It’s here again – not just Australia’s greatest horse race but its biggest and most enduring cultural institution: the Melbourne Cup.
As always, the country will down tools and stop what its doing on Tuesday afternoon to watch the huge field contest the 3200m (or two miles in the old) staying test, which has not only grown in its international era into the world’s best handicap, but one of the marquee races on the planet.
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Its history is entwined with the folklore of the country, its handicap conditions summing up the nation’s egalitarian spirit.
Its story is well known – first run in 1861 when won by the might Archer, and a winning stage for some of the all-time greats of the turf, such as Phar Lap (1930), Carbine (1890), Rising Fast (1954) and Makybe Diva, the only horse to win three, from 2003-05.
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As with last year, when stringent new veterinary checks – combined with the pandemic – kept a lot of internationals away, it’s a field dominated by locally-trained horses, with only four from abroad. It’s a make-up that will warm the hearts of some traditionalists, though laced with a good amount of European intrigue as well.
Wet track form is likely to play a part, with rain forecast on four days through Tuesday. Also don’t be too put off by the comparatively low prizemoney of the English and Irish visitors. Prizemoney is pretty poor there.
Let’s dive right in.
Flemington, Tuesday, November 2
Race 7. 3.00pm
1. GOLD TRIP
Weight: 57.5kg. Barrier: (14)
Approx Pointsbet win/place odds: $11/$3
Age/sex: 6yo horse (stallion)
Career Record: (starts: wins-seconds-thirds) 16: 1-5-4
Trainer: Ciaron Maher/Dave Eustace; Jockey: Mark Zahra
At this track: 1: 0-0-0
Wet form: Soft: 10: 1-4-2; Heavy: 4: 0-1-1
Best long-distance form: Has had four goes over 2400m, capped by Caulfield Cup second and Arc de Triomphe fourth.
Possibly the classiest horse in the race. Imported last year from Europe, where he’d come fourth in the mighty Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, to run in the Cox Plate. Was scratched from that race but has finally had his chance to show his talents this spring. Ran a great second in the Caulfield Cup (2400m), the renowned lead-up to this, when he work hard and was just nabbed on the line. Then backed up a week later for a surprise Cox Plate appearance, and ran very well again, finishing ninth without much luck and beaten less than three lengths. Untested beyond 2400m, but from top stable and with great jockey aboard, and class will take him a long way. Good barrier. Each way.
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T: Edward Cummings; J: Hugh Bowman
Track: 2: 1-0-0
Soft: 9: 3-3-1 Heavy: 4: 0-0-0
Best long-distance form: 1st, 2400m, G1 Tancred Stakes, Newcastle, March, 2022.
Outstanding staying mare trained by a young man well-versed in training stayers – Edward Cummings, who used to train in partnership with his grandfather, Melbourne Cup legend Bart Cummings. This mare showed great class in winning back-to-back G1s last autumn in the Australian Cup (2000m) and the Tancred (2400m), two top weight-for-age contests. Whilst no winning in four starts this spring, she’s looked to be warming up for this race in a real Bart Cummings way – grinding away slowly in shorter races, particularly catching the eye by making up ground for 8th, beaten only 2.5 lengths, in the Caulfield Cup. A doubt if it’s heavy, but a very strong chance on soft or better. Great barrier.
3. KNIGHTS ORDER
Trainer: Gai Waterhouse/Adrian Bott; Jockey: Tim Clark
Track: 5: 0-0-0
Soft: 8: 3-0-2; heavy: 5: 2-1-1
Best long distance form: 1st – 3200m – Sydney Cup, April 2022
Tough former British stayer who’s taken a while to hit his straps here but has had a big year, capped by winning over this distance (crucial) in the Sydney Cup last autumn. That’s a weaker race than this, but he did manage to lead all the way and win by two lengths. His form has been strong this time in as well, especially leading throughout from gate 17 and only weakening late when a length third in the Caulfield Cup. Will stay, can handle wet. Slight doubt about leading all the way up this long straight, and the killer is his wide gate. He’ll have to work hard to get across from there. Place best.
T: David Payne; J: Jason Collett
Track: 1: 0-0-1
Soft: 10: 1-1-2; Heavy: 6: 2-0-2
Best long distance form: 1st – 2400m – The Metropolitan, Randwick, Oct 2021; 4th – 2400m – Caulfield Cup, 2021 and 2022; 3rd – 2500m – VRC Oaks 2020
Very good staying mare who turned in a great trial for this when flashing home from 14th at the 400m mark for fourth last start in the Caulfield Cup, without much luck. Finish did suggest she’d cover this trip, as Oaks-running 3yo fillies often grow up to do. Has looked to be building up for this race all through this preparation, including a third and a fourth in her two runs before the Caulfield Cup, suggesting she’s been building up nicely for this race. Not the biggest big-race combo of trainer and jockey, but every Melbourne Cup winner had never won one before their first, had they? Great barrier. Definite chance.
T: Annabel Neasham; J: Tommy Berry
Track: 1: 0-0-0
Soft: 5: 1-01; Heavy: 7: 1-4-0
Best long distance form: 5th – 2400m – Caulfield Cup – Oct, 2022
Irish import now with a highly successful Sydney stable who’s showed some strong form this campaign. Turned in a great, tough, run when holding on of fifth in the Caulfield Cup, beaten only 1.2 lengths. Breeding suggests he’ll get the trip, and trainer has added a cross-over noseband for this race, which helps keep their mouth shut and helps them settle better, helping them hopefully get the journey. Wet form encouraging. Only sixth in only Flemington run, but that was over unsuitable 1600m. Decent place chance – perhaps one unit the win, two the place.
6. WITHOUT A FIGHT
T: Simon and Ed Crisford; J: William Buick
Soft: 5: 2-0-2; Heavy: N/A
Best long distance form: 1st (twice) – 2787m – York, England, June/July 2022.
One of these tough British stayers who seems to have a lot going for him, barring the absence of heavy form. Won back-to-back over that long distance at York three and two runs ago, and drops from those weights – 59.5 and 57 – to a more luxurious 55.5kg here. Last start was also a solid second over 2414m at Newmarket, England, when he carried 62.5kg. He’s by a great sire of stayers in Teofilo, who’s sons Cross Counter and Twilight Payment won this in 2018 and 2020 respectively, the latter doing the near-impossible by leading all the way. From a strong stable and has a great big-race jockey aboard in England’s William Buick. If it’s soft, he’s in this up to his ears. Heavy is the doubt. Barrier makes it hard. Each way.
T: Ben and JD Hayes; J: Ben Melham
Soft: 7: 2-0-1; Heavy: 4: 0-1-1
Best long distance form: 1st – 2816m – Curragh Cup (Ireland), June 22.
Well-performed Irish stayer transferred to the young Hayes brothers in Victoria for this. Go on his length win – under 62kg – in the prestigious Curragh Cup two starts beck. More worrying was his eighth, beaten 20 lengths, at his only run since over the same trip in the tougher Irish St Leger. The worry is while his wet form reads OK, it hasn’t been lately, with his past three soft/heavy runs being 7th, 5th (beaten 10 lengths), and that 20-length eighth. A few doubts here.
8. DEAUVILLE LEGEND
T: James Ferguson; J: Kerrin McEvoy
Soft: N/A. Heavy: N/A.
Best long distance form: Won Voltigeur Stakes at York, England, over 2385m, August 2022; 1st – 2615m, Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket, July 2022.
Highly-rated British raider who put the writing on the wall for this with a tough, 2.8 len win in the prestigious Voltigeur at his last start. Beat El Bodegon into third, and that horse subsequently showed his style with a third in the Cox Plate last week. Some doubts around him – such as never being tried on damp going. He drops from 58kg to 55kg here, but that’s not the 51/52 range that northern 3yos (called 4yos in the southern hemisphere) have carried to victory in this race before. So you do have to take a leap of faith. But the British know how to produce strong stayers, and he’s by outstanding sire and former champion racehorse Sea The Stars, and they usually run alright. Does have Kerrin McEvoy in the saddle, which is a major help as he’s won three of these things. Decent chance from good barrier.
T: Joe Pride; J: —
Soft: 14: 4-3-2; Heavy: 10: 4-2-0
Best long distance form: 1st – 2600m – Randwick St Leger, Oct 2022.
The wet weather brings this tough gelding into it, with that best long run in the St Leger two starts back on a soft 7. He’s with a strong, in-form trainer, and drops in weight form his last two starts. Had an unusual last run for this – in the 2000m Rosehill Cup on Saturday – and while an 8th placing there doesn’t sound flash, he wasn’t asked to do much, dropping out to last and working home well under not much pressure, being beaten 2.6 len. That was a fair warm-up for this. Slight issue is this is his first go the Melbourne way of going, but on his wet form he’s a place hope.
10. VOW AND DECLARE
T: Danny O’Brien; J: Blake Shinn
Track: 11: 2-0-3
Soft: 8: 2-0-2; Heavy: 1: 0-0-0
Best long distance form: 1st – 3200m – Melbourne Cup, 2019
Easy form reference here, since he won the great race three years ago. Now many win two, and only one has done it in non-successive years, being Peter Pan in 1932 and 34. And, this horse looked a one hit wonder after his narrow win in 2019, losing all form over the following two years. However, something has happened this campaign, in which he looks to have returned to his best through his past three runs: a 2 len 3rd and a 1,2 len 5th, both over 2500m at Flemington, then a fabulous sixth in the Caulfield Cup, beaten only 1.9 lengths after being trapped wide throughout. He wasn’t flying home that day, but the way he was pushing on towards the line in the straight suggested his astute trainer has him peaking for this. Has a fine jockey aboard in Blake Shinn, who won this in 2008 on Viewed. Possibly prefer soft than heavy, but top chance from a great barrier.
11. YOUNG WERTHER
T: Danny O’Brien; J: Damian Lane
Track: 6: 0-2-2
Soft: 4: 0-2-2; Heavy: 1: 0-0-0
Best long distance form: 2nd – 2400m – ATC Derby, April 2021.
Looked a promising stayer early on with placings in Melbourne and Sydney derbies. Hasn’t quite lived up to those expectations, however, despite some noteworthy placings. Handy third over 2000m at Flemington two starts back, but last start average 10th in Cox Plate. Others preferred, especially from poor barrier.
12. HOO YA MAL
T: Gai Waterhouse/Adrian Bott; J: Craig Williams
Soft: 2: 1-0-0; Heavy: 1: 0-0-1
Best long distance form: 1st – 2816m – Goodwood March Stakes, August 2022
English import brought to Australia for this, joining an astute stable, with Gai Waterhouse having won this race before with Fiorente in 2013; plus Craig Williams won this race on Vow And Declare in 2019. Brings some strong staying form, chiefly his win at Goodwood two starts back. Carried 59kg that day and drops a lot to 53.5kg today. Still, last start was poor with an eighth under 58.5 in the English St Leger (2922m), also on soft. It’s a leap of faith, and gate only average.
T: Robert Hickmott; J: John Allen
Track: 3: 0-1-0
Soft: 5: 0-1-0; Heavy: 2: 0-0-0
Best long distance form: 2nd – 2500m – Archer Stakes, Flemington, Saturday; 1st – 2400m – English Derby, 2020.
Lightly-raced for a 6yo and has some impressive staying bloodlines – being by the great Galileo – and performances, having won what many call the greatest race in the world, the English Derby. Hadn’t looked like much in his first four runs in Australia, starting July this year, but finally showed some form on Saturday, trying to lead throughout in the 2500m Archer and only going under by a length to the hot favourite. Drops 2kg from that, and comes from the stable of that masterful Melbourne Cup-winning owner, Lloyd Williams, who’s won seven of these things. Problem could be lack of good wet form. Rough place only, especially from gate.
14. DAQIANSWEET JUNIOR
T: Phillip Stokes; J: Daniel Moor
Track: 1: 0-0-0
Soft: 7: 0-0-1; Heavy: 5: 0-0-2
Best long distance form: 1st – 3200m – Adelaide Cup, March 2022; 3rd – 3200m – Sydney Cup, April, 2022
The great asset is, you know he’ll get the trip, thanks to those Adelaide and Sydney Cup efforts. Not so good, his wet form, and that it looks like he hasn’t brought his autumn form into the spring. Last start 10th in the 2500m Bart Cummings at his first Flemington run. Hard to have.
15. GRAND PROMENADE
T: Ciaron Maher and Dave Eustace; J: Harry Coffey
Track: 6: 3-1-0
Soft: 6: 2-2-0; Heavy: 2: 0-0-0
Best long distance form: 1st – 2500m – The Bart Cummings, Flemington, Oct 2021; 1st – 2600m – Banjo Patterson Final, July 2021
Tough stayer in a strong stable who was in peak form last spring, leading to a very meritorious sixth in this race last November. Has had a restricted preparation this time in and hasn’t quite reproduced that sort of form. Was fourth last start in the Moonee Valley cup over 2500m, but was 12 lengths off the winner. Outside place only, but not that keen.
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T: Bjorn Baker; J: Rachel King
Soft: 14: 5-3-1; Heavy: 7: 1-2-1
Best long distance form: 2nd – 2600m – Randwick St Leger, Oct 2022; 1st – 2350m – Grafton Cup, July 2022
The Cup usually throws up some bolter or other snatching a place. It could be this bloke, but he’s have to surprise everyone. Soft form helps him, but he might be making up the numbers. Jockey is one of two female riders in the race. Doesn’t win many Group 1s, however.
T: Mike Moroney; J: Patrick Moloney
Track: 1: 0-0-1
Soft: 2: 1-0-0; Heavy: 2: 0-0-0
Best long distance form: 1st – 2400m – Geelong Cup, October 2022; 3rd -2500m – Hotham Hcp (Archer Stks), Flemington, October 2021
Sprung a surprise by winning Geelong Cup last start at longish odds of $18. Still, you can only win, and the horse he beat by a length that day won the Archer on Saturday (Surefire, not engaged here). Also, Geelong Cup has been a good trial for this in the past, with Media Puzzle winning both in 2002, and Prince Of Arran winning it in 2019 before his second in the big one. Drops 4.5kg on his Geelong win for this, and his trainer won this race before with Brew, albeit way back in 2000. Patrick Moloney not a noted big race rider, however. Place best.
18. LUNAR FLARE
T: Grahame Begg; J: Michael Dee
Track: 6: 2-1-1
Soft: 10: 3-1-1; Heavy: 3: 0-1-1
Best long distance form: 1st – 2500m – Flemington, The Bart Cummings, October 2022; 1st – 2500m – Mooney Valley Cup, October, 2021
Gun staying mare in form. Won the Bart Cummings two starts back, beating Franceso Guardi. Granted, he nearly fell near the turn, but he still came out and franked the form by winning the Moonee Valley Cup last Saturday. Lunar Flare was second to him in the Moonee Valley Cup, having won that race last, but she had to go back from a wide gate and made strong ground late. Decent wet form and light weight. And one key asset could be the man in the saddle – Michael Dee – who’s having one of those career-best runs at present, having won the Caulfield Cup and the VRC Derby in the past three weeks. Definite each-way chance from good gate.
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19. SMOKIN’ ROMANS
T: Ciaron Maher and Dave Eustace; J: Jamie Kah
Track: 3: 1-0-0
Soft: 8: 2-3-0; Heavy: 3: 1-1-0
Best long distance form: 1st – 2500m – Pakenham Cup, December 2021
The horse with the other female jockey in the race. Was a red hot favourite for the Caulfield Cup but was disappointing, finishing 7th, beaten 2.3 lengths. Trainer said jockey Kah may have misjudged when to go, which contributed to the loss, but you’d be putting a lot of trust in the horse after that. Start before was good, however, with a 1.5 length win in the 2000m Turnbull Stakes at this track. Place best.
20. TRALEE ROSE
T: Simon Wilde; J: Dean Yendall
Track: 5: 2-2-0
Soft: 8: 2-3-0; Heavy: N/A
Best long distance form: 1st – 2400m – Geelong Cup, October 2021
This mare made some waves last spring with a second in The Bart Cummings (2500m) at Flemington before winning the Geelong Cup, which had her as a $21 chance in the Melbourne Cup, where she came a middling ninth. She needed a long time off after that due to injuries, and while she doesn’t on paper appear the same horse this spring, looks can be deceptive. In her last two starts she was 14th, over an unsuitable 1700m, before a 13th in Caulfield Cup. That run wasn’t as bad as it sounds though, since she didn’t get a lot of room racing in the middle of the pack, and was working home steadily in the straight, and not too far away being beaten 4.2 len. She’ll get the trip and has a place chance.
21. POINT NEPEAN
T: Robert Hickmott; J: Wayne Lordan
Track: 1: 0-0-0
Soft: 4: 2-0-0; Heavy: N/A
Best long distance form: 1st – 2800m – Flemington, Andrew Ramsden Stakes, May 2022
A second Lloyd Williams-owned runner imported from Ireland. Gained his ticket into this by winning the Ramsden, capping a fine autumn run of three straight victories. Two runs this time in have been poor, however, with a Flemington 9th over 2500m followed by a 14th of 15 over 2400m at Caulfield. Can’t have, especially from gate.
22. HIGH EMOCEAN
T: Ciaron Maher and Dave Eustace; J: Teo Nugent
Track: 6: 1-1-1
Soft: 9: 3-1-2; Heavy: 3: 2-0-1
Best long distance form: 1st – 2400m – Bendigo Cup, last Wednesday; 1st – 2500m – Flemington Quality Handicap, September 2022
A handy mare who sneaks in with a light weight after claiming the Bendigo Cup last week. Wet form helps, and she’s from a gun stable, but rough place hopes best.
T: Ciaron Maher and Dave Eustace; J: Craig Newitt
Track: 3: 0-0-1
Soft: 5: 1-0-0; Heavy: 1: 0-0-0
Best long distance form: 3rd – 2500m – Flemington, The Bart Cummings, October 2022
Sneaked in with a light weight as one of the last in. Followed third in Bart Cummings with sixth in Geelong Cup. Hard to have, especially with poor wet form.
24. REALM OF FLOWERS
T: Anthony and Sam Freedman; J: Damien Thornton
Track: 3: 1-0-0
Soft: 14: 4-3-1; Heavy: 2: 0-0-2
Best long distance form: 1st – 2800m – Flemington Andrew Ramsden Stakes, May 2021; 5th – 3200m – Randwick, Sydney Cup, April 2021
This mare can stay all day. Was looming as a top Melbourne Cup chance last year, after her Sydney Cup fifth, and tuned up with a good sixth in the 2500m Bart Cummings, but then went amiss and didn’t make the Cup. Has had an unusual prep for this, being a Melbourne horse who’s had three runs in Sydney, most likely seeking soft tracks. She’s better on those than on firmer surfaces, and was a very close third in the 2400m Metropolitan at Randwick last start, after another third over the same course and distance. She was entered for Archer Stakes on Saturday but was scratched as connections decided to go straight into this. Slight worry perhaps that she missed that run, but she’s a place chance in this with her very light weight.
TIPS: 1. VOW AND DECLARE; 2. Duais; 3. Montefilia; 4. Without A Fight