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Hawk’s 2015 Dubai World Cup Night Analysis and Selections

March 28, 2015

The world’s richest race meeting, the Dubai World Cup, is upon us again, and all eyes will be on Meydan tonight as runners from all over the world converge.

It’s been a big week of doing form ahead of this all-important meeting, especially as Meydan makes the switch back from Tapeta to dirt.

I was privileged to join William Hill’s Luke Elder and Timeform’s Calum Madell to chat about the card on Wednesday night. Have a watch here:

 

I also wrote a story in my weekly blog for the South China Morning Post about how different punters across the world assess myriad global formlines ahead of the Dubai meeting, including a suggested bet for different totes. Have a read here.

Here are my selections (with short analysis) for tonight’s Dubai World Cup meeting (avoiding the first race, the Kahayla Classic for purebred Arabians):

Race 2 – GROUP 2 GODOLPHIN MILE (1600m)

Some quarters have tried to argue this is the strongest Godolphin Mile in years, but I think if you were to throw the last three winners in this race – Variety Club (2014), Soft Falling Rain (2013) or African Story (2012) – they would win easily. So it’s a race I’m not really too keen on.

TAMARKUZ has been simply outstanding, albeit against fairly weak fields, since stepping up to the mile on the Meydan dirt. To be fair, he’s drawn well at each start and has been able to jump out and dictate fairly comfortably. He’s drawn the inside again so should be able to jump out and lead once more, but he might face more pressure this time. Still, he’s the form horse, he’s proven and he is almost a selection by default.

Looking for dangers, the one I’d be keen to back is PRAYER FOR RELIEF, now with Mike De Kock after a storied American career. He has attracted the “non-winner” tag with plenty of seconds, thirds and fourths, but for the most part he comes from the strongest American formlines and he steps back in class here. The awkward draw, though, will make it difficult, hence why I don’t have him on top. Worth a play though if he remains around 12/1 or above.

At odds, could see GRAPHIC run a big race first time on dirt, while another first timer on dirt SLOANE AVENUE is bred to handle the surface and would be another higher up in my numbers if not for the awkward draw. Next best is the inconsistent American BRADESTER, while I could also have something small on former Australian galloper FREE WHEELING at gigantic odds.

1 – TAMARKUZ
8 – PRAYER FOR RELIEF
15 – GRAPHIC
9 – SLOANE AVENUE

 

Race 3 – GROUP 2 DUBAI GOLD CUP (3200m)

This looks an unpredictable race with a number of different formlines and a number of horses who look unlikely to stay the trip, so it’s a tough race to assess.

AHZEEMAH is a top horse on his day, but definitely mixes his form. He was too bad to be true in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy, beaten 50 lengths, and one must make a decision whether to take him on that run or not. I’ve decided to draw a line through it, and if he runs to his Goodwood Cup second or even his second in this race two years ago ¬– both behind Cavalryman – he will go very close to winning here. Expect a far better performance and at 8/1 he’s worth a throw at the stumps.

BROWN PANTHER has been one of the most consistent stayers over the last two seasons, winning the Goodwood Cup and the Irish St Leger and recording a number of placings. He returns first up off a rare flop in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, but I think a mile and a half is too sharp for him these days. Back up to two miles here, he’ll roll forward and be in this for a long, long way.

The emerging talent in the race is French galloper BATHYRHON, a winner of the Prix Gladiateur and second in the Prix Du Cadran at the end of last year. He did run last of four in the Prix Kergorlay to Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist, but was only beaten three and a half lengths – less than Protectionist’s winning Melbourne Cup margin. Take into account he was in the worst ground on the inside and it wasn’t a terrible run by any means. It appears that firm ground is best for him, although he will never have struck ground as firm as he encounters here. He’s a definite chance.

Next best Nad Al Sheba Trophy first and third ALMOONQITH and STAR EMPIRE.

15 – AHZEEMAH
14 – BROWN PANTHER
8 – BATHYRHON
9 – ALMOONQITH

 

Race 4 – GROUP 2 UAE DERBY (1900m)

A race that can sometimes be quite disappointing, it looks a terrific edition this year and for the first time in a number of years it looks like it could be a solid Kentucky Derby lead-up race, if MUBTAAHIJ or MAFTOOL salute.

Those two come through the local lead-ups and have created quite the rivalry so far, but I’m looking outside of these, instead siding with Japanese three-year-old GOLDEN BAROWS. By American super sire Tapit, his win in the Hyacinth Stakes in Tokyo was electrifying, coming from a long way back to easily waltz by his rivals. There is some concern about his ability to stay the trip, and of course there’s the query about the deeper dirt surface, but I think ability wise he’ll prove hard to beat.

Mubtaahij does look the logical danger, having won the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial and the Al Bastakiya and having just gone down in a ding-dong battle with Maftool in the UAE 2000 Guineas itself. He is shaping as a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender and does loom as the best of the locals here.

Next best are DEAR DOMUS, who was well beaten by Golden Barows in the Hyacinth Stakes but has the pedigree to suggest he’ll relish the step up in trip, and SIR FEVER, the Uruguayan Triple Crown champion who was easily defeated by Mubtaahij in the Al Bastakiya but gets blinkers on here and will improve.

I’m happy to take on Godolphin’s Maftool, with big concerns about his ability to stay a strong 1900m.

7 – GOLDEN BAROWS
1 – MUBTAAHIJ
10 – DEAR DOMUS
4 – SIR FEVER

 

Race 5 – GROUP 1 AL QUOZ SPRINT (1000m)

A ridiculously open race, with plenty of conflicting formlines and a number of chances.

Despite having some “bias”, so to speak, towards the Hong Kong horses, I’m not convinced our horses are well suited this year. I don’t think BUNDLE OF JOY is good enough, last year’s winner AMBER SKY is obviously good enough but has had a torrid season and may get involved in a speed battle with the likes of American speedster DISTINCTIV PASSION so is worth taking on, and as for PENIAPHOBIA…well, I think he’s potentially the best horse in the race but I’m not sure about him over five furlongs. I’m particularly concerned that he might get run off his feet in the middle stages and will struggle to pick up until the race is all over.

Still, I think Peniaphobia is a strong chance if all works out for him. He is under the odds now, though, so instead I’ll side with the very consistent AHTOUG. He finished second in both the Meydan Sprint and the Al Quoz Sprint last year, and is again coming off a second in the Meydan Sprint last time out. He’s drawn in the perfect spot to get a trail behind the speed and should be in the mix late.

We’ll go with Peniaphobia second ahead of VIA AFRICA, a South African Group 1 winner who was somewhat disappointing first-up in the Meydan Sprint. Still, it was her first run since May last year and I’m expecting her to have taken great improvement for the effort. Expect her to feature somewhere.

Next best MIRZA, who is a well-exposed eight-year-old but had some nice form towards the end of last season and can put in a big run at odds, and CASPAR NETSCHER.

13 – AHTOUG
16 – PENIAPHOBIA
4 – VIA AFRICA
8 – MIRZA

 

Race 6 – GROUP 1 GOLDEN SHAHEEN (1200m)

Back on dirt this time around, this is shaping up as a clash between the United States – who won seven of the final 10 runnings of the race at the old Nad Al Sheba course – and Hong Kong, which has unexpectedly emerged as a stronghold for dirt sprinters.

Perhaps it is my Hong Kong bias shining through, but I believe this is the best opportunity of the Bauhinia flag flying high tonight. And I do think RICH TAPESTRY looms as the one to beat. He finished second in this race last year to compatriot Sterling City, albeit on the Tapeta, but he then went to the United States where he won the Santa Anita Sprint Championship. That day, he beat SECRET CIRCLE on his home turf, and did it comfortably. He’s drawn to get the perfect run, he flies fresh (not uncommon for a bleeder like him) and his preparation has been alright. There was a slight hitch when he flew out to Dubai, losing a bit of weight and coming up slightly dehydrated, but he looks to have bounced back well and I expect him to feature heavily.

If LUCKY NINE was tackling this surface at his prime, I’d be extremely confident he would win. He has run on the dirt in Hong Kong twice, winning in Class 3 before backing up a week later to run second to Hong Kong Sprint runner-up Entrapment in Class 1. This was in 2010, though, but he simply hasn’t had the opportunity to run on it since. In that time, he’s won seven Group 1 races, he’s travelled all over the world, he ran third in the Golden Shaheen on the Tapeta, and now he returns to tackle the dirt. His form is mixed, but he was a strong third in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize last time out and that would make him competitive here. There’s been some concern about his high head carriage in trackwork during the week, but photos from his Hong Kong trackwork suggest this is fairly normal for him. If he can run to his best he will figure.

The American trio – Secret Circle, SALUTOS AMIGOS and BIG MACHER – form a formidable team, with 2013 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Secret Circle looking the best of them. I’m not convinced about the form around Salutos Amigos, while Big Macher is speedy but too inconsistent for mine. If there’s to be an upset it could come from a former American, COOL COWBOY.

Still, I’m happy to stick with the Hongkongers here.

4 – RICH TAPESTRY
8 – LUCKY NINE
7 – SECRET CIRCLE
5 – SALUTOS AMIGOS

 

Race 7 – GROUP 1 DUBAI TURF (1800m)

The less said about this race, the better. After last year’s top edition, with Just A Way blitzing Vercingetorix and the likes of Dank, MSHAWISH, Logotype, Tokei Halo, Blazing Speed and The Fugue behind, it’s quite amazing to see how far it has fallen this year. In fact, it’s hard to make a case for any of these, but there has to be a winner.

By default, I’ve ended up with THE GREY GATSBY. He was one of the top European three-year-olds last year, winning the Prix du Jockey Club and the Irish Champion Stakes, and on ratings is clearly the top ranked horse. And while the trip may be too short for him and he might not have the race run to suit, he finds himself on top just by being the best horse. As you can tell, I’m very enthusiastic about him and the race in general…

EURO CHARLINE does interest me, although I doubt she’s good enough to win. She’s the epitome of globalisation – as I said in my SCMP blog, The Griffin, “by an Irish-bred French Group One-winning sire, she’s owned by America’s Team Valor, trained by Marco Botti – English-based but a member of an Italian training dynasty – and will be ridden by Hong Kong-based Brazilian jockey Joao Moreira.” She improved at the back end of her three-year-old season before injury curtailed an American campaign, but if she returns even stronger she could figure at odds.

SOLOW has been well backed into favouritism, but I remain unconvinced by his form. He’s been very good in France but has beaten very little and I think he’s now under the odds. With that in mind, happy to bet around him.

Next best Balanchine winner CLADOCERA, who reminds me a bit of 2013 winner Sajjhaa, and Mackinnon Stakes third FARRAAJ.

6 – THE GREY GATSBY
1 – EURO CHARLINE
10 – SOLOW
8 – CLADOCERA

 

Race 8 – GROUP 1 SHEEMA CLASSIC (2410m)

From the most disappointing race of the night, we go to the strongest and most fascinating race of the night. The quality of horseflesh is superb, and it is made fascinating by a completely perplexing speed map. It’s almost impossible to figure out where the speed will come from, and so there must be some expectation that there will be a couple of surprises when they settle down – maybe DESIGNS ON ROME will find himself closer. I expect the two French gallopers, DOLNIYA and FLINTSHIRE, to be handy too, which will play to both of them.

While the man on the street might believe Japanese filly HARP STAR will need a solid tempo to unleash her blistering turn of foot, I think a soft tempo wouldn’t work against her as it would allow her to remain in touch with the leaders. She is the only horse in the race, for mine, with push-button acceleration and if she can remain in touch, I think she’s a huge hope. Tempo and poor rides hindered her in the Arc and the Japan Cup, while she settled closer and struggled in the lead-up race, the Kyoto Kinen. Still, Gentildonna was able to improve off an average run to win last year and I think Harp Star is in the same mould. I’m expecting a big performance.

I think DESIGNS ON ROME is the major danger. He’s been more dour this season, but he’s still won his last three – the Hong Kong Cup, the Centenary Vase and the Hong Kong Gold Cup. He does take a long time to wind up, but there is the possibility he will settle closer under Joao Moreira which might be his best chance of saluting. Some have raised concerns about his ability to stay the 12 furlongs, but the one time he tried it he was at the end of a long season, coming off two gutbusting efforts, and the way the race was run didn’t suit whatsoever. I have no doubts. He’s a big chance.

The way the race will be run will probably suit Dolniya, who beat Flintshire in a prep race on the Chantilly polytrack at the start of March. She looks an improved mare heading into her four-year-old season and I think she’s still quite untapped. Purely for tactical reasons, she goes in.

I’m not convinced about the Breeders’ Cup Turf form, so I rate Flintshire and MAIN SEQUENCE below the others. Flintshire had the perfect run in an Arc in which many had torrid trips or were unsuited, and the Hong Kong Vase he won was ordinary. He’s very one-paced and that will play against him here. That said, I have him ahead of Main Sequence because Flintshire is likely to have the advantage of settling handier and getting the first run on him. As for Main Sequence, his form improved dramatically when he went across to the United States after his form tapered off in the UK. The reasons for that are many and varied – he struck firmer tracks, he was gelded, he raced on lasix, the American turf stayers are poor. And while he has improved, I want to see him take that form elsewhere. For mine, he must be risked.

9 – HARP STAR
7 – DESIGNS ON ROME
2 – DOLNIYA
4 – FLINTSHIRE

 

Race 9 – GROUP 1 DUBAI WORLD CUP (2000m)

The world’s richest race at US$10 million, it hasn’t attracted quite the field that was touted a few weeks back with key defectors including Breeders’ Cup Classic quinella Bayern and Toast Of New York, the world’s highest rated horse so far in 2015 Shared Belief and Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist. Still, it’s an interesting race and it does look a good move to head back to dirt from the old Tapeta track.

And it is fitting that one of the world’s most popular horses, CALIFORNIA CHROME, looks set to take the World Cup. I’m far from a Chromie, but in this race he looks well suited. He’s the class dirt runner, he’s drawn to take advantage and his Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes wins – even his San Antonio second and his Breeders’ Cup Classic third – are far superior to anything produced by the rest of this field, with the exception of EPIPHANEIA…but more about that later. I expect California Chrome to salute here, trumping the decision to return to dirt.

If there’s an upset it could come from HOKKO TARUMAE. The Japanese dirt star finished last on the Tapeta last year but it’s a completely different ball game this time around. Not only does he appear more comfortable on the dirt, but he also has gone to a new level since with strong wins in the Champions Cup (the old Japan Cup Dirt) and the Tokyo Daishoten. He’ll be in front for a long way and looks the most likely fly in the ointment.

Next best LEA, who has stamina queries at the 10 furlongs but will be aiming to give trainer Bill Mott a second World Cup winner after the first victor Cigar, and former American CANDY BOY, now owned by Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov and trained by Doug Watson.

The horse I’m very keen to take on is EPIPHANEIA – I am a massive fan of the horse, but I don’t believe this race is suitable whatsoever. These days, the mile and a quarter looks too short for him and he would have been much better suited in the Sheema Classic – where he would have been if the owners didn’t also have Harp Star. I remain unconvinced that he will relish the dirt – his pedigree stats aren’t strong for the dirt and his action doesn’t look suited to dirt – so he’s a big one to take on, despite the fact I believe he’s the best horse in the race.

9 – CALIFORNIA CHROME
2 – HOKKO TARUMAE
5 – LEA
6 – CANDY BOY

Hawk’s 2015 Golden Slipper Day Preview and Selections

March 21, 2015
Golden Slipper trophy

Rosehill’s biggest card, Golden Slipper day, is upon us yet again as 16 juveniles battle it out for the world’s richest two-year-old prize.

It looks a strong Golden Slipper this year, backed up by four other top Group 1 races.

The programme is obviously different this year, and it is weird not having the traditional Golden Slipper/BMW double header. However, it still shapes as a terrific day of racing and I think it will be seen as a winner.

In particular, it does look a standalone day of quality, rather than just being a lead-up to The Championships.

I have provided selections for all nine races but have given my extended thoughts on the five Group 1 races.

Best of luck!

Race 1 – GROUP 3 BIRTHDAY CARD STAKES (1200m)

7 – SHAMALIA
1 – MOSSFUN
6 – BROOK ROAD
4 – BOUND FOR EARTH

Race 2 – GROUP 3 EPONA STAKES (1900m)

1 – RISING ROMANCE
7 – ENTERTAINS
9 – ROLE MODEL
5 – TELEPATHIC

Race 3 – LISTED THE SEBRING (1200m)

2 – TAWTEEN
3 – KUMAON
6 – MUSIC MAGNATE
13 – PEEPING

Race 4 – GROUP 1 RANVET STAKES (2000m)

A small field of seven lines up in the Ranvet Stakes, and like many weight-for-age races, this looks like it will be quite the tactical affair with little speed and a number of queries – especially the two international runners.

SILENT ACHIEVER won this race in the final stride last year, reeling in tearaway leader Carlton House, with the likes of It’s A Dundeel and Fiorente well behind her. She’s only won once since, The BMW, but produced arguably her best run when third in the Cox Plate. She has had two good runs to prepare for this, when fifth in the Apollo Stakes and fourth in the Chipping Norton Stakes. In a race with little speed, she should be able to settle just behind likely leader FAST DRAGON, either in the box seat or one-out, one-back, and it would be no shock to see a grinding win similar to what she achieved last year.

CONTRIBUTER – no, not a spelling mistake, with an e – is the favourite, albeit a little easy in early markets, and little wonder after two stellar efforts to win the Apollo Stakes and the Chipping Norton Stakes. This Godolphin import has clearly relished the change in environment and has acclimatised perfectly. He now steps up to 2000m, a trip at which he excelled in the UK and at which he is already a winner in Australia, having won the Coongy Handicap in the spring. He does look the one to beat.

Obviously, DOMINANT is a familiar face to us. It probably pays to forget everything he did prior to the Hong Kong Vase, when he was fourth to Flintshire, as he has typically taken time to find form in his Hong Kong campaigns. His last start third behind Designs On Rome in the Centenary Vase was terrific, even in receipt of 11 pounds from his stablemate. What was most noteworthy from this race’s perspective is that he managed to jump well and race a lot handier than has been his style recently. That may be a positive here, in a race where there does look to be little speed. If he runs up to his third in the Hong Kong Gold Cup last year, when finishing behind the last two Singapore International Cup winners Military Attack and Dan Excel, he’ll be in the mix. That said, it’s probably realistic to expect him to be finding the line well, and I expect he’ll be on a Sydney Cup path after this.

Next best HE’S YOUR MAN.

6 – SILENT ACHIEVER
1 – CONTRIBUTER
2 – DOMINANT
3 – HE’S YOUR MAN

Race 5 – GROUP 1 ROSEHILL GUINEAS (2000m)

Another small field over the 2000m, this time for the three-year-olds, but this race oozes class this year and it looks like it will be one of the better Rosehill Guineas in recent times. Lining up are the Randwick Guineas winner, the Victoria Derby winner, the New Zealand Derby first and second, the Spring Champion first and third…and poor POUNAMU.

This race looks to have more speed than the Ranvet Stakes, with the NZ Derby quinella MONGOLIAN KHAN and VOLKSTOK’N’BARRELL likely to roll forward along with Gai Waterhouse’s Spring Champion winner HAMPTON COURT. The classiest horse on exposed form is HALLOWED CROWN and he can roll forward too, but in an effort to get him to stay a strong 2000m it wouldn’t surprise to see more conservative tactics adopted.

The two Kiwis look to hold the aces here. Mongolian Khan won the New Zealand Derby with a strong staying performance, fighting back after being headed and finding the line very strongly, while Volkstok’n’barrell died on his run after racing up full of gusto at the top of the straight. In simple terms, Mongolian Khan looked the stronger stayer while Volkstok’n’barrell looked the more brilliant conveyance. They return to 2000m here, a similar distance to where they finished first and third respectively in the Avondale Guineas.

The step back in trip may not be so suitable to Mongolian Khan, but he looks to have plenty of upside and just keeps improving. A winner of six of his seven starts, the son of the all-conquering Holy Roman Emperor has met every challenge that has been asked of him and looks a horse capable of making the leap to open-class Group 1 company. He can win this on his way to winning the Australian Derby.

If there’s a fly in the ointment, it could come from Godolphin’s SWEYNESSE. Rated highly enough by Godolphin to test him in the Cox Plate last spring, where he finished a credible eighth to Adelaide when he was running on strongly late, he looks to have furnished into an even nicer horse over the summer. He flew home to just miss in the Hobartville, and was flying again late in the Randwick Guineas – both times behind Hallowed Crown. The concern again is the pace setup, which looks set to play against him, but if they go at a solid clip he has the ability to come over the top late.

Volkstok’n’barrell is another strong contender, and he will probably find the 2000m more to his liking than the 2400m of the New Zealand Derby. Both he and Mongolian Khan demolished their rivals, with third-placed Sound Proposition more than six lengths from the winner. He will race handy and if he gets a break on Mongolian Khan, he may prove hard to run down.

As mentioned above, Hallowed Crown is the class of the race, but it’s hard to see him staying a strong 2000m. By Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense out of Golden Slipper runner-up Crowned Glory, the pedigree suggests that his stamina may be tested here – although, go back far enough and you’ll find Zabeel in the family. Still, he shapes as a brilliant sprinter-miler in the making who could find his way into the placings on class, but I would be far from surprised if this was his last attempt at 2000m.

And when the Victoria Derby winner PREFERMENT doesn’t even rate a mention anywhere…enough said.

3 – MONGOLIAN KHAN
4 – SWEYNESSE
6 – VOLKSTOK’N’BARRELL
1 – HALLOWED CROWN

Race 6 – GROUP 1 THE GALAXY (1100m)

This was the toughest of the five Group 1 races to assess for mine, and I changed my selections numerous times before settling on a top four I was content with.

To show how I’ve fluctuated, I had Challenge Stakes winner MIRACLES OF LIFE on top at one stage, but in the end I’ve left her out, fearing that she might end up in no man’s land – either too wide or too far back – from the poor draw.

It’s a race with plenty of speed, with SWEET IDEA, CHLOE IN PARIS, DEEP FIELD, RUBICK and VA PENSIERO all likely to push forward. Indeed, it is a race that looks to set up perfectly well for Godolphin galloper KNOYDART. A backmarker with a booming turn of foot, he was terrific in the Challenge Stakes when coming from last and just missing out in a photo for third with Rubick. He came from nowhere last autumn to run placings in the Oakleigh Plate and the Newmarket Handicap, and I think this is the sort of race he’s been looking for – a fast run 1100m where he’ll have plenty of time to finish over the top.

If the speed is not as strong as expected, though, I’m expecting a big run from the Waterhouse-trained Sweet Idea. She is likely to be involved in the battle for the speed, if not parking just behind it, but she is as tough as teak and her tenacity will see her in this for a long way. She’s a flying machine fresh, and while the trip might not be ideal for her, she still seems to fly well under the radar. I’m happy to have something small on her too.

Rubick was the most obvious of the beaten runners in the Challenge Stakes when he was tightened for room, lost all momentum but picked up again to finish third. He is drawn to get the softest run of all time, which is good – as long as he can get clear running again in the straight. The major concern for mine is that he may not be able to take advantage of the soft draw – his wins have all come when he has led or sat outside the lead, and so sitting pretty behind them may not be his go. He’s a leading player, though.

Next best are the lightly weighted pair Chloe In Paris and KURO, who both get in well at the weights and look to have plenty of upside, while Miracles of Life remains a hope but the draw has cruelled her chances. I’m happy to take on Deep Field from the wide draw, despite the fact I expect he’ll improve after two somewhat disappointing efforts.

7 – KNOYDART
4 – SWEET IDEA
9 – RUBICK
16 – CHLOE IN PARIS

Race 7 – GROUP 1 GOLDEN SLIPPER (1200m)

It’s the richest two-year-old race in the world, worth A$3.5m, but in reality the Golden Slipper is a hit-and-miss race every year. Sure, there are good horses that emerge from the race every year, but the overall depth of the race varies wildly.

On paper, last year’s race, won by Mossfun, looks pretty poor now. The year before, Overreach’s Golden Slipper was stronger, but still a long way from exceptional. The 2012 Golden Slipper was better than both, although there was a long tail, but Pierro, Snitzerland and Samaready were all legitimate Group One horses.

It’s hard to tell now the strength of this two-year-old crop, but from what we’ve seen so far, it shapes as similar to 2012 – quite a few potential stars at the top, but a long tail below.

The build-up has been intriguing with Gai Waterhouse’s hot favourite, Todman Stakes winner VANCOUVER, set to start from the outside gate. At Rosehill, the hairpin track (from the chute in the middle of the course) ensures it is about 300m or so until the nasty first bend comes up. As with most Golden Slippers, there are a number of speed influences, although perhaps not as many as one would be accustomed to in this scamper. Still, for jockey Tommy Berry, he will either have to commit early and hope that his horse is as superior to the field as some good judges suggest, or he will have to try and ride a pretty race, searching for cover midfield and hoping to come on strongly. He may be the best horse in the race, he may still prove too good, but at his current quote he’s worth taking on.

So who can beat him? I’m hoping that Gai Waterhouse is beaten by…Gai Waterhouse! Racing’s first lady has been known to do it before, and why not here again? I’ve been on the ENGLISH bandwagon for some time, after a late night conversation with my closest friend ended in analysing Kembla Grange replays. Clearly, I lead an enthralling life…

The Newhaven Park filly – the nickname the Boorowa Belle sounds suitable – was described by her trainer during the week as a “naughty girl” who has had quite a few quirks along the way. One thing is not up for debate, though – she has plenty of ability. She was all over the shop at Kembla Grange, missing the start, green as grass, but powered home for an effortless three-and-a-half length win that could easily have been seven lengths.

The day English stood up as a Golden Slipper contender, though, was not her last-start Reisling Stakes win but almost two weeks before, when she won a trial on soft ground on the steeple grass at Randwick. The time was fast – in fact, she went five-tenths of a second quicker than Vancouver. But it was more the manner of her victory, rather than the time. She could not have been under a harder hold, while Vancouver was made to work for his win.

Trials mean very little, of course. The specifics and dynamics of a trial are very different to raceday. And so it was good to see her take it to the big time when she won the Reisling Stakes, beating one-time Golden Slipper favourite OTTOMAN. She still did plenty wrong, but was better behaved than at Kembla and she hit the line nicely.

On times, she’d have to be dismissed – she ran 1.36 seconds slower than Vancouver in the Todman and came home 0.59 slower. But I think she still has plenty of scope and can improve substantially. If she does improve again, she’ll be right in the mix.

She’s drawn perfectly and will jump from gate five, which should give Blake Shinn options depending on how she jumps and how well she relaxes. And that is a huge advantage over her stablemate and many of the other fancied runners in this race.

For mine, the biggest eyecatcher out of the lead-ups was not Vancouver but Godolphin’s EXOSPHERE, who toyed with his rivals in the Skyline Stakes at Warwick Farm. Another who made the step up from a big-margin Kembla victory to Group company, he looks an imposing juvenile and clearly has plenty of ability. He looks to come from a similar mould to his sire Lonhro, and there are shades of Octagonal again, and he will be the one with the last crack at them. In fact, a run similar to Octagonal’s 1995 Golden Slipper effort is on the cards – but hopefully English is playing the spoiler’s role of Flying Spur.

Vancouver goes in for third, and does look one of the main chances after his Todman Stakes romp. He’s yet to put a foot wrong and the comparisons with Pierro are obvious.

Next best is Silver Slipper winner HEADWATER – he was poor behind Vancouver in the Todman Stakes but it always pays to forgive one poor run and his Silver Slipper effort was outstanding – while his stablemate LAKE GENEVA and impressive Flemington winner READY FOR VICTORY look the best of the rest.

8 – ENGLISH
5 – EXOSPHERE
1 – VANCOUVER
2 – HEADWATER

Race 8 – GROUP 1 GEORGE RYDER STAKES (1500m)

A very competitive affair, not the strongest George Ryder ever seen – far from it – but a fascinating race.

Looking at this race straight up, I thought I’d want to be on either the Japanese or the three-year-olds. And after actually delving into the race, with the exception of Godolphin’s Liverpool City Cup winner IT’S SOMEWHAT, my thoughts have remained the same.

We were trackside last time WORLD ACE raced, when he finished his race off well for fourth behind Hong Kong’s superstar Able Friend in the Hong Kong Mile. Nothing was beating Able Friend that day, he was simply supreme, but with better luck World Ace could and probably should have finished second. That effort puts him around the level of a Gold-Fun or a Glorious Days, and both of them would be competitive here. He returned to competition last year after almost two years on the sidelines, having been an impressive three-year-old – he started favourite in the 2012 Japanese Derby but finished fourth. Since then, he has mixed his form, although his Group 2 Yomiuri Milers Cup win was terrific and his effort for fifth in the Yasuda Kinen behind Just A Way commendable.

The query for him is where he will settle. The horse has a tendency to miss the start and Zac Purton, who rode the horse in Hong Kong last start, says he has a few quirks. If he can jump and put himself in a midfield position, I believe the famous Sunday Racing Co colours can land their second Australian Group 1 after Delta Blues’ 2006 Melbourne Cup win.

The Caulfield Guineas winner SHOOTING TO WIN looms as the main danger. Three-year-olds have a top record in this race, with Pierro the most recent three-year-old winner in 2013, and this does look a fairly strong crop. In fact, these same colours were carried to victory in this race by a three-year-old, with Racing To Win taking out the George Ryder in 2006.

Both runs this preparation, Shooting To Win has looked like the winner at some point in the straight but has been swamped both times. Last start, he cantered up the Randwick rise and Blake Shinn looked to be swinging, only for Hallowed Crown and Sweynesse to come over the top. It was far from a poor effort, but it was disappointing given how much horse he looked to have under him. Whether that was fitness blowing out or whether he just has a short sprint that needs to be managed, I’m not entirely sure, but back to 1500m at his third run in, he looks well suited. He shouldn’t be too far away from the speed and will be the one they’ll have to catch.

It’s Somewhat was very impressive winning the Liverpool City Cup and like his stablemate Contributer looks to have acclimatised perfectly in Australia. He was tried as a stayer in the UK, which I’m not completely convinced was his go, and his best performance was over 10 furlongs when third to Mukhadram and Trading Leather in the Eclipse Stakes. His first-up win in Australia over 1300m suggests he may be at his best up to 2000m here and this is a perfect race for him at this time. He’s another who shouldn’t be too far away from the speed, and a similar turn of foot as last start will see him in the mix.

Next best KERMADEC, who should have finished closer in the Australian Guineas, from HOOKED.

3 – WORLD ACE
13 – SHOOTING TO WIN
10 – IT’S SOMEWHAT
14 – KERMADEC

Race 9 – GROUP 3 N E MANION CUP (2400m)

3 – MAYGROVE
7 – PHRASES
9 – GRAND MARSHAL
8 – TREMEC

Hawk’s 2015 Randwick Guineas Day/Australian Guineas Day Selections

March 7, 2015

After a bit of a slow start last week with a few luckless results, we’re back again for the day of two Guineas races – the Randwick Guineas in Sydney and the Australian Guineas in Melbourne.

There looks to be some real nice types going around today, in particular I’m hoping English steps up to be a major Golden Slipper contender after the first at Randwick.

Today, I have just provided my top four selections for all races from Sydney and Melbourne.

Best of luck!

RANDWICK

Race 1 – GROUP 2 REISLING STAKES (1200m)

9 – ENGLISH
8 – STAY WITH ME
5 – OTTOMAN
1 – FIREWORKS

Race 2 – GROUP 2 TODMAN STAKES (1200m)

2 – HEADWATER
3 – VANCOUVER
5 – FURNACES
4 – VOILIER

Race 3 – GROUP 3 WENONA GIRL HANDICAP (1200m)

10 – I LOVE IT
11 – MIHIRI
7 – MY SABEEL
4 – BROOK ROAD

Race 4 – LISTED RANDWICK CITY STAKES (2000m)

2 – MAYGROVE
4 – DIAMETRIC
8 – GRAND MARSHAL
3 – OUR VOODOO PRINCE

Race 5 – GROUP 3 ASPIRATION QUALITY (1600m)

6 – TELEPATHIC
1 – SOLICIT
4 – INTIMATE MOMENT
5 – MARDI

Race 6 – GROUP 1 RANDWICK GUINEAS (1600m)

5 – SWEYNESSE
1 – HALLOWED CROWN
3 – SHOOTING TO WIN
8 – SWORN TO SILENCE

Race 7 – GROUP 1 CANTERBURY STAKES (1300m)

7 – ROYAL DESCENT
8 – CATKINS
9 – COSMIC ENDEAVOUR
5 – HOOKED

Race 8 – GROUP 2 CHALLENGE STAKES (1000m)

5 – MIRACLES OF LIFE
8 – RUBICK
6 – VILLA VERDE
10 – MOSSFUN

Race 9 – LISTED FIREBALL STAKES (1100m)

1 – KURO
9 – TRAVESTON GIRL
10 – SULTRY FEELING
4 – ONEMOREZETA

FLEMINGTON

Race 1 – LISTED FESTIVAL OF RACING 1000 (1000m)

3 – READY FOR VICTORY
6 – CLAUDIA JEAN
8 – HEATHERLY
5 – TAKE PRIDE

Race 2 – MRS MAC’S FAMILY BAKERY SPRINT (1200m)

3 – AFLEET ESPRIT
1 – MISSY LONGSTOCKING
5 – WRITTEN
4 – SINO EAGLE

Race 3 – SAINTLY HANDICAP (1400m)

1 – PROFIT SHARE
2 – MAASTRICHT
6 – HI WORLD
7 – CORAM

Race 4 – GROUP 3 TAB REWARDS STAKES (1400m)

3 – AKAVOROUN
1 – HARD STRIDE
6 – TOUGHER THAN EVER
7 – GRACIOUS PROSPECT

Race 5 – LISTED ROY HIGGINS QUALITY (2600m)

4 – ONLY A PLEASURE
1 – TUSCAN FIRE
7 – MARTINVAST
5 – RAWNAQ

Race 6 – GROUP 3 FRANCES TRESSADY STAKES (1400m)

3 – STAR FASHION
5 – DIG A PONY
8 – MADAM GANGSTER
2 – GIRL GUIDE

Race 7 – GROUP 1 AUSTRALIAN GUINEAS (1600m)

10 – ALPINE EAGLE
3 – ADMIRAL
9 – KERMADEC
15 – FONTEIN RUBY

Race 8 – LISTED ATA/BOB HOYSTED HANDICAP (1000m)

12 – CHLOE IN PARIS
2 – GENERAL TRUCE
11 – NORDIC EMPIRE
3 – ZAMORAR

Race 9 – THE HONG KONG JOCKEY CLUB TROPHY (1800m)

4 – SINGLE
11 – HARVEYS TRUE HEART
2 – PHANTOM BREW
12 – CARLO BUGATTI

Hawk’s 2015 Blue Diamond Stakes Day/Chipping Norton Stakes Day Selections

February 28, 2015

We’re back for the autumn!

I haven’t posted selections since Melbourne Cup day, but with the autumn starting to ramp up with Group 1 racing in both Sydney and Melbourne, it seems a logical time to get the head buried back in the form guide to find some winners.

Also a big factor is the fact Hong Kong is betting on the last seven races of the Caulfield card, so there will hopefully be some overlays for those of us betting through the HKJC.

I’ve provided my top four selections for each race at both Caulfield and Warwick Farm, as well as a small write-up on all four Group 1 races.

Best of luck today!

CAULFIELD

Race 1 – GROUP 3 ZEDITAVE STAKES (1200m)

3 – GALAXY PEGASUS
7 – ONEROUS
5 – ARMADA
2 – FAST CASH

Race 2 – GROUP 3 PREMIER SIGNS STAKES (1400m)

1 – BONARIA
3 – GIRL GUIDE
4 – TYCOON TARA
5 – BIPPO NO BUNGUS

Race 3 – GROUP 2 ANGUS ARMANASCO STAKES (1400m)

8 – BOTTLE OF SMOKE
2 – SABATINI
4 – THINKING OF YOU
1 – FONTEIN RUBY

Race 4 – GROUP 2 CAULFIELD AUTUMN CLASSIC (1800m)

13 – BETSY
5 – ALPINE EAGLE
4 – HONG KONG CAPTAIN
9 – ZAHSPEED

Race 5 – GROUP 1 FUTURITY STAKES (1400m)

A fairly straightforward feature by the looks of it, and once again the Futurity seems to get a little bit lost on the calendar.

After DISSIDENT’s dominant Orr Stakes victory, it’s hard to find anything to beat him here in what shapes as an easier assignment. He should get a similar set-up to last time, being able to sit just behind the speed and should prove too strong late.

The quinella horse looks to be BULL POINT, who is currently at a worthwhile price. He needs to be ridden stone cold, which may not be ideal in this race, but he should stil be close enough to gather them in if good enough. He ran fourth in this race last year when ridden far too close and should be able to finish better this time around.

ENTIRELY PLATINUM was very good fresh in the Orr Stakes, dictating from the front on what was a pretty easy pace. I think though that the edge will probably be knocked off him now and I would have preferred to see him in the Peter Young Stakes. Nevertheless, he might get cheap sectionals again up front, with only DRIEFONTEIN looking a real danger to challenge for the lead. He can’t be entirely dismissed.

Driefontein is next best.

1 – DISSIDENT
3 – BULL POINT
4 – ENTIRELY PLATINUM
7 – DRIEFONTEIN

Race 6 – GROUP 2 PETER YOUNG STAKES (1800m)

2 – HAPPY TRAILS
9 – AKZAR
1 – PROTECTIONIST
8 – AU REVOIR

Race 7 – GROUP 1 OAKLEIGH PLATE (1100m)

A big field over the 1100m scamper at Caulfield is ripe pickings for an upset, and this race has been very good to us in recent years with the likes of Eagle Falls and Woorim.

However, this year it looks a perfect race for a favourite to salute as last year’s Blue Diamond Stakes winner EARTHQUAKE returns to the scene of the crime. A brilliant juvenile, she looked somewhat below her best in the spring, although her Coolmore Stud Stakes eighth behind Brazen Beau was far better than it appeared on paper when she got stuck on the wrong part of the track. She was first home of the inside runners, still beaten six lengths, but it was definitely a forgive effort. She has trialled brilliantly and looks back to her best. She’s drawn slightly wide here and will probably be forced to push on, but I think with the 50.5kg she’ll prove too nippy here.

ICONIC is the horse that maps well here. From the inside, he should get a nice smother, hopefully around midfield, and as long as he gets a clear crack at them he’ll be in the mix. His first-up record is outstanding – in fact, all his wins have been fresh – and so this is the time to jump on him if ever.

SHAMAL WIND gets a nice set-up here and will be charging at them late, while ATMOSPHERICAL is still on an upward spiral and this race proves a nice stepping stone to elite company for her.

16 – EARTHQUAKE
13 – ICONIC
5 – SHAMAL WIND
10 – ATMOSPHERICAL

Race 8 – GROUP 1 BLUE DIAMOND STAKES (1200m)

It’s always difficult to tell the strength of a juvenile crop this early in the season, but this doesn’t look the worst Blue Diamond I’ve seen.

FONTITON is clearly a terrific filly on what’s she’s shown so far. Her win on Cox Plate day was exceptional and stamped her as the best juvenile seen in the spring, her Preview win was good enough, and her Prelude win was exactly what one would want to see heading into this. She’s drawn gate one, which had some pundits worried, but it appears a case of Miracles Of Life all over again – Mark Zahra just needs to follow Lauren Stojakovic’s blueprint and he will find himself in the winner’s circle.

The logical danger appears PRIDE OF DUBAI, who charged late in the colts and geldings Prelude to just miss catching OF THE BRAVE. It was the run of the race by far and probably the best trial outside of Fontiton. By Street Cry out of a Danehill mare, one would expect him to be a Caulfield Guineas and potentially a Cox Plate contender in the spring, but for now the step up to 1200m is ideal and he’ll be the one coming at the filly late.

The blueblood LAKE GENEVA will be vastly improved for her debut effort in the Widden Stakes, where she kept coming but was just nosed out by Fireworks on the line. This might prove a better set-up for her, as indications are she should appreciate being able to sit a little bit further back.

Next best SAMPEAH, who also came from a long way back in the colts and geldings Prelude, and THURLOW.

8 – FONTITON
7 – PRIDE OF DUBAI
13 – LAKE GENEVA
5 – SAMPEAH

Race 9 – LISTED MORNINGTON CUP PRELUDE (2000m)

1 – BIG MEMORY
2 – SPURTONIC
7 – INDEX LINKED
6 – EXTRA ZERO

WARWICK FARM

Race 1 – SCHWEPPES HANDICAP (2400m)

7 – DANJEU
4 – SASENKILE
5 – ARTIBAI
3 – PHRASES

Race 2 – GROUP 2 SKYLINE STAKES (1200m)

5 – EXOSPHERE
1 – ODYSSEY MOON
3 – SEBRING SUN
4 – WOLF CRY

Race 3 – GROUP 2 SWEET EMBRACE STAKES (1200m)

5 – ALWAYS ALLISON
8 – SPEAK FONDLY
6 – MICUCCI
7 – HEAVENLY HAND

Race 4 – GROUP 2 SURROUND STAKES (1400m)

2 – FIRST SEAL
9 – SLIGHTLY SWEET
7 – ADRIFT
8 – WINE TALES

Race 5 – GROUP 3 LIVERPOOL CITY CUP (1300m)

3 – PORNICHET
6 – RUDY
4 – RED EXCITEMENT
1 – HOT SNITZEL

Race 6 – GROUP 1 CHIPPING NORTON STAKES (1600m)

If one ever needed a reminder of the dominance of Chris Waller in Sydney racing, have a look at this year’s Chipping Norton Stakes – he saddles up eight of the 15 runners, and it could easily have been 10 if not for Bagman and Beaten Up heading south to the Peter Young Stakes. It’s an extraordinary number and eclipses the most runners one trainer has had in a Group 1 race – the previous record was seven, jointly held by Gai Waterhouse (1995, 1996 Metropolitan) and John Hawkes (2003 Golden Slipper).

Still, the non-Waller brigade looks mighty strong and strength in numbers doesn’t necessarily guarantee a result.

The Apollo Stakes does look the best formline for this, with 11 of the 15 runners coming out of that race. CONTRIBUTER was outstanding that day and the former European looks to have acclimatised a treat. The step up to the mile can only be a good thing and with the same turn of foot as he showed that day, he’d be hard to beat in almost anything in Australia.

Still, he is short enough and I liked the performance of SILENT ACHIEVER enough there to put her on top at the better price here. She’s better second-up, she’s better at a mile – in fact, her only unplaced run at the trip was in this race two years ago, when she flew home for fourth. She should get a bit more toe today and I think she’s a better mare now than she was back then.

Contributer is the one to beat and he goes in next, while third and fourth from the Apollo Stakes – WEARY and LUCIA VALENTINA – also look dangers. Weary looks Chris Waller’s best hope but would probably appreciate a little bit of give in the ground, while Lucia Valentina is never as good second-up and will probably be looking for further now already.

Next best is another of Waller’s, HE’S YOUR MAN.

14 – SILENT ACHIEVER
5 – CONTRIBUTER
8 – WEARY
15 – LUCIA VALENTINA

Race 7 – GROUP 3 GUY WALTER STAKES (1400m)

11 – NEENA ROCK
8 – ARABIAN GOLD
1 – COSMIC ENDEAVOUR
13 – MY SABEEL

Race 8 – CAL REI HANDICAP (1200m)

9 – VALID CONTRACT
3 – LE CORDON BLEU
13 – SNIPER FIRE
1 – FLORAL INSIGHT

Hawk’s 2014 Melbourne Cup Day Selections

November 4, 2014

Melbourne Cup day – that one day of the year where everyone seems to have a bet – is upon us.

Most attention is on the feature, understandably, and we have an extensive Melbourne Cup preview for you here. But if you are looking to have a bet on the other nine races on the card, we have you covered.

Here are our selections for Melbourne Cup day, one of the toughest cards you will see:

Race 1 – GROUP 3 EMIRATES AIRLINES PLATE (1000m)

13 – LADY ESPRIT
12 – COMPRENDE
1 – MIHALIC
17 – HAYBAH

Race 2 – TAB.COM.AU TROPHY (1700m)

6 – DIG A PONY
7 – KHUTULUN
4 – ARE THERE ANY
1 – GIRL IN FLIGHT

Race 3 – VISIT VICTORIA PLATE (2800m)

3 – ORDER OF THE SUN
2 – RENEW
5 – GRAND MARSHAL
6 – GOLDONI

Race 4 – LAVAZZA SHORT BLACK (1400m)

2 – THE QUARTERBACK
16 – BON ROCKET
3 – TAIYOO
5 – SPY DECODER

Race 5 – SCHWEPPES #FLEMINGTONFLING (1000m)

1 – LAW
2 – RISEN FROM DOUBT
16 – MISS MAZETTI
15 – LUXEMBOURG

Race 6 – LISTED LEXUS HYBRID STAKES (1400m)

10 – SHACARDE
2 – WINE TALES
13 – FITNA
8 – COACHELLA

Race 7 – GROUP 1 EMIRATES MELBOURNE CUP (3200m)

Click here to read my complete guide to the Melbourne Cup, including analysis and selections.

Race 8 – LISTED JAMES BOAG’S PREMIUM STAKES (1800m)

2 – STIPULATE
9 – PHEIDON
12 – QUAYSIDE
17 – ADMIRE INAZUMA

Race 9 – LISTED MSS SECURITY SPRINT (1200m)

11 – TARGET IN SIGHT
2 – NOT LISTENIN’TOME
4 – ICONIC
14 – DECIRCLES

Race 10 – GROUP 3 THE HONG KONG JOCKEY CLUB STAKES (1400m)

18 – RED FEZ
6 – LADY LAKSHMI
5 – ROSE OF CHOICE
4 – MY SABEEL

Your 2014 Melbourne Cup Complete Guide, by Andrew Hawkins

November 2, 2014
Melbourne Cup Day

November is here, which means only one thing – the Melbourne Cup, the race that stops the nation for three minutes on the first Tuesday in November every year, is back once again. If you’ve come to this post, I figure you are wanting to know about the horses that will be lining up on Tuesday.

If you just want to know who I’m selecting, bypassing all the stats, click here!

This is the seventh extensive preview we’ve produced, and it just seems to get longer and longer each year. It’s a labour of love, but it’s also something I thoroughly enjoy. These days, I may work in Hong Kong racing, but it was the Melbourne Cup which first set me on a path to a career in the industry and it remains a passion.

This Melbourne Cup is a bit disappointing – far from the strongest I’ve seen, and it looks to have a very long tail – but among the live chances there are some fascinating angles. Will the Japanese win the Cup again? Can Britain finally get the Cup for the first time, or can Germany steal it away? Can the four nine-year-olds become the first from that age bracket to win the race?

After hours of deliberation and consternation, we’ve finally settled on a top four for the Melbourne Cup. This has changed numerous times, but now this is published, we’re set in stone!

Good luck if you have a bet in the race, whoever you choose – and let’s face it, why wouldn’t you have a bet on Melbourne Cup day?

I was privileged to join English guys Luke Elder, Michael Andrews and Adam Webb on their On The Other Hoof webcast to dissect the runners. Watch the video below.

This year, I’ve tried to add a replay for as many runners as possible – I’ve managed to get a video for most runners, but will chase up those for the remainder in the coming days.

To navigate easily to each runner (for stats, colours and a full assessment of each runner), click on the runner’s name below. You can also go to my analysis of the speed, my summary of the entire race and my selections by clicking below. Otherwise, feel free to scroll through the preview!

1. ADMIRE RAKTI
2. CAVALRYMAN
3. FAWKNER
4. RED CADEAUX
5. PROTECTIONIST
6. SEA MOON
7. SEISMOS
8. JUNOOB
9. ROYAL DIAMOND
10. GATEWOOD
11. MUTUAL REGARD
12. WHO SHOT THEBARMAN
13. WILLING FOE
14. MY AMBIVALENT
15. PRECEDENCE
16. BRAMBLES
17. MR O’CEIRIN
18. AU REVOIR
19. LIDARI
20. OPINION
21. ARALDO
22. LUCIA VALENTINA
23. UNCHAIN MY HEART
24. SIGNOFF
SPEED MAP
SUMMARY
NUMBERS

Admire Rakti1. ADMIRE RAKTI (7)
Heart’s Cry x Admire Teresa (Helissio), 7yo bay horse

Bred in: Japan
Nationality: Japan
Trainer: Tomoyuki Umeda
Jockey: Zac Purton
Weight: 58.5kg
Career stats: 27:7-6-5
Win/place percentages: 26%/67%
Last 5 starts: 40x20x1
Distances won at: 1 (3400m), 2 (2400m), 1 (2200m), 2 (2000m), 1 (1800m)
Biggest win: Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m), Caulfield, October 18 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $5
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $5
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $6
Summary of his chances: Dominant Caulfield Cup winner better suited up in trip at the bigger course and looks hard to beat, despite history saying it is tough with his weight.
Predicted finish: 3rd

Couldn’t have been more impressive in the Caulfield Cup, and comes to Flemington aiming to become just the 12th horse to win the Cups double – the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup in the same year. He’s attempting to join the likes of Poseidon, Rising Fast, Galilee, Let’s Elope and Might And Power, so it’s no mean feat.

He arrived from Japan as a winner of a sole Group 3, the Diamond Stakes over 3400m at Tokyo racecourse in February 2013, which caused some snickering about the fact he was to be topweight in both Cups.

He did have a fourth to Gentildonna, Denim And Ruby and Tosen Jordan in last year’s Japan Cup over 2400m (finishing ahead of Melbourne and Caulfield Cup winner Dunaden and last year’s Melbourne Cup fourth Simenon), as well as a fourth to top stayers Fenomeno, Tosen Ra and Red Cadeaux in last year’s Tenno Sho Spring over 3200m, so it wasn’t entirely without merit.

However, he showed either how underrated the Japanese horses are as a whole or how weak the Australian crop is at the moment when he produced a barnstorming run to win the Caulfield Cup. He was wide most of the way, albeit with cover for the majority, and was pushed towards the outside fence on the home turn, but wound up very powerfully to run over Rising Romance late.

I always thought Bande, who was scratched from the Caulfield Cup, would be Japan’s best Caulfield Cup chance, with Admire Rakti much better suited at Flemington. That’s why I had a very small wager at 100-1 on him just before the first spring nominations in August. I still think he will be better suited in the Melbourne Cup which is a frightening prospect for those who oppose him here.

He’s definitely the one they all have to beat, but there are a few statistics against him.

Think Big in 1975 was the last horse to win the Melbourne Cup with 58.5kg. Since then, 19 have carried 58.5kg or more and only two have placed – Kingston Town when second in 1982, when he arguably should have won, and Vintage Crop when third in 1995. Also since then, the only horses to carry over 56kg to victory were Gold and Black (57kg, 1977), Jeune (56.5kg, 1994) and Makybe Diva (58kg, 2005).

There are a couple of big differences now though. The weight scale, for one. In 1975, topweight Think Big gave 12.5kg to the third placegetter Medici, the bottomweight with 46kg. Nearly twenty years later, when Jeune won, three horses got in on the minimum of 48.5kg. When Makybe Diva won in 2005, two horses scraped in under 50kg.

These days, 50kg is the minimum weight and this year, no horse gets in on the minimum. So instead, there is less of a spread of weights and the effort to carry 58.5kg is completely different to the effort required by the likes of Think Big.

So the weight is not a major factor in my thinking – if he does lose, it won’t be the sole factor that stopped him.

He must rank as a major player.

Here is his Caulfield Cup win:


2. CAVALRYMAN
Halling x Silversword (Highest Honor), 9yo bay horse

Scratched

3. FAWKNER (8)Fawkner
Reset x Dane Belltar (Danewin), 7yo bay/brown gelding

Bred in: Australia
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Robert Hickmott
Jockey: Nick Hall
Weight: 57kg
Career stats: 25:10-5-3
Win/place percentages: 40%/72%
Last 5 starts: 6x7x121
Distances won at: 1 (2400m), 1 (2000m), 1 (1800m), 1 (1610m), 3 (1600m), 1 (1410m), 2 (1400m)
Biggest win: Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m), Caulfield, October 19 2013
Best Melbourne Cup effort: 6th, 2013 (one attempt)
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $8.50
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $9
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $8
Summary of his chances: He’s flying but the last 200m will be a concern. Still a chance though.
Predicted finish: 7th

Last year’s Caulfield Cup winner who is in the form of his life.

He’d always looked a good miler in the making, reaching a high when finishing second in the Emirates Stakes in 2012. Since then, though, he has progressed. He boasts a Group 1 placing behind the champion mare Black Caviar in the William Reid Stakes, and placed in last year’s Turnbull Stakes before finally breaking through at the top level in the Caulfield Cup. He finished sixth in last year’s Melbourne Cup.

This preparation, he was just edged out fresh in the Makybe Diva Stakes by Dissident, before just holding on to win the Caulfield Stakes. Last week, in the Cox Plate, he raced up to take the lead and beat all but the phenomenal Adelaide.

Clearly, he’s the form galloper of the field, bringing weight-for-age form in as he heads back into a handicap with compressed weights. He must be considered a very live chance.

The biggest concern is the two-mile journey. Last year, he was a long last and had to make his run around the field, eventually finishing sixth but weakening noticeably in the final furlong.

This season, though, he’s been settling closer in his races so it would be a surprise to see him back last again. If he was to get a dream run through the field, then the distance is less a concern and his class may shine through.

Must be considered.

Here is his win in the Caulfield Stakes:


4. RED CADEAUX (14)Red Cadeaux
Cadeaux Genereux x Artisia (Peintre Celebre), 9yo chestnut gelding

Bred in: Great Britain
Nationality: Great Britain
Trainer: Ed Dunlop
Jockey: Gerald Mosse
Weight: 57kg
Career stats: 46:7-11-6
Win/place percentages: 15%/52%
Last 5 starts: 4x60x47
Distances won at: 2 (2816m), 1 (2460m), 1 (2430m), 2 (2414m), 1 (2400m)
Biggest win: Group 1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m), Sha Tin, December 9 2012
Best Melbourne Cup effort: 2nd, 2011 and 2013 (three attempts)
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $18
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $19
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $21
Summary of his chances: Looks out of form but his past record in this race ensures he’s a major player.
Predicted finish: 2nd

What more can you say about Red Cadeaux? He belongs amongst a special club of horses, of which perhaps only he and Cirrus des Aigles belong – although a horse like Side Glance is quickly bidding for membership. These are the globetrotters who turn up year after year at all the major carnivals of the world, always running an honest race and garnering a larger fan base with every start.

I was asked recently where I had seen Red Cadeaux. The answer? At Flemington, at Royal Ascot, at Meydan, in Singapore and Hong Kong. He is just a phenomenal warhorse.

This season, he has been showing signs of his age and he hasn’t looked quite the same horse.Since last year’s second to Fiorente, he finished fourth to Dominant, The Fugue and Mount Athos in the Hong Kong Vase, before a well-beaten sixth in the Dubai World Cup. That run may not be as bad as it looks on paper, though, as he finished alongside two of the world’s top 2000m horses in Side Glance and Akeed Mofeed. He then went to Japan to run in the Tenno Sho (Spring) in May, but he couldn’t match his third last year and finished 14th.

This is the run that may hold the key to his Melbourne Cup chances. That day, he finished alongside Admire Rakti at level weights. Here, he meets Admire Rakti in receipt of 1.5kg. Last year, he finished a length and three quarters ahead of the Japanese runner in the same race, so the comparison is solid enough.

Since returning to England, where he notoriously seems to underperform, he was a satisfactory fourth behind Seismos and Willing Foe in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes, a similar run to what he produced in the same race last year, before one of the worst runs of his career in the September Stakes. He looked like he was ready to challenge around the home turn but found absolutely nothing and ended up dropping out before being eased out of the race by Gerald Mosse. The run was too bad to be true, so I’m putting a line through the run completely.

From what I’ve seen of him at Werribee, he looks as good as ever. He’s striding out well and he looks a happy and relaxed horse.

His record in the Melbourne Cup is terrific – he all but won in 2011, he was one of the runs of the race in 2012 when eighth off a slow tempo, and he was wide all the way last year but still kept coming for another second placing.

Not only is he one that cannot be dismissed, I’m thinking it might be a case of fourth time lucky for Red Cadeaux. If he can have a nice run in the two-wide line, pushing wider around the home turn and being saved for one final shot at them, I think he could do it. And what a story it would be.

He’s a major player.

Watch him finish second to Fiorente in last year’s Melbourne Cup:


5. PROTECTIONIST (10)Protectionist
Monsun x Patineuse (Peintre Celebre), 5yo bay horse

Bred in: Germany
Nationality: Germany/Australia
Trainer: Andreas Wohler
Jockey: Ryan Moore
Weight: 56.5kg
Career stats: 9:4-3-1
Win/place percentages: 44%/89%
Last 5 starts: 22114
Distances won at: 1 (3000m), 1 (2400m), 1 (2200m), 1 (1600m)
Biggest win: Group 2 Prix Kergorlay (3000m), Deauville, August 24 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $7.50
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $7
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $8
Summary of his chances: Still looks to have plenty of upside and first run here was terrific. Player.
Predicted finish: 4th

Lightly raced stayer who is aiming to give Germany their first win in the Melbourne Cup.

He won the Prix Kergorlay in France in August at his last run before coming to Australia, which followed on from strong performances in German Group 2 races.

The Prix Kergorlay has become a good guide to the Melbourne Cup – it was won by Americain in 2010 and it produced four of the first five across the line in 2011. Last year, I was very keen on Verema to forge another link between the Prix Kergorlay and the Melbourne Cup, but she broke down at the 2000m and was sadly euthanised.

He’s clearly got upside and he has the right profile for a Melbourne Cup – on the way up. He does look to be weighted on potential rather than his racetrack performance, which is a slight worry, but in a year of mostly compressed weights perhaps it is deserved.

There are three concerns for me with Protectionist – Ryan Moore, big fields and his Herbert Power run.

First, Ryan Moore. There’s no doubting he’s in the world’s top two or three jockeys – although my English friends will tell you that he is God (and the Americans would probably agree). For mine, I’d be happy to give that mantle to Joao Moreira, but it’s a matter of debate.

He’s ridden twice in the Melbourne Cup for two pretty poor rides on Mount Athos (fifth, 2012) and Dandino (fifth, 2013), however, his ride to win the Cox Plate on Adelaide was sensational and showed a greater understanding of Australian pace shapes.

The second, his lack of exposure to big fields. This is probably the biggest concern for me. European horses come to Australia used to beating up on small fields, and they get to a field with 24 runners and struggle to match their form. He had not raced against more than eight rivals until the Herbert Power, and while he seemed to handle the Herbert Power alright, it is still another step.

And third, the flat spot he hit in the Herbert Power as the speed quickened. He can’t be hitting that flat spot and expect to be winning the Melbourne Cup. Perhaps that’s the benefit of having a run beforehand, though.

All that said, the way he hit the line in the Herbert Power was terrific for fourth and a repeat of that performance will have him going very close. He’s also drawn in the perfect spot.

He’s definitely a contender.

Here is his win in the Prix Kergorlay:


6. SEA MOON
Beat Hollow x Eva Luna (Alleged), 7yo bay horse

Scratched

7. SEISMOS (1)Seismos
Dalakhani x Sasuela (Dashing Blade), 7yo chestnut gelding

Bred in: Ireland
Nationality: Great Britain/Australia
Trainer: Marco Botti
Jockey: Craig Newitt
Weight: 56kg
Career stats: 25:7-3-2
Win/place percentages: 28%/48%
Last 5 starts: 06410
Distances won at: 1 (2671m), 3 (2400m), 1 (2300m), 2 (2000m)
Biggest win: Group 1 Grosser Preis Von Bayern (2400m), Munich, August 11 2013
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $41
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $51
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $81
Summary of his chances: One-paced galloper who was disappointing in the Caulfield Cup. Not for me.
Predicted finish: 21st

Geoffrey Freer Stakes winner who looks to have no turn of foot whatsoever.

Even his Geoffrey Freer Stakes win was extraordinary. He beat two of his rivals there in Red Cadeaux and Willing Foe, but how he beat them is beyond me. He looked beaten at the 600m mark, was clearly passed by a number of runners, but somehow he kept grinding away and managed to win. He did run down a horse who was first up in 18 months in Willing Foe, though, so perhaps it was just a fitness edge.

He then ran in the Caulfield Cup and was very one-paced. He was bustled to try and get towards the lead, which was far from a strong pace, but couldn’t match strides and settled down midfield on the rails. He was under pressure around the home turn and dropped out of it. He simply wasn’t quick enough.

He’s drawn the inside again, which is probably the last thing the owners would have wanted as it means he is likely to be cluttered up at the wrong time.

To me, it looks like he’ll need a lot of luck to go his way and a form reversal looks very unlikely.

That said, Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock have experienced a major form reversal before.

Two years ago, Jakkalberry turned around his form after a dismal 13th in the Caulfield Cup to run third in the Melbourne Cup, but there were differences. He was wide at Caulfield and yet did show something in the final 100m or so. At Flemington, he had a cosy run and was able to find the line strongly off that.

If he was to find the form which saw him win a Group 1 in Germany in impressive style, then he’d be a place chance, but off his recent form, I couldn’t touch him.

Here is Seismos winning the Grosser Preis von Bayern last year:


8. JUNOOB (6)Junoob
Haafhd x Faydah (Bahri), 7yo chestnut gelding

Bred in: Great Britain
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Hugh Bowman
Weight: 55.5kg
Career stats: 32:11-4-4
Win/place percentages: 34%/59%
Last 5 starts: 86117
Distances won at: 2 (2414m), 1 (2400m), 2 (2012m), 4 (2000m), 1 (1947m), 1 (1900m)
Biggest win: Group 1 The Metropolitan (2400m), Randwick, October 4 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $26
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $26
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $26
Summary of his chances: Former English claimer who is now a legitimate Melbourne Cup chance, despite queries over distance and class.
Predicted finish: 9th

If Junoob manages to win the Melbourne Cup, he’ll complete one of the great transitions in world racing – from going around in Kempton and Lingfield claimers in Britain to taking out one of the world’s great races.

Junoob is a great representation of the move made by leading Sydney trainer Chris Waller less than a decade ago to go to England in pursuit of their lesser class horses. They weren’t your top horses which had been targeted in the past. They were horses likely to measure up in Saturday grade, nothing more.

It’s been a phenomenal success and taken Waller to the heights of the Sydney training ranks.

And while he now has imports from all parts of the spectrum, he still seems to do best with these types that he can take through the grades – exactly what he has done with Junoob.

Junoob stepped out for the first time last September, first up in almost a year and a half in a Benchmark 80 over 2000m. He was second to Spurtonic.

He got to the 2800m consolation race on Cup day, finishing nine lengths from the winner.

However, he continued to improve through the autumn, winning a Group 3 and making it to the Doomben Cup, where he was third to Streama.

This spring, he took time to hit his straps but eventually found form, winning the Hill Stakes before a tough-as-teak effort in winning The Metropolitan, Sydney’s premier staying feature of the spring.

Last time out, in the Caulfield Cup, rider Douglas Whyte reported that the horse got on the wrong leg around the home turn and that when he balanced up he was very strong through the line. It was the type of flashing light run that has indicated a potential Melbourne Cup winner before, which means he has to be considered some chance here.

There’s definitely a query about whether he’ll see out the two miles strongly, and really, whether he’s classy enough to win the race.

Furthermore, he’s aiming to be the first to complete the Metropolitan-Melbourne Cup double since Macdougal in 1959.

Nevertheless, he’s a legitimate chance, even if he’s just a place chance. Each-way.


9. ROYAL DIAMOND (5)Royal Diamond
King’s Best x Irresistable Jewel (Danehill), 9yo bay gelding

Bred in: Ireland
Nationality: Ireland
Trainer: Johnny Murtagh
Jockey: Steven Arnold
Weight: 55.5kg
Career stats: 38:9-7-5
Win/place percentages: 24%/55%
Last 5 starts: 1×2026
Distances won at: 1 (3219m), 1 (2832m), 6 (2816m), 1 (2792m)
Biggest win: Group 1 Irish St Leger (2816m), The Curragh, September 15 2012
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $61
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $61
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $81
Summary of his chances: Good stayer on his day but out of sorts this season and this looks a bit rich.
Predicted finish: 16th

It’s a shame Royal Diamond didn’t make the trip two years ago, or even last year.

Two years ago, he surprised in the Irish St Leger and despite his age he was still reaching his peak.

Last year, he had terrific form throughout the year before a disappointing effort in the Irish St Leger behind subsequent Melbourne Cup 10th Voleuse De Coeurs. That ruled a line through a Melbourne Cup trip, which perhaps wasn’t a terrible thing when he won the Long Distance Cup at Ascot on Champions Day.

He mixes his form but on his day, there’s no doubt he’s a good stayer. Still, on everything he’s shown this year, there’s no doubting he’s the second stringer for trainer Johnny Murtagh and owner Andrew Tinkler.

He was beaten three times by Coolmore’s leading stayer, the suitably named Leading Light – a three length second in the Vintage Crop Stakes, a 29 length 11th in the Ascot Gold Cup and a length and a quarter third in the Irish St Leger Trial.

However, last time, he finished 12 lengths behind Brown Panther in the Irish St Leger. It was a farcical race, with the lack of initiative shown by jockeys woeful, but out of that race I’d much prefer to be on Willing Foe than Royal Diamond.

Even at his best, I feel this is a bit rich, and in his current form it’s pretty easy to bin him. Not for me.

Here is his Long Distance Cup win from last year:


10. GATEWOOD (20)Gatewood
Galileo x Felicity (Selkirk), 7yo bay horse

Bred in: Great Britain
Nationality: Great Britain/Australia
Trainer: John Gosden
Jockey: William Buick
Weight: 55kg
Career stats: 25:8-8-2
Win/place percentages:32%/72%
Last 5 starts: 11212
Distances won at: 1 (2500m), 2 (2414m), 1 (2400m), 1 (2092m), 1 (2028m), 1 (2012m), 1 (1992m)
Biggest win: Group 3 Geelong Cup (2400m), Geelong, October 24 2012
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $71
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $71
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $71
Summary of his chances: Consistent type making a surprising return and despite okay form, happy to risk.
Predicted finish: 19th

2012 Geelong Cup winner who has had quite the career.

Made his way through the grades quickly in 2011 and 2012, winning the Wolferton Handicap at Royal Ascot, before coming to Australia where he failed to make the Melbourne Cup field despite winning the Geelong Cup.

He was transferred from John Gosden to Chris Waller, where he had four starts in the autumn of 2013 – the best a four-length seventh to Shoot Out in the Chipping Norton Stakes. However, when he failed to measure up in the Ranvet Stakes and The BMW, he was sent back to Gosden’s Newmarket base.

He’s been incredibly consistent since returning, only missing the top two once in 10 starts back in the mother country – and that was a third in last October’s Cumberland Lodge Stakes, with Royal Empire, who finished 14th in the Cup last year, finishing ahead of him. He won two Listed races in England before heading over to France, where he won the Group 3 Prix de Reux (2500m) – a race won by Americain before he finished fourth in 2011 – before another second in the Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville (2500m).

To be fair, he has been in very small fields, so to have such a consistent record is perhaps not a surprise.

It was a surprise to see him return, though, given his troubles acclimatising last time around.

They’ve decided to adopt a different tactic this time, targeting the race fresh. But even his form from last time suggests he’ll struggle to match up. He won a pretty poor Geelong Cup, beating Chateau Margaux, Brigantin and Back In Black. And his other two runs that spring were only average.

He definitely looks one to risk.

Watch Gatewood’s win in the 2012 Geelong Cup:


11. MUTUAL REGARD (11)Mutual Regard
Hernando x Hidden Charm (Big Shuffle), 6yo bay gelding

Bred in: Ireland
Nationality: Ireland
Trainer: Johnny Murtagh
Jockey: Damien Oliver
Weight: 55kg
Career stats: 17:7-4-3
Win/place percentages: 41%/82%
Last 5 starts: 22×131
Distances won at: 2 (3219m), 1 (2816m), 1 (2792m), 1 (2615m), 1 (2460m), 1 (2414m)
Biggest win: Ebor Handicap (2816m), York, August 23 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $13
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $13
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $11
Summary of his chances: Ebor Handicap winner who has caught the eye at trackwork but needs to improve here. Probably more a place chance.
Predicted finish: 10th

Two leviathans of the saddle join up here, but in very different ways.

Johnny Murtagh is one of the best jockeys the world has seen, but he gave up riding last year to focus on training full-time. Not only does he have two Melbourne Cup runners, a terrific feat, but he gets the services of Damien Oliver, one of Australia’s premier hoops and a three-time Melbourne Cup winner to boot.

Mutual Regard has come from nowhere to emerge as a contender for the Melbourne Cup.

He was going around in minor handicaps as recently as June, before stepping up to stakes company in the Challenge Stakes when third to Dermot Weld’s mare Pale Mimosa. He then went to the Ebor, a race that has been won by the likes of Give The Slip, Hugs Dancer, Purple Moon, All The Good and Willing Foe, where he proved too good for (Lord) Van Percy.

He has caught the eye at Werribee and the booking of Oliver has seen his price tumble.

That said, from what I’ve seen of him, I think he needs to improve to be a Melbourne Cup contender. He has a few ticks on the board – coming through big field handicaps, emerging at the right time – but for mine I think of him as more of a place chance.

12. WHO SHOT THEBARMAN (12)Who Shot Thebarman
Yamanin Vital x Ears Carol (Carolingian), 6yo bay gelding

Bred in: New Zealand
Nationality: New Zealand/Australia
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Glen Boss
Weight: 55kg
Career stats: 15:8-2-0
Win/place percentages: 53%/67%
Last 5 starts: 07110
Distances won at: 1 (3200m), 1 (2520m), 1 (2500m), 1 (2400m), 2 (2000m), 2 (1600m)
Biggest win: Group 1 Auckland Cup (3200m), Ellerslie, March 5 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $26
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $26
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $20
Summary of his chances: Dominant Auckland Cup winner and good form until last start. Back to Flemington and an alright draw gives him a rough chance, but probably more a place hope.
Predicted finish: 8th

Likely to be the people’s favourite, simply because of his name.

Came through the grades in New Zealand, winning the Avondale Cup and the Auckland Cup impressively earlier this year. After that, finished midfield in the Sydney Cup before he was transferred to Chris Waller with the Melbourne Cup in mind.

Didn’t show a great deal in two runs in Sydney, but when taken to Flemington and put over a bit of a trip, he thrived. He won a 2000m handicap comfortably, before stepping up to 2500m in the Bart Cummings and winning with a bit in hand.

He had a bit of support for the Caulfield Cup, but he didn’t handle Caulfield whatsoever, refusing to settle, crabbing around the joint and finishing a disappointing 13th.

It was a run which must be forgotten.

Before that, he had been shaping up as a solid Melbourne Cup chance, and I’m assessing him on everything before Caulfield. He comes back to Flemington, he has an alright draw which gives them a few options, and he’s not without a small winning chance. That said, though, he’s more of a place chance here as he steps up to take on the big boys.

13. WILLING FOE (16)Willing Foe
Dynaformer x Thunder Kitten (Storm Cat), 8yo bay or brown gelding

Bred in: United States
Nationality: Great Britain/United Arab Emirates
Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor
Jockey: James McDonald
Weight: 55kg
Career stats: 15:5-2-3
Win/place percentages: 33%/67%
Last 5 starts: 38x1x24
Distances won at: 1 (2816m), 1 (2671m), 1 (2414m), 2 (2066m)
Biggest win: Ebor Handicap (2816m), York, August 25 2012
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $31
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $31
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $26
Summary of his chances: Always looked the ideal Melbourne Cup type but has only raced twice in the last 18 months. 
Predicted finish: 5th

Can Willing Foe be the horse to break Godolphin’s run of placings?

I’ve long been convinced this was the perfect type of horse to bring for the Melbourne Cup. I backed him in 2012 after he won the Ebor Handicap, beating Royal Diamond, but after he couldn’t win a lead-up race which would have ensured he gained a start, they stayed home.

Last year, he resumed with a six length romp in the Aston Park Stakes, and thoughts again turned to Melbourne. However, he was not sighted again in 2013.

It was somewhat of a shock to see him resume in August in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes, but he acquitted himself well off such a long break. He let down beautifully, but was nabbed near the line by Seismos. Red Cadeaux was fourth.

Last time out, he ran a good race in what was a farcical Irish St Leger. Brown Panther tracked the pacemaker and was left well clear, with those chasing left to make up way too much ground. Willing Foe ran through as though he was going to run into second, but raced tight near the line and knocked up a touch, finishing fourth.

It’s still a major ask to expect he’ll be competitive with only two runs in the last 18 months under his belt, but he has looked fairly fit out at Werribee and he’ll get his chance.

That said, Cavalryman has looked better and is also racing in better form, hence why I have Cavalryman slightly ahead of Willing Foe – even if my prepost bet was on the latter!

He’s still a winning chance, but he’ll need a lot to go his way.

Here’s that boat race that was the Irish St Leger:


14. MY AMBIVALENT (3)My Ambivalent
Authorized x Darrery (Darshaan), 6yo bay mare

Bred in: Ireland
Nationality: Great Britain
Trainer: Roger Varian
Jockey: Andrea Atzeni
Weight: 54.5kg
Career stats: 16:5-2-4
Win/place percentages: 31%/69%
Last 5 starts: 2x3134x
Distances won at: 1 (2418m), 1 (2092m), 1 (2058m), 1 (2012m), 1 (1738m)
Biggest win: Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes (2012m), The Curragh, June 30 2013
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $51
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $41
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $41
Summary of her chances: Classy but has had plenty of problems and doubt her ability to stay the trip.
Predicted finish: 12th

If it’s a question of class, My Ambivalent – the ‘My’ prefix was added to avoid confusion with another mare by the same name – would be right in this.

A Group 1 winner against mares over 2000m, she produced a career-best run when third in the Sheema Classic in Dubai earlier this year behind Japan Cup winner Gentildonna and old warhorse Cirrus des Aigles. Behind her that day were Hong Kong Vase winner Dominant, Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Magician, Japan Cup runner-up Denim And Ruby and two horses familiar to Australians – 2011 Melbourne and 2012 Caulfield Cup winner Dunaden and last year’s Melbourne Cup placegetter Mount Athos.

Since then, she’s won the Middleton Stakes, finished third to Cirrus des Aigles and Arc runner-up Flintshire in the Coronation Cup before a disappointing fourth in the Pretty Polly Stakes.

On that form alone, you’d say she’s right in the mix and it’s a reason you can’t rule her out completely. But the negatives against her seem to outweigh the positives.

She’s first up since June, and it’s rare – even by European standards – to tackle the Melbourne Cup off such a long layoff.

She’s a quirky mare, as she has shown at the Werribee training centre. She gallops when she feels like it, she’s had a number of setbacks – put simply it’s been a tough preparation. She missed the Caulfield Cup with a setback, which was a disappointment as that was the race she had been set for and it looked a much better fit than the Melbourne Cup.

The only time she’s gone beyond 12 furlongs, she was beaten comfortably, and she also doesn’t look to have a great turn of foot – a death knell in Australian racing.

That said, she gets out and makes her own luck, and from barrier four, young English gun Andrea Atzeni should be able to jump her out and either lead or settle just behind them.

The likely trip elevates her a couple of places in my eyes, but overall, I’m happy to risk her. Place at the very best.

Here is her third in the Sheema Classic:


15. PRECEDENCE (18)Precedence
Zabeel x Kowtow (Shadeed), 9yo bay gelding

Bred in: New Zealand
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Bart and James Cummings
Jockey: Michael Rodd
Weight: 54.5kg
Career stats: 62:10-7-3
Win/place percentages: 16%/32%
Last 5 starts: 27×055
Distances won at: 1 (2600m), 2 (2500m), 1 (2400m), 1 (2390m), 1 (2200m), 1 (2040m), 1 (2000m), 2 (1600m)
Biggest win: Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500m), Moonee Valley, October 26 2013
Best Melbourne Cup effort: 8th, 2010 (three attempts)
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $101
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $101
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $101
Summary of his chances: Doubt the veteran sees out a strong 3200m, could finish top 10 if everything goes right but won’t be contesting the placings.
Predicted finish: 15th

It’s a bit like a male version of the Golden Girls – the oldest horse in the field Precedence, trained by an 87-year-old legend in Bart Cummings (albeit in partnership with his grandson James) for owners Dato Tan Chin Nam and Sir Patrick Hogan, among others.

Putting it mildly, it’s a reunion of veterans.

For the first time, Precedence will not race in Dato Tan Chin Nam’s famous checkerboard colours worn by the likes of Saintly and So You Think and will instead carry the green silks of Sir Patrick, Cambridge Stud’s revered studmaster.

So can he make it a baker’s dozen for Bart Cummings, while also marking a changing of the guard by giving James his first?

It’s unlikely. He’s run honest races in three Melbourne Cups but I doubt he runs a strong 3200m.

His form this preparation has been solid – he was terrific in the JRA Cup, finishing in front of Signoff (and meeting him better at the weights here), while his Moonee Valley Cup fifth has to be forgotten after he was galloped on in the incident which saw Chad Schofield fall from Albonetti.

It’s a shame he didn’t make the race last year, as that was probably the best preparation he’d had since he finished eighth in the Cup to Americain in 2010.

If everything falls into place, he could finish in the top 10 again, but barrier 18 adds another complication – no horse has ever won from the gate – and I think I’d prefer to let him shock me rather than including him.

Here he is finishing fifth in the Moonee Valley Cup:


16. BRAMBLES (19)Brambles
Savabeel x Prickle (Pins), 6yo bay gelding

Bred in: New Zealand
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Peter Moody
Jockey: Luke Nolen
Weight: 54kg
Career stats: 19:6-3-3
Win/place percentages: 32%/63%
Last 5 starts: 21349
Distances won at: 1 (2400m), 1 (2200m), 1 (2000m), 1 (1700m), 2 (1600m)
Biggest win: Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m), Eagle Farm, June 9 2012
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $41
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $51
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $61
Summary of his chances: Has found form again after career-threatening injuries, but the two miles is a concern, especially from the wide gate.
Predicted finish: 14th

It’s been some effort to get Brambles back to the races after almost two years on the sidelines.

In the winter of 2012, he dominated Queensland’s three-year-old staying ranks, exiting an easy winner in the Queensland Derby.

That would be the last we’d see of him until May 2014, as tendon injuries flared and kept on hampering attempts to bring him back to the races. When he returned, he was rusty but there were signs that he still possessed the talent to be a star stayer.

However, it wasn’t until the Heatherlie Handicap in late August that he finally proved he was back on track, flying home for second behind Stipulate.

A start later, he beat Herbert Power winner Big Memory and Lexus winner Stipulate in an open handicap at Flemington, before running an enormous race for third in the Turnbull Stakes behind Lucia Valentina and Lidari.

In the Caulfield Cup, he was the spruik horse all week once he gained a run, and was far from disgraced in finishing fourth to Admire Rakti, Rising Romance and Lucia Valentina.

On Saturday, he finished ninth in the Mackinnon Stakes behind Happy Trails, the only Cup runner to use what used to be known as the ‘Practice Stakes’.

He’s got the right form for a Melbourne Cup winner, but will he see out the two miles? For me, it’s a real concern and I’m hesitant, especially from the wide gate.

He did enough in the Mackinnon, but the doubts over the trip are enough for me to risk him.

Here he is winning the Queensland Derby:


17. MR O’CEIRIN (17)Mr O'Ceirin
Postponed x Cadell (Yachtie), 7yo bay gelding

Bred in: New Zealand
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Ciaron Maher
Jockey: Chad Schofield
Weight: 54kg
Career stats: 38:10-5-1
Win/place percentages: 26%/46%
Last 5 starts: 95647
Distances won at: 1 (2350m), 1 (2100m), 1 (2050m), 1 (2040m), 3 (2000m), 2 (1600m), 1 (1200m)
Biggest win: Group 3 Naturalism Stakes (2000m), Caulfield, September 21 2013
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $201
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $201
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $251
Summary of his chances: Form doesn’t look strong enough and ground unlikely to suit. Surely not?
Predicted finish: 22nd

A Grafton Cup and Naturalism Stakes winner extending beyond 2400m for the first time.

He goes alright on his day, although nothing in the ball park of some of these, and his form this preparation doesn’t look strong enough.

Granted, he did beat Signoff comfortably in the JRA Cup behind The Cleaner – he finished a length and a quarter in front of him with a similar weight difference. However, Signoff has progressed off that run whereas Mr O’Ceirin didn’t show much in his one run since in the Cranbourne Cup.

In addition, he is yet to win on good ground, which he is likely to get on Tuesday. If he’s been unable to win on good ground now, there’s no reason to suggest it will come in the toughest race he’s contested.

He is 250/1 for a reason. Pass.

Watch him win last year’s Grafton Cup:


18. AU REVOIR (21)Au Revoir

Singspiel x First (Highest Honor), 5yo bay horse

Bred in: Ireland
Nationality: France/Australia
Trainer: Andre Fabre
Jockey: Glyn Schofield
Weight: 53.5kg
Career stats: 14:3-1-2
Win/place percentages: 21%/43%
Last 5 starts: 426×43
Distances won at: 1 (2450m), 2 (2400m)
Biggest win: Listed Grand Prix de Clairefontaine (2400m), Clairefontaine, August 24 2013
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $41
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $67
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $71
Summary of his chances: Quite a good run fresh in the Moonee Valley Cup but looks more a place chance.
Predicted finish: 13th

French galloper who comes to Australia with some interesting form around a number of good gallopers.

As a three-year-old, he was four lengths behind Arc runner-up Flintshire in the Grand Prix de Paris, and also had form around horses like Tres Blue.

This year, he mixed his form, his best run a nose second to Spiritjim in a Listed race – the winner subsequently beat Champion Stakes winner Noble Mission in a French Group 1. At his last run before entering quarantine, Au Revoir finished fourth in the Prix Foy behind Epsom Derby winner Ruler of the World, Flintshire and Spiritjim.

He was quite good fresh in the Moonee Valley Cup when third after making the running, but I’m not convinced about the strength of the race from a Melbourne Cup standpoint – Prince of Penzance and Le Roi wouldn’t be strong chances in this race, one would think.

From the wide gate, you’d expect him to go forward and either lead or settle handy. That gives him some hope of sneaking into the placings, if he doesn’t have to work too hard, but for mine I think others have better credentials. Minor place player.

Here was Au Revoir finishing fourth in the Prix Foy:


19. LIDARI (9)Lidari
Acclamation x Laxlova (Linamix), 6yo bay horse

Bred in: France
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Peter Moody
Jockey: Ben Melham
Weight: 53.5kg
Career stats: 25:7-3-3
Win/place percentages: 28%/52%
Last 5 starts: 54426
Distances won at: 2 (2400m), 1 (2000m), 1 (1600m), 2 (1400m), 1 (1200m)
Biggest win: Group 2 Blamey Stakes (1600m), Flemington, March 8 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $41
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $71
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $71
Summary of his chances: Has been in good form this spring but the 3200m looks a major stretch. No.
Predicted finish: 20th

It seems odd that a horse I thought could be a top miler is now running in a Melbourne Cup.

He certainly shaped up as a miler when third to Fiorente in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes last year, and again when winning the Blamey Stakes earlier this year.

However, he’s been stretched out with success this preparation. He finished very nicely for fourths in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes and the Underwood Stakes, before a top-notch second in the Turnbull Stakes. Last start, he was a satisfactory sixth but definitely didn’t show the same ping as the start before.

Despite his form, queries remain about the trip. If he was mine, I think he would have been the perfect Mackinnon Stakes horse. Instead he’s here.

It’s hard to see him getting 3200m down a well. His breeding says no, his Caulfield Cup run says no and my gut instinct says no. Therefore, no.

Here he is winning the Blamey Stakes earlier in the year:


20. OPINION (13)Opinion
Oasis Dream x Kiltubber (Sadler’s Wells), 6yo bay gelding

Bred in: Ireland
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Tye Angland
Weight: 53.5kg
Career stats: 25:5-4-1
Win/place percentages: 20%/40%
Last 5 starts: 05026
Distances won at: 1 (2414m), 1 (2098m), 1 (2018m), 1 (1900m), 1 (1810m)
Biggest win: Listed Parramatta Cup (1900m), Rosehill, March 1 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $51
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $67
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $61
Summary of his chances: Doubt he has the class to figure here. Not for me.
Predicted finish: 18th

Can Opinion become the first horse to complete the mighty Parramatta Cup-Melbourne Cup double?

To be fair, Opinion has already defied plenty, just on his breeding.

Anyone who saw Choisir’s historic English raid in 2003, though, would hardly have believed the horse that finished third to him in the King’s Stand Stakes over 1000m would one day sire a Melbourne Cup runner. And not just a Melbourne Cup runner, but one of the few runners in the field with 3200m form!

He arrived in Australia as a horse that had begun to hit his straps in England, winning the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot last year.

He started favourite in the Cup consolation over 2800m – a race which stablemate Junoob also contested – but Nash Rawiller’s saddle slipped and he was beaten a long, long way.

In the autumn, he won the Parramatta Cup before becoming something of a bridesmaid with a number of second placings, culminating with a runner-up finish in the Sydney Cup behind The Offer.

This spring, he’s been alright, although his second to Junoob in The Metropolitan was a good run. Last start, he was okay in the Moonee Valley Cup, but nothing suggests he can measure up in this race.

There are still major class issues for me here and for that reason, I’m happy to let him go around without me.

Watch him finish second to The Offer in the Sydney Cup:


21. ARALDO (22)Araldo
High Chaparral x Alanda (Lando), 7yo bay horse

Bred in: Great Britain
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Michael Moroney
Jockey: Dwayne Dunn
Weight: 53kg
Career stats: 15:4-2-4
Win/place percentages:27%/67%
Last 5 starts: 3×7635
Distances won at: (2800m), 1 (2520m), 1 (2200m), 1 (2000m)
Biggest win: Listed Bart Cummings (2500m), Flemington, October 5 2013
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $31
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $31
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $26
Summary of his chances: Quirky galloper who found the line well in the Caulfield Cup. Probably more a place chance, especially from the outside draw.
Predicted finish: 11th

Former German galloper Araldo has become known more for his quirks than for his ability – of which he has plenty.

He made a splash last spring when he won the Bart Cummings on protest after getting involved in a bumping duel with Sea Moon, but he showed in the Lexus Stakes four weeks later that it might not have been all Sea Moon. He looked certain to race past Ruscello and Let’s Make Adeal but he drifted in badly, losing momentum and any chance.

He was given the autumn off, and returned with a satisfactory seventh in the Heatherlie Handicap. He was just fair when sixth in the Naturalism Stakes, terrific when third in The Metropolitan and again really good from last when fifth in the Caulfield Cup.

He still has a few quirks but they definitely seem to be improving.

The outside gate probably dictates that he has to go back to near last again, which is always a tough ask in a Melbourne Cup as the backmarkers can tend to lose sight of the race when the speed increases around the 1200m.

I’d say the draw has cruelled the small winning chance he had anyway, but to see him sneak into the placings wouldn’t surprise.

Here’s last year’s Lexus Stakes:


22. LUCIA VALENTINA (2)Lucia Valentina
Savabeel x Staryn Glenn (Montjeu), 4yo brown mare

Bred in: New Zealand
Nationality: New Zealand/Australia
Trainer: Kris Lees
Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy
Weight: 53kg
Career stats: 13:5-1-3
Win/place percentages: 39%/69%
Last 5 starts: 3×1613
Distances won at: 2 (2000m), 1 (1600m), 1 (1400m), 1 (1200m)
Biggest win: Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m), Flemington, October 4 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $7
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $7.50
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $7.50
Summary of her chances: Brilliant mare with a barnstorming turn of foot but will that translate to 3200m? If so she’s some chance, despite an awkward draw.
Predicted finish: 6th

Let me preface this by saying I am one of Lucia Valentina’s biggest fans. I have watched her come through the grades in New Zealand, I’ve believed throughout the winter that she was the most likely of the three-year-olds to make the step up into open company.

In a sign of how much the Melbourne Cup has changed, though, she is the only four-year-old in the race. Not one winner of a Derby or Oaks last season has made it to the race.

It’s a remarkable shift.

Lucia Valentina has a top-class turn of foot on her, which is a big advantage. Will that play out over the 3200m though? For mine, I think the trip’s not going to be the issue – on pedigree, I think the 3200m should be alright. And she does what top-class horses can do – she switches off in her races, only unleashing her energy when asked for an effort.

She showed signs of being a top-class horse in the making when she won the Vinery Stud Stakes before an enormous run when third in the Australian Oaks behind Rising Romance. The amount of ground she made up that day was phenomenal.

As a four-year-old this spring, she’s gone on with the job. She was stunning first up when winning the Tramway Stakes, passable in the George Main Stakes before proving her Cups credentials with a win in the Turnbull Stakes.

She was sent off favourite in the Caulfield Cup on the back of that, was pushed very wide along with Admire Rakti, couldn’t match his dash but flew home herself. It was an ideal Cup trial.

All week, I’ve ummed and ahhed about what to do with her. In my predicted finish list, I once had her as high as second. However, when she drew barrier two, I immediately relegated her, because I’m not convinced she’ll be in the right spot on the home turn when you will want her out and circling.

That might be a blessing, but it’s a reason why I’ve started to look around her.

She’s still a winning chance, without a doubt, but I couldn’t be taking $7 about her here with the number of queries surrounding her.

Watch her win the Turnbull Stakes:


23. UNCHAIN MY HEART (4)Unchain My Heart
Al Maher x Fly By Night (Prince of Birds), 8yo bay mare

Bred in: Australia
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: David Hayes and Tom Dabernig
Jockey: Dean Yendall
Weight: 51.5kg
Career stats: 58:10-6-7
Win/place percentages: 17%/40%
Last 5 starts: 34390
Distances won at: 2 (3200m), 1 (3000m), 2 (2800m), 2 (2600m), 1 (2200m), 1 (2050m), 1 (1411m)
Biggest win: Listed Andrew Ramsden Stakes (3200m), Flemington, May 24 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $201
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $201
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $201
Summary of her chances: Course specialist who stays all day. Doubt she’ll finish last but would be a huge effort to trouble the top 10.
Predicted finish: 17th

The second of only two Australian-bred runners in the race, Unchain My Heart will give her owners a great thrill simply by turning up on the day.

To be blunt, though, she’s simply not good enough.

Her class was tested last start in the Caulfield Cup, when she finished a nine-length 17th, and I doubt anyone would suggest that was anything other than her best effort.

In her favour, though, she is the only horse to have won over the Flemington 3200m – and not only that, but she’s two-from-two over the course and distance. There are only two races run over the Flemington 3200m each year – the Melbourne Cup and the Andrew Ramsden Stakes in May – and she has won the Andrew Ramsden the last two years. To put it in perspective, the placegetters behind her in those races were Wells, Thubiaan, Vatuvei and Gotta Take Care – consistent off-season stayers, mainly jumpers, who would be lapped in a Melbourne Cup.

She is just a plodder – she stays all day and will probably be wanting another lap when the race concludes.

I doubt she’ll be the last horse home, and actually, if I got her in a sweep I’d be really disappointed. She’s highly unlikely to be anywhere near the placegetters but she’s unlikely to finish last.

24. SIGNOFF (15)Signoff
Authorized x Miss Hepburn (Gone West), 5yo brown gelding

Bred in: Ireland
Nationality: Australia
Trainer: Darren Weir
Jockey: Joao Moreira
Weight: 51kg (carries 0.5kg over, so 51.5kg)
Career stats: 13:7-1-2
Win/place percentages: 54%/77%
Last 5 starts: 39231
Distances won at: 2 (2500m), 1 (2400m), 1 (2040m), 1 (2014m), 1 (1512m), 1 (1400m)
Biggest win: Group 3 Lexus Stakes (2500m), Flemington, November 1 2014
Best Melbourne Cup effort: First attempt
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Saturday November 1): $7
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 7pm, Sunday November 2): $7
Luxbet fixed odds (as at 11pm, Monday November 3): $7
Summary of his chances: Striking form at the right time, gets in very well with the world’s best jockey aboard. Parallels with Shocking are…shocking. Top chance.
Predicted finish: 1st

A year ago, Signoff was an unraced import from Ireland. Thirteen days after Fiorente ran away with the Cup, the son of Authorized had his first barrier trial at Camperdown, finishing fifth. Three weeks later, he won his first race at Terang.

Who could have imagined that, a year later, they’d have one of the top fancies for the Melbourne Cup?

He made his way through the grades quickly, winning at Morphettville and then Moonee Valley in February. It was two wins in March at Bendigo and Moonee Valley, both by five lengths, that stamped him as a potential Melbourne Cup contender.

He was spelled, and from that moment on, the plan was to win the Lexus Stakes to qualify him for the Melbourne Cup.

It was a plan that came to fruition on Saturday when he won the Lexus with ease, beating Herbert Power winner Big Memory. It looks a case of a promising horse striking form at the right time.

Throughout the spring, he’d been heading the right way, save for a disappointing ninth in the JRA Cup behind The Cleaner. A third to Brambles in an open handicap over 1700m before the JRA Cup, an unlucky second to Big Memory in the Herbert Power, a third in the David Jones Cup to Contributer.

In fact, it was a very similar preparation to that of Shocking, who won the Melbourne Cup in 2009 after sneaking in by winning the Lexus Stakes impressively.

For me, he looks a weighted special. In a year where the weights are massively compressed, to get in on 51kg – or even 51.5kg – in his form is a huge asset.

And not only that, but he gets the services of the jockey I consider to be the best in the world in Joao Moreira. The Brazilian ‘Magic Man’ has yet to ride in a Melbourne Cup, but if he can ride Signoff anything like he rode him in the Lexus, there’s not much to worry about.

The gate is a slight concern, but I hope that there is enough speed that he can either settle in the two or three wide line, about five lengths from the leader. If so, he’ll be ready to pounce at the top of the straight and with his light weight, he’ll be able to hold off the late closers.

The more I look at it, the more I think he is the 2014 Melbourne Cup winner. Top chance.

SPEED MAP

Thanks to our friends over at RacingFans.com.au, I was able to draw up this speed map of how I think the runners will settle as they pass the winning post the first time. Those out three wide may be able to slot in, or may be forced to go forward or back, but it’s a general idea:

Speed Map

From this, it looks like Au Revoir will cross from a wide gate to lead them up. It also wouldn’t surprise to see Brambles make his way across towards the lead either.

My Ambivalent’s best form has come when leading, so from gate four, expect her to be prominent.

The big query will be if Seismos has the pace to boot up from the inside. If he does, there could be more speed than expected.

From the gate, Araldo probably has to go back to last, while it wouldn’t surprise to see Lucia Valentina closer than indicated with the better draw.

SUMMARY

After last year’s failure with Fiorente, we are looking to restore a little bit of pride – and it’s an opportunity that comes only once a year.

It’s disappointing that we are down to 22 runners, with the scratchings including a horse that I thought was a legitimate winning chance in CAVALRYMAN, so we might have to readjust a little here.

As I said at the outset, it’s not the strongest Melbourne Cup – there aren’t many horses here that fall into the middle bracket, those that are top five contenders but not winning hopes. There are a couple of them, but not many.

The big thing this year is that weight doesn’t seem to be as much of a factor, with the majority in the 57-53kg bracket.

That said, there are exceptions. And the most notable exception is the horse striking form at the right time down the bottom – SIGNOFF. To get in with such a light weight in this year’s edition makes him a huge player and the one they all have to beat, for mine. He was exceptional on Saturday and a repeat of that performance down in the weights will have him going very close.

RED CADEAUX is an old warhorse who may not be in the same form this year as he has been in the past, but he stacks up well with ADMIRE RAKTI and he looks to be in great shape at Werribee. His past Melbourne Cup form makes him a player anyway.

Obviously Admire Rakti is a huge chance if he can back up the Caulfield Cup form, the extra weight should not worry him and he’s going to be a hard nut to crack if all goes his way.

PROTECTIONIST is right there in the mix, too, provided he can avoid that flat spot he hit in the Herbert Power. I do think Signoff may have his measure here though.

Godolphin’s WILLING FOE is definitely a chance of giving Sheikh Mohammed his first Melbourne Cup, and while I’d put Cavalryman ahead of Willing Foe in the end, obviously we’re now left with Willing Foe for fifth.

LUCIA VALENTINA and FAWKNER are the two horses with terrific form who are queries at the trip. But if class prevails, expect them to be amongst the finish.

They are the main winning hopes, while WHO SHOT THEBARMAN and JUNOOB are probably the only other ones I could see winning. MUTUAL REGARD, ARALDO, MY AMBIVALENT and AU REVOIR look place contenders, while I think I’d be happy to avoid the others. The long tail in action!

NUMBERS

24 – SIGNOFF
4 – RED CADEAUX
1 – ADMIRE RAKTI
5 – PROTECTIONIST
————————–
13 – WILLING FOE
22 – LUCIA VALENTINA

Hawk’s 2014 Victoria Derby Day Selections

November 1, 2014

It’s the favourite raceday of every Australian racing purist. Derby Day, the first day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival at Flemington, is here!

Of course, it also means we’re just three days out from the race that stops the nation, the Emirates Melbourne Cup.

Our energy is focused on our mammoth Melbourne Cup preview, which will be coming your way this evening. Make sure you read it for all the information you need to make this year’s Melbourne Cup a winning one.

In the meantime, there are winners to be found on Derby Day. The Coolmore Stud Stakes is one of the best races I’ve seen in Australia all year, the Mackinnon Stakes has many angles, the Victoria Derby is a lottery and the Myer Classic looks very deep. And that’s not including the Lexus Stakes, the last-ditch effort to get into the Melbourne Cup, or the step up into Group company for the unbeaten Deep Field in the last.

So much to look forward to on one of the premier days of the Australian turf.

Here are today’s selections:

Race 1 – GROUP 3 CARBINE CLUB STAKES (1600m)

1 – OUR VESPA
15 – AZKADELLIA
2 – STRATUM STAR
7 – KERMADEC

Race 2 – GROUP 2 WAKEFUL STAKES (2000m)

9 – FENWAY
1 – FONTEIN RUBY
5 – MUSCOVADO
10 – YESTERJOY

Race 3 – GROUP 3 YELLOWGLEN STAKES (1400m)

10 – WOODBINE
4 – HUCKLEBUCK
3 – GENERALIFE
8 – VELROSSO

Race 4 – GROUP 1 COOLMORE STUD STAKES (1200m)

2 – BRAZEN BEAU
10 – GALAXY PEGASUS
1 – RICH ENUFF
8 – KURO

Race 5 – GROUP 3 LEXUS STAKES (2500m)

9 – SIGNOFF
5 – LET’S MAKE ADEAL
1 – BIG MEMORY
6 – LA AMISTAD

Race 6 – GROUP 1 MACKINNON STAKES (2000m)

9 – FARRAAJ
8 – HE’S YOUR MAN
15 – RISING ROMANCE
12 – AMRALAH

Race 7 – GROUP 1 VICTORIA DERBY (2500m)

11 – ATMOSPHERE
13 – PREFERMENT
1 – HAMPTON COURT
5 – MAGICOOL

Race 8 – GROUP 1 MYER CLASSIC (1600m)

13 – STAR FASHION
4 – MAY’S DREAM
1 – SWEET IDEA
3 – DIAMOND DRILLE

Race 9 – GROUP 2 TAB.COM.AU STAKES (1200m)

6 – DEEP FIELD
8 – CHARLIE BOY
4 – BIG MONEY
11 – NEAREST TO PIN

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