It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn…. I am very, very happy this morning. Gold Trip landed the Melbourne Cup, giving me a much needed 21/1 winner!
This was the best possible start to November, after the most horrible number of weeks in the last while on the punting front.
It couldn’t have gone much smoother for the top-weight: a relaxed start, he settled well, and then brilliantly maneuvered through the field by jockey Mark Zahra, to be in the perfect position entering the home straight.
Gold Trip quickened nicely, and stayed on strongly all the way to the line. I mentioned beforehand that he’s the class horse in my view – and so it proved. Thankfully, once in a while things do work out the way envisioned.
At least it did for Gold Trip. Stockman ran a huge race to finish 8th, after encountering plenty of trouble around the home turn. He was never given a real chance to challenge.
No complaints, though. It doesn’t happen often that I back a winner these days, let alone a 20/1+ winner. A much needed booster for the P/L sheet.
5.00 Southwell: Class 6 Handicap, 6f
Captain Vallo drops down to class 6 with another 2lb off his back. He is seriously well handicapped if anywhere near the form he showed on turf this season when he got his conditions.
I look back especially to his Redcar run three back, where he nearly got his head in front off 68. He ran to speed ratings in the 60’s a number of times this year, including to 68 and 69.
I don’t think he’s a lesser horse on the All-Weather. In fact, his record is 6-1-2 and his career best speed rating was achieved at Newcastle.
The jockey booking and form of the yard isn’t a confidence booster, but I hope he’s on a going day and can take advantage of running in poor contest that’s there for the taking off 7lb lower than his last winning mark.
A lot of money has been coming for him this morning too. I missed the big prices. But he’s still good value if there’s no handbrake on.
The race that stops a nation…. or the race that stops me sleep. Every year the same procedure: Melbourne Cup Tuesday is nearing and I am excited as a little child on the eve before Christmas. I LOVE the Melbourne Cup, it’s my favourite race.
It helps having backed the winner of the last two editions at rather generous odds, of course. While I love the spectacle of watching the race on TV at half past three in the morning with a blanket and a warm cuppa in my hands, it’s certainly has been financially rewarding as much as it’s emotionally warming – backing a winner or not.
But backing a winner is even more fun. So Let’s do three in a row?
This year appears to be a highly compelling renewal – certainly on paper. The field includes Cross Counter, the defending champion; the exciting Japanese rider and Caulfield Cup winner Mer De Glace; the Ebor Handicap winner Mustajeer; last years Irish Derby hero Latrobe; plus a highly competitive home team.
On the other hand, I feel this race is much easier to dissect than in years past. Sure, luck can play its part in the race. A massive field will always produce a hard-luck story…. or two, or three of those stories. Regardless, I can see only a handful of realistic contenders, to be perfectly honest.
You can cross a line through half the field easily on the grounds of the softish going, distance, weight or racing style. The ones I can’t dismiss so easily and who made it on to my shortlist are as follows:
Il Paradiso: fits the trend of recent winners. Still relatively low mileage, some classy form in the book, looks to have the right sort of relaxed attitude, appears to stay and will be fine on any softness left in the ground. His tendency to break slowly is a major negative from draw 17, though. Blinkers may help but the “may” is already reflected in the price, I’m afraid.
Constantinople: you couldn’t watch the Caulfield Cup and not be impressed how he finished despite the fact he came from well off the pace and was significantly hampered at a crucial stage. Ran twice to a 108 topspeed ratings year. Most talented horse in the race?
His racing style is not and advantage. His tendency to sweat and exert energy in the preliminaries neither. Not easy to get things right on him. Needs everything to fall right, which it may well do, but I’m happy enough to let it go for single figure odds.
Vow And Declare: Strong chance for the home team if there wouldn’t be the draw. Classy stayer, form in the book, hits peak at the right time as excellent runner-up performance in Caulfield Cup suggested. Drawn in 21 will make life tough.
Dawndraft: Quite a bit of racing under the belt yet still improving. Good performances in Ireland this summer, including career best Listed success (101 TS) albeit below standard required here.
But two good runs since arriving Down Under. Visually compelling latest victory. But that performance came only 3 days ago which is a major concern.
Mustajeer: Excellent winner of the Ebor. Has improved again this season, ran well in Group races before having the perfect race at York. From the draw to the way the race developed to a clear run: everything worked to perfection.
He is a strong galloping sort who I feel will be suited perfectly by the Melbourne Cup. Had a fine prep in the Caulfield Cup and won’t fear the ground.
But that is the point: everything went to perfection at York. Will it today? He’s uncomplicated, that’s a big plus. I think he will go close. Still, it’s going to be the Ebor 4th Raymond Tusk that my money is riding with on Tuesday morning, 4am Irish time.
Raymond Tusk: On a different day he’d have been the brilliant winner of the 2019 Ebor and would be much shorter in the betting than he is now. Drawn in the car park he was trailing the field still turning for home, a wall of horses in front, yet travelling much the best. He had to weave his way through for a clear run and the bird was flown when he finally did.
Still finished a strong 4th, not far beaten, and running to a career best 107 topspeed rating. He’s 4lb better off with Mustajeer here and has a much better draw to play with.
I have one fear that is Jamie Spencer: we know he likes to come from off the pace with his mounts. I hope the good draw will help to settle on a positive racing strategy. Interviews I heard have given me hope indeed.
Still with low enough mileage, Raymond Tusk is an improving individual, who comes here fresh, which seems to bring the best of him usually. Cut in the ground is a question mark. His best results cam on fast ground. However he didn’t have a lot of chances to race on soft. And he did win a maiden over 1 mile on good to soft. Another pointer to give hope.
A cocky headline: “Here’s Your Winner!” – that was it for the Melbourne Cup preview exactly twelve months ago. Oh how good that felt, when half a night of sleep later Rekindling landed the big pot at 14/1!
Now, up until then it had been a solid decade of failed attempts to find the winner in the race that stops a nation. So I can hardly claim of having magic power if it comes to making a winning selection. But sometimes you have this feeling of certainty. You simply know it…. the 6th November of 2017 it was exactly that.
Do I know this time as well? No. Plain and simple.
This year is incredibly competitive. There are a good seven or eight horses on my shortlist. Three from the list I fancy significantly more than the others. And two of them I’m most confident will be in the money, granted they get a run for it.
It certainly isn’t my cup of tea punting the favourite. Less so in the Melbourne Cup. Guess what? Yucatan is my selection. As he’s on the drift throughout the day already, his price finally reached a point where I have to conclude: too big!
I get why there is increased negativity around the once-Derby-fancy. Suddenly the commentary of “it’s been only a single good run” become much louder, as all the experts get their opinions out there with the race approaching ever so slowly. The wide draw has done the rest. Oh, and the ground. Rain is coming. How much? How will it impact the going conditions? Hard to say. This bit of uncertainty doesn’t help.
What is certain: Yucatan never lived up to the 12-1 quotes he received for the Epsom Derby more than a year ago. He never had the chance to do so, missing the big one, but also endured issue after issue ever since. Aiden O’Brien alluded as much in recent days:
“Yucatan was a horse we couldn’t really get 100 per cent right through the whole year.”
In honesty, judging him by this 2018 European form he’s not a Melbourne Cup favourite. A Group 3 success over 1m 2f and a Group 3 third place finish over 1m 4f behind smart Eziyra can be considered decent form, yet it’s far from exciting.
Nonetheless, Yucatan always remained a talented individual, who only would need to get a clear run of form and the right conditions – that what connections always felt. For some horses this day never comes. For Yucatan it did. And boy, it id!
First start in Lloyd Williams colours Down Under at Caulfield in the Herbert Power Stakes last month: it seemed Yucatan is a different horse to what he was only a few weeks earlier in Europe. Was it the sun? The ground? The change of scenery? Maybe a bit of everything.
The dramatic mid-race-move from the back of the field, while always travelling three wide, to take it up from 3f out, leaving the rest of the field standing still, jockey James McDonald pulling him up with half a furlong to go…. visually this was one of the most stunning performances you’ll ever see in Group company.
The question is, of course, what is it worth? I’d argue it’s worth more than some people want to make us believe.
True, those in second and third are no world beaters. But the third, Prince Of Arran, was a 111 rated individual in the UK, who ran a massive race when runner-up in the Northumberland Plate earlier this year, and who followed up on his third behind Yucatan with a fine victory in a Group 3 at Flemington earlier this week! Dismissing this rival so easily rates as pretty significant in my book.
Significant also the comments by Aiden O’Brien – usually not the type of character who’d give a lot away beyond the “he’s well” mantra. For him it’s rather bullish stating:
“The way it fell, it looked like he was going to really suit the Melbourne Cup but he was too low in the weights, so we he had to win to get in, and we saw what happened. … He looks on a very good mark.”
He looks indeed! A nice weight, not a nice draw, though. Statistics say it’s near impossible to win from gate 23. This year might be different. Pace is drawn close to him and might give him a nice lead to follow early in the race. Obviously you don’t wanna burn too much fuel early on either, given we aren’t sure whether he truly stays the new trip. On the other hand, drifting back into the pack will mean he’d need all the luck in the world – something you surely don’t want to rely on if you’re on the best horse in the field.
In saying that, whether he’ll appreciate the extra furlongs is the main question mark for me. I never looked like he’s crying out for, to be honest. But he’s by Galileo. So there is always a fair chance he does get the distance. So, if his chances aren’t ruined after the start hen I’m fairly confident we will see Yucatan go extremely close in the 2018 Melbourne Cup.
I mentioned at the beginning of this preview that there are two horses I feel extremely positive about. Yucatan is one. Cross Counter is the other one. A lightly raced three-year-old finding his way into the race with the benefit of a featherweight. Where have we heard this story before? Yep, right – Rekindling!
It’d argue this lad is at least as good as last years winner. For a start, he’s achieved the second highest time speed rating of all in this field. Only Cliffs Of Moher bettered this – last year in the Derby. I’m not sure if I trust that particular figure, nor whether COM is able to reproduce anything like it ever again; however, Cross Counter has run to 106 and 107 subsequently in his last two starts. Surely this guy is on the up and still improving, if not already top class.
His Gordon Stakes success at Goodwood over the summer was scintillating; overturned as a short-priced favourite the next time in the Great Voltigeur Stakes, he was staying on strongly to be only beaten by a head eventually. Not a bad race either, given the third, Kew Gardens, followed up with an impressive success in the Doncaster St. Leger!
No doubt, Cross Counter was still learning his craft. He often looked a little bit raw; but he’s approaching his eight lifetime start now – he should have learned plenty.
Trip and draw are the main question marks. He’s also wider drawn than ideal. Hopefully, like with Yucatan, he can get a nice lead by the pace around him to tow him toward the front of the field. Trip wise, of course, you never find out until you run them – in saying that, the way he ran on in the closing stages at York are a positive indicator that the trip might be within his range.
Given his official rating of 114, he isn’t far off the best European raiders already, however his featherweight off eight stone should be a tremendous advantage.
So, there we have it: two selections for the race that stops a nation. I’m not as confident as last year. Simply because of the draw situation and because there are few others in the field you have to take quite serious: last years co-favourite Marmelo and Chester Cup hero Magic Circle are dangerous. The main threat, though, should be impressive Ebor winner Muntahaa. He’s top class and will run big if his temperament holds up.
The race that stops a nation…. or the race that disrupts my sleep. Yep, it’s back – the one and only Melbourne Cup!
Thankfully only once a year. Getting up at 3.30am on a regular basis is probably not recommended. Nonetheless, Tuesday morning I will. All in the name of my favourite race on this beautiful planet!
Not because I’ve ever been particularly successful finding the winner. I have not. But because the build-up. The atmosphere. The enormity of the whole event. It’s special.
One day I gonna be there. To see it with my own eyes. Wide awake and alert. Unlike tomorrow morning. When I watch on with red eyes.
As close as I ever came to the mecca that Flemington is: I drove passed it with a rental car earlier this year on a trip to Australia.
Let’s talk about the actual race: off at 4am Irish time. Here’s hoping my neighbours are prepared for the screams of joy when Rekindling strolls over the line as the winner of the 2017 Melbourne Cup!
You see I get right into it. No dwelling. A full take on every single horse can be found in this excellent guide. I’ve already made up my mind and tell you why.
I’m all in on Rekindling. In past years I always backed multiple horses in the race. Didn’t do me any good. Only the bookies were smiling. This year I pin all my hopes on the Joseph O’Brien trained three year old colt.
But let’s move all the negative factors out of the way first: no doubt there are a handful of good reasons why this lad won’t get anywhere near the money tomorrow morning. Some smarter people than I am are probably right if they say Rekindling had a long season, the Cup is a mere afterthought on the back of an excellent Ledger performance and therefore he’ll find this really tough.
Rekindling is not a particularly imposing individual in terms of physical presence either. He didn’t have a prep run Down Under. And he’s a galloping sort who might not enjoy the start-stop nature of the race.
All fair points. However at 14/1 I am prepared to take a chance on Rekindling, fully aware I will likely go back to sleep at roughly 4.30am after yet another Cup disappointment.
But hold on, let’s hear for all the good reasons why Rekindling will win the 2017 Melbourne Cup:
Weight, Class and Ratings. He’s a classy 116 rated individual, a multiple pattern class winner and was only 2 lengths beaten – and in my view unlucky not to get closer – when 4th in the English St. Leger.
He gets into the Cup with a featherweight thanks to WFO, however on Aussie terms is actually a four year old. He’s got as little as 8st 2lb to carry. He’s third highest ranked in terms of time speed and Racing Post Ratings. Granted, the merit of these ratings is questionable for obvious reasons – it still is another little piece in the puzzle.
The draw. It could hardly be any better. Stall 4 gives every opportunity. Not allot of energy needs to be wasted early on, as long Rekindling breaks alright. Which he should.
Form. An impressive winner of the Curragh Cup, and an equally as impressive 4th in the English St. Leger. A performance I rate particularly highly. That is because he came from a long way back that day, trailing for most parts, and when travelling strongly on the bridle over three furlongs out, he did not get a clear run and lost valuable momentum and ground as a consequence.
Yet he produced the joint fastest sectionals for the last four furlongs and finished in fourth, only 2 lengths behind Capri. That form in its own right is strong, but has already been franked multiple times.
I also don’t subscribe to the fact Rekindling would not be suited to the start-stop nature of the Melbourne Cup. In fact this lad is not a mere galloping sore who travels strongly and grinds things out. No, he has pace and a turn of foot. He showed it quite clearly when producing a superb effort over 10 furlongs in the lowly ran Ballysax Stakes earlier this year.
Now, I do really love the chance of this horse. I understand why people compare him to Bondi Beach in last years Cup. However I feel Rekindling is a different animal altogether.
I strongly believe he’s more for than against him – with one only concern: he’s usually held up. Here’s hoping Rekindling will be utilized to full effect from his positive draw and does not settle farther off the pace than midfield.
I readily admit that it is a huge ask, nonetheless. And the field is incredibly competitive. I do not quite buy into the hype of Marmelo and find it hard to see Almandin doing it all again – however Red Cardinal would be my absolute prime chance in this race – if not for the wide draw.
Now this must not be a problem necessarily given he’ll settle off the pace anyways, regardless of the draw. Still, he’ll be too far back I fear. Max Dynamite, if fully fit – and he looked good during his comeback run – is another one to like a lot. The runner-up of 2015 has even less weight to carry this time round.
Tiberian, despite a wide draw, might be able to cross over as there seems not too much early pace here. If so, he’s a dangerous horse. Hugo Palmer’s Wall Of Fire had the perfect preparation – he’s a major player.
Nonetheless, it’s Rekindling or nothing for me. And what a story it would be. Joseph O’Brien in his first season as a trainer winning the Melbourne Cup – a feast his record breaking father never achieved? Go son, go!
10pts win – Rekindling @ 14/1 William Hill