundeel - Ana's Mail (Anabaa)
Trainer: Bjorn Baker
Jockey: Craig Newitt
Weight: 52kg
Career Record: 25:6-6-5
Prizemoney: $1,101,175
Best performance: 2nd 2021 Tancred Stks 
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: 7th Caulfield Cup 16/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 125/1

Cheap run in Caulfield Cup along the rail, battled on well for seventh. 4th in Sydney Cup in autumn without the clearest of runs, 2nd in Tancred, but while she won the G3 Kingston Town in September, her last two (9th in Metropolitan, 7th Caulfield without doing any work) don't enthuse but will still be going at the finish.

20 Future Score
Age & sex: 7g (by Aus timing, NH 6yo)
Barrier: 15
Breeding: Cape Cross - Theola (Kalanisi)
Trainer: Matt Cumani
Jockey: Dean Yendall
Weight: 51.5kg
Career Record: 22:6-2-4
Prizemoney: $565,381
Best performance: 3rd 2020 Zipping Classic
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: 6th MV Cup 23/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 250/1

Well beaten in the Naturalism, Herbert Power and MV Cup this time, hasn't finished in the front half of the field in any of them. Running because of the big syndicate and good luck to the owners, enjoy your day, but it does not have a hope in hell of winning.

21 Tralee Rose
Age & sex: 5m
Barrier: 12
Breeding: Tavistock - Star of Tralee (Zabeel)
Trainer: Symon Wilde
Jockey: Dean Holland
Weight: 51kg
Career Record: 15:6-4-2
Prizemoney: $744,725
Best performance: Won 2021 Geelong Cup
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: Won Geelong Cup 20/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 15/1

Super consistent mare who this year has won the Listed Bagot Hcp on New Year's Day, the G3 Lord Reims at Morphettville, 4th in Adelaide Cup (started odds-on, cruised up on the turn then pulled up with respiratory problem -> forgive), 3rd in Naturalism, 2nd in Bart Cummings, won at Geelong when she was taken on all down the straight. Lightweight, stays all day, still improving. This is a very good mare who should get a great run from gate 12.

22 Floating Artist
Age & sex: 6g (by Aus timing, NH 5yo)
Barrier: 10
Breeding: Nathaniel - Miss Kenton (Pivotal)
Trainer: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace
Jockey: Teodore Nugent (apprentice)
Weight: 50kg
Career Record: 16:5-2-1
Prizemoney: $479,018
Best performance: 2nd 2021 MV Cup
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: 2nd 2021 MV Cup 23/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 16/1

Scrapes into the field. Was a promising horse in England, running nice races behind Nayef Road, Fujiara Prince, Le Don de Vie and Trueshan before being sold to Aus. Got in with a low rating and rapidly raced his way through the classes although costly at his last two, beaten in the Coongy (no reason given) and MV Cup (found all the bad luck). Bred to love this trip, still think he's better than what he has shown in Aus. Rookie jockey who'll need to keep him out of trouble but absolutely a chance from nice draw.

23 Great House
Age & sex: 5g
Barrier: 7
Breeding: Galileo - Anja (Indian Ridge)
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Michael Dee
Weight: 50kg
Career Record: 15:5-2-3
Prizemoney: $694,290
Best performance: Won 2021 Newcastle Cup & Hotham Hcp
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: Won Hotham Hcp 30/10
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 20/1

Ensured a place in the field by winning the Hotham. What does that take out of him? Was run at 17.4L faster than class benchmark which shows high class, but can leave a mark on him. Won the Newcastle Cup in September, I think the last Melb Cup winner to win that race in the same year was Gurners Lane back in 1982 but Green Moon won the 2012 Melb Cup the year after winning at Newcastle.  Nice run in Caulfield Cup with all the favours. Best of luck to friend of the blog and social media racing guru Andrew Hawkins, now Racing Manager for Highclere Australia, the syndicators behind this one. In for place money at least.

24 Sir Lucan
Age & sex: 4h
Barrier: 18
Breeding: Camelot - Sparrow (Oasis Dream)
Trainer: Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott (GW won in 2013)
Jockey: Glen Boss (won 2003,2004,2005)
Weight: 50kg
Career Record: 8:2-1-0
Prizemoney: $152,296
Best performance: 2nd, 2021 Gordon Stks, Goodwood
Previous Cup starts: none
Last run: 8th (English) St Leger 11/9
Odds as of Saturday night UK time: 25/1

Full brother to Sir Dragonet who has always looked more of a stayer than last year's Cox Plate winner. Beat Wordsworth in a Listed race back in May, and that horse started 5/4 against Twilight Payment in the Irish St Leger Trial. Then performed admirably without winning in the G3 Gordon Stks at Goodwood and the G2 Great Voltigeur at York before being run off his legs in the highest-rating St Leger (according to Racing Post Ratings) for at least a decade. Fresh off the plane, how will he go? Gai Waterhouse went very close with Fiorente in similar pattern back in 2012, thus must be a solid chance. Owned by the Ozzie Kheir group who have a very strong hand in the race (also have Incentive and Verry Elleegant).

For my final selections, click here.


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