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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 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

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

Hawk’s 2014 Cox Plate Day Selections – Who Will Win?

October 25, 2014

Cox Plate day is here for another year, and the business end of the spring carnival is upon us.

It still does feel somewhat watered down now with the two-day carnival, but there’s some fascinating racing today as the Melbourne Cup Carnival creeps closer for another year.

So who will win Australia’s weight-for-age championship and join an honour roll that includes Phar Lap, Chatham, Young Idea, Ajax, Beau Vite, Tranquil Star, Flight, Hydrogen, Rising Fast, Redcraze, Tulloch, Tobin Bronze, Gunsynd, Dulcify, Kingston Town, Strawberry Road, Bonecrusher, Better Loosen Up, Super Impose, Octagonal, Might and Power, Sunline, Northerly, Fields of Omagh, Makybe Diva, So You Think…and the maiden Shamus Award?

I’ve given my analysis for the Cox Plate, as well as selections for the other races.

Good luck!

Race 1 – INGLIS BANNER (1000m)

13 – REALISE THE DREAM
14 – STYLEMAKER
7 – HOT SNIPPETY
4 – SAN SIERRA

Race 2 – CITY JEEP HANDICAP (1000m)

5 – STRAIGHT GOLD
11 – MINAJ
2 – VATICAN
1 – ROCKY KING

Race 3 – GROUP 2 FILLIES CLASSIC (1600m)

8 – KANSAS SUNFLOWER
1 – LUMOSTY
3 – TAHNI DANCER
4 – TENDER

Race 4 – GROUP 3 TELSTRA PHONEWORDS STAKES (1200m)

2 – LAW
10 – GALAXY PEGASUS
1 – PRESSING
11 – GLENROWAN PRINCE

Race 5 – GROUP 2 MOONEE VALLEY CUP (2500m)

4 – AU REVOIR
1 – PRECEDENCE
7 – OPINION
5 – LE ROI

Race 6 – GROUP 2 CRYSTAL MILE (1600m)

3 – AKAVOROUN
2 – HAVANA REY
4 – DESERT JEUNEY
6 – HOOKED

Race 7 – GROUP 2 MOONEE VALLEY VASE (2040m)

10 – ATMOSPHERE
2 – CHIVALRY
5 – BONDEIGER
13 – GO INDY GO

Race 8 – GROUP 1 COX PLATE (2040m)

No matter which way you look at it, it’s far from the strongest Cox Plate field ever assembled. But it is a competitive race and probably one of the more intriguing Cox Plates in recent years.

To explain how I see the Cox Plate, and how I reached the conclusions I did, takes a fair bit of time. And it relies on certain assumptions being made about how the race will be run. For example, I’ve put a line through SACRED FALLS, but if the race is run differently, he would be near the top.

I see THE CLEANER crossing over from the outside gate to lead them up, possibly with SIDE GLANCE kicking through along the inside. That said, Side Glance tends to lead at a fairly sedate tempo and I’m sure they’d be happy to sit behind the speed so I expect The Cleaner to get to the lead up the side without too many hassles.

From there, he will employ his traditional style – step up the pressure, break the hearts of his rivals and hope it’s enough to hold out.

The thing about The Cleaner is that he does what old Vo Rogue used to do – he sucks the turn of foot out of horses. Check out Vo Rogue’s videos and see what he did to horses with a brilliant sprint, like Super Impose.

The way the race is likely to be run, with The Cleaner putting his foot down and making it a pressure race from the 800m or so, I don’t want to be on horses that are going to be too far out of their ground, horses that are going to struggle at the trip and horses that have a sharp turn of foot.

So for me, that already rules out the likes of Sacred Falls, HAPPY TRAILS, FORETELLER, GUEST OF HONOUR and the three-year-olds.

That leaves seven horses – FAWKNER, Side Glance, The Cleaner, CRITERION, SILENT ACHIEVER, ROYAL DESCENT and ADELAIDE.

Of those, I have to take on Adelaide – I think he was terrific last start, but there’s a big question mark over the form from that race. And his form before that is nothing special – the American turf three-year-olds aren’t crash hot, and he was good without being great in his European races before that. If he does what he did in Chicago, where he drifted to the outside fence, then Moonee Valley seems to be a real concern.

Criterion is a bit hit and miss for mine, he should get a nice run but I think the way the Caulfield Stakes was run really suited him and I’m not sure it will suit him so much here.

Royal Descent is a consistent mare, but she hasn’t been in the winner’s circle since her ATC Oaks victory last year. She should run another honest race but the main reason I haven’t included her is that I can see her being shuffled back throughout – I’d actually have preferred her drawn out wider. I think she might be left with too much to do so will leave her out, albeit begrudgingly.

And then there were four – The Cleaner, Fawkner, Silent Achiever and Side Glance.

Fawkner is the logical selection – he’s flying, he’s adaptable, he’ll get the trip no concerns, he’ll get a nice run. Everything points to him as this year’s Cox Plate winner, trying to become the first horse since Might and Power to win the Cox Plate the year after the Caulfield Cup.

However, my instincts are telling me The Cleaner – the Lion of Longford – can complete the fairytale. The story is ready-made for hopeless romantics – the widower and his best mate, the battler, the underdog. The pride and joy of Longford. But forget the story for a moment, because stories don’t win races.

He makes his own luck, he sets up races to suit him. They all have to get past him, and while they are classier horses than what he has met before, it’s going to be a different race for most of them than what they’ve experienced before.

For that reason, I’m putting The Cleaner on top of Fawkner.

I do think Silent Achiever will improve, as long as they stick to their original plan to settle closer to the speed. If she can be fifth or sixth, one off the speed, I think she’ll surprise a few people. I also think Moonee Valley might suit her.

And I think Side Glance is the sort of honest type that will be able to withstand the pressure here.

Hopefully, the race is run the way we’ve predicted, otherwise there could be a lot of egg to clean off after the race!

6 – THE CLEANER
2 – FAWKNER
9 – SILENT ACHIEVER
3 – SIDE GLANCE

Race 9 – GROUP 3 ELIZA PARK INTERNATIONAL STAKES (1600m)

2 – TANGO’S DAUGHTER
7 – JESSY BELLE
4 – SUAVITO
1 – GYPSY DIAMOND

Hawk’s 2014 Caulfield Cup Day Selections – Who Will Win?

October 18, 2014

The first of the spring’s big three races is here – the Caulfield Cup, the world’s richest mile and a half handicap, although I’m not sure it’s much of a handicap anymore with the compressed weight scale…

This week has seen a Caulfield Cup lead-up unlike any other, with drama after drama after drama. The only other thing that could go wrong is that there is a repeat of the 2007 Maldivian/Eskimo Queen incident at the barriers.

I had planned to do a horse-by-horse write-up but a number of factors ensured that didn’t happen. Instead, I will save the monster preview for the Melbourne Cup, as always.

Outside the Caulfield Cup, the David Jones Cup – the old Coongy Handicap – is a fascinating race with a couple of new imports joining a number of locals on the Melbourne Cup trail.

The first running of the Norman Robinson Stakes as the Caulfield Classic is quite underwhelming. Outside that, though, the card looks fairly strong.

So who will win today, and in particular, who will etch their name into the Caulfield Cup honour roll? Read on for my thoughts.

Good luck!

Race 1 – YELLOWGLEN PLATE (1400m)

2 – AZKADELLIA
6 – SHACARDE
11 – KANSAS SUNFLOWER
7 – I’M A FLYING STAR

Race 2 – LISTED GOTHIC STAKES (1400m)

11 – ARMADA
1 – TUDOR
9 – STAVIVA
2 – STRATUM’S STAR

Race 3 – LISTED ETHEREAL STAKES (2000m)

10 – HIPSTER GIRL
3 – MAASTRICHT
7 – LITTLE HOTTIE
6 – SAVAGE COUP

Race 4 – GROUP 3 CAULFIELD CLASSIC (2000m)

4 – MAGICOOL
13 – CRAFTY
5 – FIREHOUSE ROCK
2 – MERION

Race 5 – GROUP 3 MOONGA STAKES (1400m)

6 – LEEBAZ
10 – ADMIRE INAZUMA
4 – FLAMBERGE
3 – MANAWANUI

Race 6 – GROUP 2 TRISTARC STAKES (1400m)

6 – GIRL GUIDE
3 – SWEET IDEA
4 – CATKINS
2 – MAY’S DREAM

Race 7 – GROUP 3 DAVID JONES CUP (2000m)

12 – NOBLE PROTECTOR
5 – KINGDOMS
2 – CONTRIBUTER
9 – SIGNOFF

Race 8 – GROUP 2 CAULFIELD SPRINT (1100m)

1 – BEL SPRINTER
8 – I’M ALL THE TALK
5 – BIG MONEY
4 – MIRACLES OF LIFE

Race 9 – GROUP 1 CAULFIELD CUP (2400m)

What a week of drama it has been! Scratchings left, right and centre have seen last year’s placegetters Dandino and Dear Demi, the second favourite Bande and Naturalism Stakes winner Gris Caro all withdrawn on veterinary advice. That means all four emergencies have gained a start.

It’s definitely not the strongest Caulfield Cup I’ve seen, far from it, and there looks to be a fair tail to it now. That’s a real shame too, as it means we are taking rock bottom odds about our selection – the favourite LUCIA VALENTINA.

A backmarker with a stellar turn of foot, she won the Vinery Stud Stakes in the autumn before producing a massive run when third to RISING ROMANCE in the ATC Australian Oaks. This spring, she began with a barnstorming win in the Tramway Handicap, a passable sixth in the George Main Stakes before a terrific win in the Turnbull Stakes.

She does look about the right price, but in the last few years, I’ve never been keen to take $4 or so about a runner in the Caulfield Cup. In fact, I’ve been loathe to take a favourite at all.

My record in the Caulfield Cup is shocking, but the last five years I’ve been on Silent Achiever ($8, 8th), Jakkalberry ($21, 13th), Manighar ($13, 4th), Mr Medici ($17, 6th) and Allez Wonder ($10, 8th). Only one at single figures, and no real success whatsoever.

So history would tell you to stay away from my Caulfield Cup selection.

But try as I might to build a case around every other horse, I find it simply impossible and I have to rush into Lucia Valentina.

Yes, there are recent stats against four-year-old mares, but I doubt many have entered with the form Lucia Valentina possesses. Ditto with Turnbull Stakes winners.

Yes, her running style lends itself to hard luck stories, but she’s still found ways to win in impossible scenarios this preparation so far.

I think with even luck in running, she will win. She’s well weighted, she’s in terrific form and she’s on an upward spiral. This has been the race in which I’ve wanted to back her all spring, and I’m sticking to my guns.

For second, and for the value, I am looking at STIPULATE.

This David Hayes and Tom Dabernig-trained import started the spring with a bang when winning the Heatherlie Handicap, before an even effort when stepping up to weight for age in the Underwood Stakes and an acceptable run in the Turnbull Stakes.

The big query for him is the distance, not having won beyond nine furlongs and not having been tested beyond 2000m. But I didn’t mind his Turnbull Stakes run at all, he’s drawn to get a soft run, and don’t forget – Fawkner had not won beyond 1800m and had not raced beyond 2040m before winning the Caulfield Cup last year, either.

Also coming from the Turnbull is LIDARI, who was game in defeat and has had the perfect preparation for this race. He is yet to win this spring but has not disgraced himself, improving with each run as he has stepped up in trip – fifth in the Lawrence Stakes to Star Rolling, fourth in the Dato Tan Chin Nam to The Cleaner, fourth in the Underwood Stakes to Foreteller before a game second last time out. He has not raced beyond 2000m in Australia, but he was a winner over 2400m in fairly weak French races. A big plus for him is that he maps well and should have every favour in the run.

Of the internationals, ADMIRE RAKTI is the one to watch. A Group Three winner carrying topweight sounds bizarre, but his performances in Japan have been solid (although he’s a bit of a non-winner). He did finish fourth in the Japan Cup behind Gentildonna last year, but it was a bunched finish so I’m not sure how much can be taken from that. That said, he looks an ideal Melbourne Cup type and he looks like he’ll be suited by the likely pace scenario so he’s somewhat of a chance.

The European representative SEISMOS is a very quirky animal, a very Jekyll and Hyde character, and it depends which Seismos turns up. He plugged away in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes last start, showing no turn of foot at all and yet somehow finding himself in front at the line. He needs to begin smartly to be a chance here, as I think his only hope from the inside is to roll forward. I’d prefer to see him first, and have him well down the list, but if he gets up on speed then he could run alright.

After Admire Rakti, would have second favourite BRAMBLES in next on the back of his Turnbull Stakes third. Also give THE OFFER a small hope, although I do think he’d be better with give in the ground, while RISING ROMANCE and WHO SHOT THEBARMAN go into all exotics.

15 – LUCIA VALENTINA
13 – STIPULATE
14 – LIDARI
1 – ADMIRE RAKTI

Race 10 – LISTED ALINGHI STAKES (1100m)

3 – ANATINA
6 – SINO EAGLE
14 – I LOVE IT
4 – CRADLE ME

Hawk’s 2014 Caulfield Guineas Day Analysis and Selections

October 11, 2014

The first big day of the spring is here, with Caulfield Guineas day featuring five Group 1 races – four from Caulfield and one from Randwick.

It’s a defining day for the Cox Plate, while next week’s Caulfield Cup field will be much clearer after today.

So who will win? Hopefully we can find more winners after a nice few weeks.

Good luck today!

CAULFIELD

Race 1 – LISTED DEBUTANT STAKES (1000m)

3 – SCHOPENHAUER
2 – OF THE BRAVE
5 – STYLISH ASSASSIN
8 – HELFORD RIVER

Race 2 – GROUP 3 THOROUGHBRED CLUB STAKES (1200m)

1 – EARTHQUAKE
8 – MORE RADIANT
2 – AIMEE
6 – YGRITTE

Race 3 – LISTED WEEKEND HUSSLER STAKES (1400m)

5 – TANGO’S DAUGHTER
3 – SISTINE DEMON
2 – ALMA’S FURY
4 – EXIMIUS

Race 4 – GROUP 2 SCHILLACI STAKES (1000m)

3 – NOT LISTENIN’TOME
7 – RUBICK
4 – OVERREACH
5 – PLATELET

Race 5 – GROUP 2 HERBERT POWER STAKES (2400m)

1 – PROTECTIONIST
2 – SANGSTER
4 – LORD VAN PERCY
5 – LET’S MAKE ADEAL

Race 6 – GROUP 1 CAULFIELD STAKES (2000m)

A top renewal of the Caulfield Stakes which looks like it will serve as an important Cox Plate guide.

I’m very keen on FAWKNER here to add another Caulfield feature to his tally. He was terrific first-up in the Makybe Diva Stakes, just failing to run down DISSIDENT, and comes here second-up. He’ll obviously take more improvement for the run, but he should get a very good run here and may prove hard to toss.

At odds, SERTORIUS can run a race as he prepares for next week’s Caulfield Cup. He was scratched from the Turnbull last week due to an irregular blood test, but bounced back quickly so it’s hardly affected his preparation. He has been good without being great so far, the step up in trip should suit and I’d hope to see him finding some form here ahead of next week’s race.

Another one scratched from the Turnbull, but for a different reason, was CRACKERJACK KING. His Underwood Stakes third was outstanding, albeit with a pace scenario to suit. It doesn’t look too different here, though, which should give him an opportunity to produce a similar run.

Also suited by the likely pace scenario is SIDE GLANCE, who led them up in the Arlington Million last time out and battled on gamely but couldn’t match Hardest Core and Magician. He seems to always run a consistent race but rarely wins, save for last year’s Mackinnon Stakes, and his ability to make his own luck sees him as a potential place candidate here.

Next best HAPPY TRAILS and DEAR DEMI.

3 – FAWKNER
6 – SERTORIUS
7 – CRACKERJACK KING
2 – SIDE GLANCE

Race 7 – GROUP 1 TOORAK HANDICAP (1600m)

A very open Toorak and tough to decipher.

Despite being lumped with 58kg, I think GUEST OF HONOUR can race his way into Cox Plate contention here. He has found form at his last two starts for two nice wins, and the form through Mull of Killough and Long John last start can stand up here. Big chance.

I like AKAVOROUN as a horse and I think he is getting up to a trip where we should see his best. He’s been far from disgraced in two runs to date this spring and should be peaking here. Can get a nice run and be right in the finish.

COMMANDING JEWEL was disappointing last start, but should be ridden colder today and if she runs up to her form prior, she should be in the mix.

Next best ARABIAN GOLD, who was stellar first up in Sydney but faces a new test here, TRUST IN A GUST and ATLANTE.

1 – GUEST OF HONOUR
10 – AKAVOROUN
3 – COMMANDING JEWEL
7 – ARABIAN GOLD

Race 8 – GROUP 1 THOUSAND GUINEAS (1600m)

It seems odd having the Thousand Guineas on the Saturday, and it doesn’t really make sense with the Flight Stakes the week before. Still, there has to be a winner.

The three favourites – LUMOSTY, GO INDY GO, AFLEET ESPRIT – deserve their place at the head of the market and all are strong chances.

At odds, though, I’m looking at SABATINI to run a bold race. Sabatini won the Quezette Stakes before finishing third to Afleet Esprit and Lumosty down the straight in the Cap D’Antibes Stakes. Last start, in the Prelude, she finished fifth to Afleet Esprit after missing the start and boxing on okay. I think, if she can begin a little bit better, she might herself a little more forward today and the mile shouldn’t be a query at all. I’m expecting a bold run.

Putting Lumosty in for second on the basis that the mile should be right up her alley, while Go Indy Go is another that will relish the mile. Not so sure about Afleet Esprit at the trip so she goes in for fourth.

4 – SABATINI
6 – LUMOSTY
2 – GO INDY GO
3 – AFLEET ESPRIT

Race 9 – GROUP 1 CAULFIELD GUINEAS (1600m)

An interesting Guineas, not sure these are absolute topliners but there are some nice horses amongst them nevertheless.

The hype centres around RICH ENUFF, who has been most impressive in three starts this spring. The big query for me, though, is the mile and the fact he’s unlikely to get an easy time up near the speed.

Therefore, I’m looking at LOOKS LIKE THE CAT, who looks like he’ll relish every inch of the mile. He does meet Rich Enuff 2.5kg worse for a last start defeat, but up to a mile with an extra run under his belt and a more favourable pace scenario, I think he can win. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him emerge as a Cox Plate contender after this.

Rich Enuff has to be right up there, while SHOOTING TO WIN – coming off a dominant Stan Fox Stakes victory – and CHIVALRY, who just needs to find some luck in his races, are other top chances.

7 – LOOKS LIKE THE CAT
3 – RICH ENUFF
4 – SHOOTING TO WIN
6 – CHIVALRY

Race 10 – GROUP 3 SPORTINGBET SPRINT SERIES FINAL (1200m)

1 – GIRL GUIDE
2 – SHAMAL WIND
3 – BRILLIANT BISC
11 – SOOSA RAMA

RANDWICK

Race 6 – GROUP 1 SPRING CHAMPION STAKES (2000m)

A small field but an interesting affair nonetheless.

Am I the only one shocked at the price about FIRST SEAL? Big unders for mine, no matter how good she was last week, and would be happy to stick with the two star colts instead.

Happy to stick with SWEYNESSE instead. Terrific win in the Gloaming Stakes last time out and he looks a real nice middle-distance horse in the making. I think he can make the step to Group 1 company here.

PANZER DIVISION comes out of the George Main Stakes, which has already proved a strong form reference with Lucia Valentina winning the Turnbull Stakes and Royal Descent just being edged out in the Epsom Handicap. Not sure the 2000m will be his right trip but has the right form and will be the main danger.

FIRST SEAL obviously must be included, and those three look head and shoulders above the next best, POUNAMU.

1 – SWEYNESSE
3 – PANZER DIVISION
8 – FIRST SEAL
5 – POUNAMU

Hawk’s 2014 Epsom Handicap/Turnbull Stakes Day Analysis and Selections

October 4, 2014

Ah, the first Saturday in October. The point of the year when racing becomes Australia’s national sport, just for one month.

Ok, so we still have the NRL Grand Final to come, but apart from that it is all racing from now until the end of the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

And what a month awaits!

The horses may not be as strong as they usually are, but it is competitive racing and there are plenty of winners to be found.

There are four Group 1 races today across the two meetings, and every race holds black type status.

It’s just the start of a big weekend of racing, with big Group 1 racing in New Zealand and America, the Arc meeting in France and the return of some of Hong Kong’s best horses tomorrow.

It doesn’t get much better!

Good luck with your wagers today.

RANDWICK

Race 1 – LISTED GIMCRACK STAKES (1000m)

8 – SPEAK FONDLY
9 – THEMIS
3 – FLAUNTING
6 – PREVAIL

Race 2 – LISTED BREEDERS’ PLATE (1000m)

12 – SOOBOOG
9 – MORE THAN FABULOUS
14 – VANCOUVER
13 – STIMAC

Race 3 – LISTED DULCIFY QUALITY (1600m)

4 – DUCCIO
2 – SCRATCH ME LUCKY
1 – BACHMAN
3 – HAMPTON COURT

Race 4 – GROUP 2 ROMAN CONSUL STAKES (1200m)

1 – HALLOWED CROWN
3 – BRAZEN BEAU
2 – TIME FOR WAR
4 – NOSTRADAMUS

Race 5 – GROUP 3 CRAVEN PLATE (2000m)

7 – RISING ROMANCE
5 – DANCHAI
4 – MORIARTY
3 – SLOW PACE

Race 6 – GROUP 2 PREMIERE STAKES (1200m)

5 – CHARLIE BOY
1 – SINCERO
8 – I’VE GOT THE LOOKS
2 – FAMOUS SEAMUS

Race 7 – GROUP 1 EPSOM HANDICAP (1600m)

A pretty pathetic Epsom Handicap, in all honesty. Looks more like a BM85 with a few class horses thrown in. Still, there has to be a winner, and Chris Waller looks to hold all the aces.

I’m hoping Joao Moreira is the man on HE’S YOUR MAN. I love the step back in distance here with him, and he looks to have the turn of foot required to win the race. He’s going really well, and Moreira can get his first Australian Group 1 winner here.

ROYAL DESCENT has not won since her Oaks victory but she’s been a model of consistency. Can she finally get her head in front at the wire? I think she’s pretty well weighted in a race of this nature, so a win wouldn’t surprise at all.

STAR ROLLING was impressive first up but has been disappointing at his next two. There were excuses in the Dato when he was simply gassed by The Cleaner, but he probably should have done more last start. Still, if he is to get out and rolling, I think he can be in the mix.

At odds, LUCKY CHAPPY is not the worst bet. He’s also stepping back in trip, and while he’s a bit of an unreliable type, he is in fairly good form at the moment. Worth an each-way wager.

6 – HE’S YOUR MAN
2 – ROYAL DESCENT
5 – STAR ROLLING
10 – LUCKY CHAPPY

Race 8 – GROUP 1 FLIGHT STAKES (1600m)

Again, not the strongest Flight Stakes ever seen. There do appear three main chances, although if Twirl and Muscovado hadn’t been scratched, I could definitely have entertained LADY SHARAPOVA as the bolter to get over the top.

I’ve been really impressed with THINKING OF YOU in her two starts to date. She can make the phenomenal rise from Wodonga maiden to Group 1 winner in three starts today, as she has the turn of foot and tactical speed to capitalise in the small field. Plus, I think on ability, she’s as good as any horse in the race.

WINX and FIRST SEAL represent the Sydney fillies, coming from the Tea Rose Stakes. I prefer Winx as a horse, although I do think First Seal beat her fair and square last start. Both are definitely chances, although I think Winx may be more suited by this race.

We’ll keep Lady Sharapova as a chance, but not as keen as we were earlier in the week.

6 – THINKING OF YOU
1 – WINX
2 – FIRST SEAL
7 – LADY SHARAPOVA

Race 9 – GROUP 1 THE METROPOLITAN (2400m)

A very even field of stayers here.

More hoping than confident with OUR VOODOO PRINCE. He entered the spring as the Caulfield Cup favourite, and while he hasn’t lived up to that billing, he’s been far from disgraced. The trip should suit now and hopefully he can get one big crack at them late.

KINGDOMS comes from the Kingston Town Stakes, and I rate that form for the Epsom. He’s been a quirky horse. He was my sole Caulfield Cup prepost bet last year, and of course he won a 2400m race on Caulfield Cup day – just not the Caulfield Cup! There seems to be shades of Hume with him, in that Brian Smith seems to rejuvenated him. There’s a good race in him, and perhaps that might be today.

JUNOOB was terrific in winning a very tactical Hill Stakes. It’s a completely different race here, but he does look the one to beat off that run – and the compressed weight scale works in his favour too.

Next best BRIGANTIN, who was good in the Newcastle Cup and seems to be twice the price he should be, and SPILLWAY.

8 – OUR VOODOO PRINCE
10 – KINGDOMS
1 – JUNOOB
6 – BRIGANTIN

FLEMINGTON

Race 1 – LISTED MARIBYRNONG TRIAL STAKES (1000m)

3 – ICEFLOW
4 – LAKE JACKSON
9 – DAGNY
12 – RESULTS

Race 2 – LISTED UCI STAKES (1800m)

4 – WAR POINT
11 – ATMOSPHERE
1 – FIREHOUSE ROCK
14 – KAIZAEN

Race 3 – GROUP 3 THE BART CUMMINGS (2500m)

3 – WHO SHOT THEBARMAN
1 – SEA MOON
6 – MARKSMANSHIP
5 – ETHIOPIA

Race 4 – LISTED YELLOWGLEN VINTAGE STAKES (1400m)

10 – DECONSTRUCTED
6 – STAVIVA
3 – FORGIVE AND FORGET
2 – WANDJINA

Race 5 – GROUP 2 GILGAI STAKES (1200m)

11 – BOUNDING
4 – CHAUTAUQUA
5 – TEMPLE OF BOOM
3 – FLAMBERGE

Race 6 – GROUP 2 EDWARD MANIFOLD STAKES (1600m)

9 – MAASTRICHT
13 – LITTLE HOTTIE
15 – HIPSTER GIRL
7 – PITTSBURGH FLYER

Race 7 – GROUP 1 TURNBULL STAKES (2000m)

A fascinating race, if not a stellar renewal of the Turnbull Stakes.

There are quite a few horses I like here for the next month, but that I can’t have today. For instance, I really like LUCIA VALENTINA in the Caulfield Cup, but given her hoof issues and the likely pace scenario I’m happy to let her go without me. Similarly, SILENT ACHIEVER – I want to see her produce her autumn form first before steaming into her.

Instead, I’ll be sticking with a horse who is yet to win this prep but is finally heading the right way – PUISSANCE DE LUNE.

I haven’t been able to find Puissance de Lune at all since his Queen Elizabeth Stakes win. He’s been too short most of the time or he’s been in unsuitable races. However, I think this race should set up perfectly for him, whether Brad Rawiller decides to push towards the lead or sit behind them.

I’ve much preferred the progression of his preparation this year, and he can gain that elusive “Group 1 winner” tag here.

Outside of him, I’m looking at the horses who are needing to win this race to have any chance of gaining a start in some of the bigger affairs in the coming weeks.

2012 Queensland Derby winner BRAMBLES had almost two years on the sidelines but he’s very good at his last two starts. He should be able to sit handy and now getting up to a suitable distance, he can run a big race here as he looks to get into the Caulfield Cup.

ENTIRELY PLATINUM looks like he could get across to the lead fairly easily if that’s the intention, he strikes me as one of these emerging types who have used this race as a stepping stone to bigger things in the past. Probably should have won the Naturalism Stakes and is going well enough to win, especially under these conditions.

The horse that beat him last time, GRIS CARO, has to find something here but maps brilliantly and it’s hard to tell how much further he can progress. He looks over the odds.

Next best SUPER COOL, who looked like he was on the brink of returning to form with a nice run in the Underwood Stakes, and HAPPY TRAILS.

8 – PUISSANCE DE LUNE
15 – BRAMBLES
12 – ENTIRELY PLATINUM
13 – GRIS CARO

Race 8 – GROUP 2 BLAZER STAKES (1400m)

1 – MAY’S DREAM
2 – BONARIA
15 – DIG A PONY
5 – ENQUARE

Race 9 – LISTED HEADQUARTERS TAVERN STAKES (1400m)

8 – SPIRITS DANCE
2 – LUCKY HUSSLER
11 – RYKER
5 – SAINT OR SINNER

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