The race that stops A nation suffers from a lack of international runners this year. Consequently this is a comparatively weak edition of the Melbourne Cup.
And yet, it’s still the one race that I’m so excited about that I get up 3am in the morning during the week – voluntarily – to watch it live: every year the first Tuesday in November; and so it’s going to be in about six hours from now.
The Melbourne Cup is a race that has been kind to me on the betting front, too. Right now I could do with a bit of kindness from the betting gods, anyway. It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn….
In any case, the 2022 edition of the Melbourne looks wide open – if you are prepared to take on the red hot favourite Deauville Legend.
Best price 3.7 at the time of writing, he’s a seriously short price and widely expected to become the first favourite to win the race since Fiorente in 2013.
The James Ferguson trained gelding certainly looks to posses all the right attributes for the Cup: he can travel through his races, can kick and shouldn’t find the distance an issue. There’s enough stamina in his pedigree and the race won’t be ran at a frantic pace, one would think, either.
He’s a full-brother to Sea La Rosa, a Group 1 winning mare in deep ground over 14 furlongs. With the ground likely turning soft, given there’s plenty of rain expected throughout the day at Melbourne, the indications are positive toward the likelihood that he does act on the ground.
There’s very little not to like about Deauville Legend, actually. Except the price. He’s just such a short price, in a race with twenty plus other horses, where you need a bit of luck to get the breaks at the right time.
Also: yes, he is more likely than not to act on the soft ground. But all his turf form came on decent to fast ground. He’s unproven on anything slower. That has to be a small question mark at the very least. Enough for me at this short price to look somewhere else.
The other international runner Without A Friend is of interest, too. Especially since he’s three times the price of Deauville Legend in the betting.
The five-year-old gelding won the Silver Cup at York in brilliant style in July, skipped the Ebor in favour of a prep run at Newmarket – a solid runner-up performance there – before heading Down Under.
He’s rated to go close, with a good weight and has ran to solid enough speed ratings over the last two years to see him go close. How will he cope with the hustle and bustle that he’ll encounter at Flemington? Connections opt for ear-plugs pre-race.
The fact he often raced in small fields, and tends to be keen over the longer trips, is a serious concern. If he gets worked up too early he will struggle to get home in the soft ground. I feel there are better alternatives to back in the field.
Hoo Ya Mal, now based in Australia with Gai Waterhouse, was regressive ever since his huge Derby run. He makes little appeal to me.
The best chances for the home team seem to evolve especially around those horses that ran well in the Caufield Cup and Cox Plate in the last fortnight.
Montefilia got a troubled run but finished much the best from the back of the field. She loves it soft and could come with a big run late, if she gets the extra distance. It’s a big if in my book, as she will need luck for a clear run.
That goes for a number of horses. Another mare often favourably mentioned by the locals is Duais. She came from off the pace at Caufield as well and seems to be tracking in the right direction lately, getting better with each run this year. The trip in combination with ground is a question mark, but she could be peaking at the right time. I like her at a big price, more so than Montefilia, that’s for sure.
Knights Order is a strong front-runner and impressed in the Caulfield Cup. Already a Group 1 winner over two miles, he also acts on the ground. He’s got the widest draw and will have to work a bit to get to the lead. That’s far from ideal.
I loved the run of Realm Of Flowers in the Metropolitan where she hit the line incredibly strong, indication she wants to go further. She’s an intriguing mare and definitely will love the soft ground. Stamina for the 2 miles look a given and she’s got a good draw for a relaxed start.
She will need a bit of luck for a gap to open on the inside turning for home, though. If it does happen, she is a great chance to run away with it off a really low weight.
She is a backable price but I have a major concern that puts me off: she missed her most recent engagement, which is a bit of a worry. is she 100%?
2019 Melbourne Cup hero Vow And Declare ran well in the Caufield Cup. Probably this is beyond him these days, but he can feature in the money. The same can’t be said about surprise 2020 Epsom Derby winner Serpentine. He’s improved for blinkers lately, but has a lot to find and should struggle from a #23 gate.
Talking of formerly trained classy European horses: 2020 Arc 4th Gold Trip has to carry top weight. The winner of only a single race in 15 career starts hasn’t set the world alight in Australia since moving there last year. The locals think 57.5kg is a lot to carry, and it probably is.
But: he looks like to really get going lately. He was an agonisingly close runner-up in the Caufield Cup (see video above), having raced less efficient than the eventual winner. And he got a highly trouble passage in the Cox Plate when last seen- Some of that was his own making as he jumped badly with first-time blinkers – yet finished nicely on the eye and can be upgraded for the run.
He’s clearly the class act in the field. Not only because of his Arc performance – which is probably too long ago now to really count as recent form anyway – but he followed up next season with 2nd and 3rd place finishes in the Group 1’s prix Ganay and Grand Prix de St. Cloud.
He only had five start in Australia since his permanent move, improving with each run and he clearly enjoys rain softened ground. The more rain the better, in fact.
The trip is a question mark. But his class, tactical speed and change of gear should see him being really competitive in my view, especially as the #14 draw gives jockey Mark Zahra plenty of options to find a good position.
At an even bigger price one of the home team caught my eye: Stockman. Connections were quite bullish, and I can clearly see why. Ignore his most recent 8th place finish; it was an obvious prep run and the gelding ran on nicely under an easy hands and heels ride.
The two preceding performances were of serious note, though. Two back he won the St. Leger Stakes over 2600m at Randwick is fine style, making an impressive move from over 600m out. He was always in charge in the home straight.
Two weeks earlier he was only 1¼ lengths beaten in 4th in the Group 1 Metropolitan Handicap, finishing strongly yet again, even though not getting the clearest of runs from 400m out.
He’s 1.5kg better off on the weights with Realm Of Flowers today in comparison, who was a strong third that day. That’s noteworthy, given I rate her chance highly, as mentioned before.
Crucially, he loves soft ground. In fact, it’s key to his chances. Therefore, the more rain the better. He also got a good draw to move forward from, so has a lot going his way.
I believe his price is driven by his disappointing run in the Sydney Cup – his only try over 2 miles. He was quite fancied that day, but had too much to do from a wide draw and the back of the field. He’s clearly better than that, as he’s shown more often than not in recent weeks.
If all goes to plan, Deauville Legend could be too good in this field. He has the form, the speed ratings, the stamina and possibly the ground versatility. But he’s an awfully short price. Unbackable for me.
The mare Realm Of Flowers is next likeliest winner in my book. 12/1 looks even a good price. But the worry whether she is 100% puts me off, because there are two strong alternatives at bigger prices.
Stockman is seriously underappreciated in the betting market, especially with every additional drop of rain to benefit his chances. He’s got form and a solid chance to stay the trip.
Top weight Gold Trip is undervalued because of his poor strike rate. But he’s the class act in this field, has improved with each run and will love the ground.
5pts win – Stockman @ 30/1
5pts win – Gold Trip @ 21/1