Tag Archives: Melbourne Cup

Wednesday Selections: November, 7th 2018

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WOW! What more can you say??? Quite a bit, actually! So, a few more words on Tuesdays Melbourne Cup: a tremendous victory for Cross Counter. The three-year old came from last to first, producing a tremendous turn of foot at the end of a 3.200 meter long race!

I felt his chances were gone right after the start as Kerrin McEvoy steered his mount to the back of the field – which in hindsight seems a smart move, given the wide draw and the way things worked out as the gates crashed open didn’t really allow him to do anything else that wouldn’t have been even more detrimental to his chances; i.e. rushing forward.

In my race preview I hoped things would pan out slightly different regarding the early parts of the race. Regardless, I couldn’t have been happier with the eventual outcome of the race!

As for the second year running I’ve made a winning selection for the Melbourne Cup – granted, neither last year with Rekindling, nor this year with Cross Counter were those selections particularly thought-provoking.

Let’s be honest: a classy 3yo, with good chances to stay the trip, having ideal ground conditions and a low weight to carry…. the type of race the Melbourne Cup in essence is these days, it wasn’t exactly rocked science to select Cross Counter.

……

2.50 Nottingham: Class 4 Handicap, 5f

Bread and butter today: Show Palace is the one I want to be with. He has dropped to a tasty mark, having produced big performances off much higher ratings in the past, achieving consistently high time speed ratings as well.

Clearly he needs the right conditions: with rain falling, the going may not turn quite soft enough. Nonetheless, good to soft should be okay, even more so off his 74 handicap mark. Hes also in fine order, judged on his latest effort over CD.

He was not ideally positioned on the inside rail, far away from the pace. He finished best of his group, nonetheless – a 5th place that looks good given the form already works out well.

Selection:
10pts win – Show Palace @ 6/1 MB

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Preview: 2018 Melbourne Cup

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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.

Selection:
10pts win – Yucatan @ 6.2/1 MB
10pts win – Cross Counter @ 8.4/1 MB

2017 Melbourne Cup – When You Get It Right!

And so it happened: “…screams of joy when Rekindling strolls over the line as the winner of the 2017 Melbourne Cup!”

This warm feeling deep inside when you get it right. For once. Finally. Pure joy. Well, in the grand scheme of things it’s just another race. Money in, money out of the bank. But then it isn’t. Cause it’s the Melbourne Cup!

The race that stops a nation.

It really does. Take a look at this incredible graph. Money simply stops flowing during the time the horses thunder down Flemington Racecourse.

The buildup to the race was massive. It always is. it soaks me right in. Goosebumps. They do it so well over there. It feels special. Feels like you witness a World Cup Final.

That’s the thing: the Melbourne Cup is not the best race in the world. Far from it. It’s a glorified Handicap after all. But know what? It FEELS like it’s the one and only race that really matters on the planet!

The perfect ride…

Corey Brown you star! Here you saw why it pays off to have a local jockey booked. True, Rekindling had the perfect draw and got all the breaks when needed. Others didn’t. But that’s also credit to the man on board. He’s got to make the crucial decisions.

He could have hurried Rekindling up right after the start. He didn’t. He let him settle, wasted as little energy as possible. Knowing he was in a good spot, right on the rail. Saving valuable meters while safely covered by the field. He let the colt go with the flow.

Rekindling didn’t seem to know he was in a race until approaching the home turn, when Brown steered him through an opening gap, following the incredibly well travelling Johannes Vermeer.

Once in the clear, asked for full effort, Rekindling was never going to stop. He stays the two miles, chasing down Johannes Vermeer who went into unknown territory. He stayed too, mind you. But was maybe a tick too early in front. And of course the weight. He carried 3kg more. At the end of a premier staying contest this can and did make all the difference.

For a three year old to win the Cup – particularly for a pony that Rekindling is, compared to some other much more imposing rivals in the field – it was a special achievement. Not a surprise to me. Cause I told ya!

Can he do it again?

Enough the self-praise. It’s fair to say Rekindling got the run of his life. Everything worked. Everything! Pinch perfect. Can he do it again? Honestly I doubt it.

If he attempts to defend his crown – and why wouldn’t he – he’ll have to do it with an awful lot more weight on his back.

As mentioned before, Rekindling is rather smallish in stature. There is not a massive frame to fill any further. No WFA for him next year. The handicapper will put him up. Probably not as perfect a draw as this year? Gaps may not open when he needs it? It’ll be a difficult task.

The unlucky ones…

Arguably two individuals I feel were incredibly unlucky not to finish closer were Max Dynamite and  Nakeeta. Willie Mullins’ raider had a lot going for himself in terms of draw and position throughout the race.

The runner-up of the 2015 Cup, however, was asked for a big effort turning for home, in an attempt to get first run on the chasing pack. That move seemed smart, yet came to an abrupt end approaching the home straight. For a couple of strides Max Dynamite had nowhere to go, lost valuable momentum and ground.

Would he have won with a clear passage? Maybe not. But he sure would have gone closer than he already did. Finishing in third.

Obviously the case of Nakeeta is an easy one. A rather poor draw, far back in the field, still way closer to trailing the entire field than winning with 500 meters to go – he really had to work his way through the field and maneuvering around tiring horses. An impossible task.

The fact he finished 5th speaks volumes of how far this years Ebor winner has come. Honorary mention also to the 6th finishing Thomas Hobson. He was another one who had an awful lot to do – too much.

Have a look here: This birds-eye-view tells the story of the race in the most compelling way. It shows impressively how and why the first the first four home were all drawn between stall two and five. It shows how difficult if not impossible it was to make up ground from the back of the field and how a wide draw compromised chances to a minimum.

It shows why Rekindling enjoyed the run of his life. A first Melbourne Cup success for Joseph O’Brien. Something his father never achieved and was denied once more – this time only by his own son.

Photo Credit: RTE.ie

Melbourne Cup Preview – Here’s Your Winner!

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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!

Selection:
20171107flm040022 10pts win – Rekindling @ 14/1 William Hill

Windsor’s Watering Disaster

Another winner today – Crowned Eagle (advised @ 2/1) won at Windsor despite never really looking overly comfortable. He certainly seemed not a straightforward ride, yet class got him over the line in a race that had a profound impact on the meeting.

In the grand scheme of things in the world of racing this Windsor Handicap was only a footnote. Though for the raceday itself it was the beginning of the end:

Comrade Conrad, ridden by Harry Bentley, slipped badly on the bend before turning for home which cost him every chance to win the race but ultimately could have resulted in a bad injury to horse and rider.

After the next race a delegation of jockey, trainers and course staff went out to inspect the track and subsequently decided it was not safe to continue.

Remarkably: this is the second year running that this exact meeting – which features a Listed contest – had to be called off halfway through the card for this very same reason!

No coincidence! In fact it is down to the shambolic watering policy of the track which is a common problem. Sure, it’s not easy for the clerks, I’ve all the sympathy in the world for them. However it is their job to provide safe ground. Fair enough, they have to make decisions and sometimes can get it wrong but over-watering happens way too often.

And that was the issue here at Windsor tonight: why watering a track that is good to form the evening before – so perfectly acceptable conditions –  with rain forecast the next day? It’s from my perspective – my armchair perspective that is – plain stupid.

…..

Anyway, on to nicer things: the excellent Beyond The Game TV uploaded a nice little film on the living racing legends in Australia – some of the most popular thoroughbreds of Aussie racing enjoy retirement at the Living Legends facility near Melbourne.

Well worth to watch the film (below) and of course visit these champions if you ever have the chance – I’m going to be “Down Under” next month and have this trip firmly on my agenda:

……..

2.00 Beverley: Novice Stakes, 5 furlongs

Mark Johnston’s Kodiac colt Go Now Go Now looks an overpriced individual in this race. The colt was very green on his debut last week at Ayr where was sluggish at the start while then very keen during the race and disorganised when it mattered most.

However under a clearly educational ride he finished the race nicely and responded quite well to a tender flick with the whip.

He ended fourth in what appears to be a half-decent maiden against more experienced rivals and should have learned plenty. He’s entitled to improve from that run, particularly for the switch to Beverley where his sire Kodiac enjoys a very good success rate.

Selection:
10pts win – Go Now Go Now @ 11/1 Bet365

Chauvinism alive?

Paul Carberry

IT’S NOT been a great couple of days for women in racing. It started with a bang: Al Shaqab taken horses out of Criquette Head-Maarek’s yard! The trainer, famously known for guiding Treve to back-to-back triumph in the Arc, angrily suggested that this decision was all about gender.

This morning then news emerged from ‘Down Under’: Michelle Payne, last years Melbourne Cup winning jockey, has been taken off Prince Of Penzance – she won’t get the chance to steer the horse home on his Cup defending mission.

Chauvinism?!!!!

Well, hang on for a minute. Let’s first ask the question: do women find it generally more difficult to be successful in horse racing? Yes, they probably do. That’s probably fair to say.

But there is a simple reason for it, in fact a simple physical component plays the key role here. Undeniably women don’t have the same physical strengths as men – it’s a simple truth: men and women are different. Psychologically as well as physically.

That doesn’t say women can’t be great jockeys. History has proven they very much can. Only go as far back as last weekend to go to see some strong female riding performances at the Shergar Cup. Wasn’t Hayley Turner’s ride on Early Morning a brilliant piece of riding? Yes it was!

So there it is: women can offset for what they are lacking in pure power and strengths with excellent tactical awareness and forging strong emotional bonds with their equine partner.

However you cant begrudge a trainer who prefer pure strengths in the saddle. Whether one agrees with that or not. It’s their decision to make.

And let’s not forget: male jockey are taken off horses every day; horses moved out of yards too. Ask Luca Cumani, who lost his stable star Postponed not so long ago… chauvinism probably was not the reason, though.

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Happy retirement Paul Carberry! Injuries have taken its toll – its over for one the best jump jockeys of all time! But there’s really nothing to be ashamed of – the 42 year old had a glittering career, albeit with some ups and downs, some more more downs rather outside the race track than on it.

A 14 times winner at the Cheltenham Festival, plus a ton of other big race successes, Carberry always strikes me as a cool, calm and collected rider. Holding on to his mount for as long as possible, preserving as much fuel as possible for when it really matters – you got to have a cool head for that. And I admired him for this trait.

Here’s hoping he finds a new opportunity in life which keeps him happy and occupied now that his racing career is over. We know it can be difficult for jockeys to adjust to life after decades in the saddle, when they only know this one way.


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Wednesday Selections:

2.50 Salisbury: Point of Woods @ 10/1 Coral
4.30 Beverly: Space Mountain @ 6/5 Skybet
6.40 Kempton: Subatomic @ 6/1 WH
7.10 Kempton: Northern Thunder @ 5/1 WH

Preview: Melbourne Cup

Jockeys Joe O'Brien

Four hours…. then it’s Santa knocking on the door! Well, kind of… at least if you’re a racing fan, like I am. I love the Melbourne Cup to bits, my favourite race of the year. The build-up to the big race is sensational, the atmosphere surrounding a packed Flemington racetrack leaving goosebumps on my neck year after year… quite simply: it’s the race that stops a nation! One day I’ll be there and take it in all in flesh.

Not this year though, that’s for sure. But maybe backing the winner tonight could be a stepping stone to finance the flights for 2016? Let’s wait and see. I never backed the winner, although had a couple of each-way selections placed in the last number of years….

It looks a wide open race in my mind. Nonetheless you see some mad short prices in the betting market. That says I can’t have the Japanese runner Fame Game at all. He may have a good draw and some big form, but how does this translate into the race the Melbourne Cup is? 4/1 or shorter seems a mad price in my mind.

Trip To Paris is second favourite, currently a 7/1 chance. He has not the kindest of draws but it could have been worse. He impressed me in the Caulfield Cup and I really like him. He’s a tough, genuine stayer. But hardly value at his current price. Unfortunately.

I really don’t understand why a National Hunt horse is a short 7/1 third favourite to land the Melbourne Cup. Sorry. Willie Mullins is a great trainer and Max Dynamite an excellent horse under both codes, he has strong form in the book but had an absolute dream run in the Lonsdale Cup – this is a completely different ball game, in my mind. I can’t see it happening.

Last years Victoria Derby winner Prefermant is hot on the machines. I don’t wanna pretend to know him well. Could be anything potentially, depending on whether he stays the trip. Class is there it seems, good draw too. But at 10/1? Not for me.

I absolutely loved the way Almoonqith won the Geelong Cup recently. But that was only a Group 3 and much more is required here. He might be found out for class. Same could apply to The United States. Formerly a Group 3 winner in Ireland, he landed the Moonee Valley Gold Cup. Others are better treated.

Criterion has been in top form lately but the trip should find him out off a big weight. Multiple German Group 1 winner Our Ivanhowe had a great preparation to the big race since arriving in Australia. A wide draw and doubts over this stamina let me shy away from him.

Now, there is one horse that stands out of the crowd in my mind: Bondi Beach. When this lightly raced stayer won a Group 3 at the Curragh earlier this year, a day I was there and saw him in flash battling hard with stable mate Order Of St. George who subsequently landed the Irish St Leger in brilliant style, I thought this lad is the real deal if is about a staying prospect.

He subsequently lost two big races in the stewards room, most importantly the English St Leger after appeal weeks after the actual race. That doesn’t take much away from the fact he is a proper Group 1 stayer, proven in fact. Now he has to take on older horses but you can argue that he weight he receives doesn’t stand in the right context to his class and what he should actually carry.

There aren’t too many proper Group 1 horses in this race, and less than a handful are Group 1 stayers anyway. Bondi Beach is. At 16’s he looks a massive price. Granted he gets a run. The draw isn’t ideal and he’ll need luck. But favoring that into the price I still don’t get my head around this price tag.

Bondi Beach @ 16/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win