2017 Melbourne Cup preview – Luke Murrell

There's honest and then there's brutal. And then there's Luke Murrell. Check out his typically opinionated preview of the race that stops a nation.

melbourne cup race

I think the biggest conundrum now is how this track’s going to play. To me there was a lot of bias on Derby Day – I didn’t see many horses running on. I think with the headwind and a firmer track, with no rain forecast, I don’t know if you want to be on horses that get back.

Being on course, there was a massive headwind in the straight – so those that were back and popped out, they seemed to cop that right in their face. If the track plays like that again there really is little hope for the backmarkers to get into it.

I think there’ll be a fair bit of speed on, though perhaps not as much as I initially thought. For the run to the first turn, the fly in the ointment will be Marmelo, Gallante and those types that are a bit wider: whether they’re happy to sit wide, or whether they push on and really attack the likes of Cismontane and Boom Time. I’m not sure what they’ll do on Tiberian, because they like to be positive but he’s just not a fast horse.

Marmelo, Gallante and US Army Ranger are the ones who’ve all shown intent in their past races, so they’ll be the three to watch early.

Runner by runner

1 Hartnell

James Cummings / Damian Lane

Barrier 12, 57.5kg

His issue is he hates sustaining a run, and history says that when he does, he gets beaten. He doesn’t have the miles in the legs either, and his best rating is well short of this range.

2 Almandin

Robert Hickmott / Frankie Dettori

Barrier 14, 56.5kg

Personally I can’t have him. He doesn’t have the miles and his win last year didn’t actually rate that highly, it was a real gem of a ride from McEvoy. I know he’s right there because he’s the public-elect, but I think he’s got none and I’d be amazed if he runs top five or six. Everybody will point to his record over 2500m or further and it is fantastic, but he hasn’t really put anything of substance down this prep. From the gate he’ll be well back and he’s not going to be able to make up that ground.

3 Humidor

Darren Weir / Blake Shinn

Barrier 13, 56kg

He has miles in his legs but has proven his whole career that he can’t run past 2400m. Despite the big numbers, the distance will be a huge issue.

If I could get past that, then purely on ratings he shits in – if you could ignore the distance!

4 Tiberian

Alain Couetil / Olivier Peslier

Barrier 23, 55.5kg

He has the miles in his legs, but no recent run and his form is just not good enough. Also a question mark over the distance.

5 Marmelo

Hughie Morrison / Hugh Bowman

Barrier 16, 55kg

Will stay the trip, and will be handy. His map looks very sticky and he’s a chance. If they can push on and get to the front early, that’s the place to be and there might not be many who’ll run past him and the other leaders.

6 Red Cardinal

Andreas Wohler / Kerrin McEvoy

Barrier 24, 55kg

His best rating and best runs are all over 2400m – 3200m range, and he likes it firm or heavy. Breeding-wise he likes being fresh. But from the barrier there isn’t really an option – he’ll have to be snagged and sent back to the fence, and then pray they all stop in front. But it’s not a testing track in that regard, so they won’t be coming back. He’ll run on and it’ll look a good run, but might just be too far back.

7 Johannes Vermeer

Aidan O’Brien / Ben Melham

Barrier 3, 54.5kg

He’s a massive distance doubt, but has big miles in his legs. But he’d need a need slow run race and even then, not sure he’s good enough. He’s on the inside and isn’t a fast horse, so will be out the back.

7 Johannes Vermeer

Aidan O’Brien / Ben Melham

Barrier 3, 54.5kg

He’s a massive distance doubt, but has big miles in his legs. But he’d need a need slow run race and even then, not sure he’s good enough. He’s on the inside and isn’t a fast horse, so will be out the back.

8 Bondi Beach

Robert Hickmott / Michael Walker

Barrier 1, 54kg

Is a minor chance on old form, but looks to be legless and has no miles under him.

8 Bondi Beach

Robert Hickmott / Michael Walker

Barrier 1, 54kg

Is a minor chance on old form, but looks to be legless and has no miles under him.

9 Max Dynamite

William Mullins / Zac Purton

Barrier 2, 54kg

Clearly has injury problems, and doesn’t have the rating or the miles for this.

10 Ventura Storm

David & B Hayes & T Dabernig / Glen Boss

Barrier 6, 54kg

Just not good enough and doesn’t have the miles.

11 Who Shot Thebarman

SCRATCHED

11 Who Shot Thebarman

Chris Waller / Tommy Berry

Barrier 20, 54kg

Goes much better in the Melbourne direction and will whack away. But his current ratings over this prep aren’t good enough.

12 Wicklow Brave

William Mullins / Stephen Baster

Barrier 8, 54kg

He has amazing miles in the legs, which gives him some hope if it is truly run. Recent ratings are a long way from his best however.

13 Big Duke

Darren Weir / Brenton Avdulla

Barrier 5, 53.5kg

Forget his last run – the run prior is huge for this. He has the miles and the form. His Sydney runs were great and if he can run up to that, he can run top three here. He’ll handle the firm track and maps well.

14 US Army Ranger

Joseph O’Brien / Jamie Spencer

Barrier 22, 53.5kg

Has one freak run to his name and looks to be going horribly now. He’s a plugger, he looks to me like a good Listed or Group Three horse, but has big miles behind him so stays under notice for me.

15 Boom Time

David & B Hayes & T Dabernig / Cory Parish

Barrier 9, 53kg

I’ve actually got him up there, and can’t believe I have! That probably tells you a bit about the race. He comes off a very nice effort, and on his sectionals he will run the trip. He’s tough and will be somewhere close to the speed. He’s got quite a few miles too. There’s plenty of ticks.

16 Gallante

Robert Hickmott / Michael Dee

Barrier 18, 53kg

Has no miles and isn’t good enough.

17 Libran

Chris Waller / Dwayne Dunn

Barrier 7, 53kg

Has the miles, but isn’t going well enough.

18 Nakeeta

Iain Jardine / Glyn Schofield

Barrier 19, 53kg

Is off a career best, has the miles and the distance is no problem. But he’s another horse with no speed. He’s a game little horse but he gets back. He might be able to run on but don’t think he’ll be getting to the leaders.

19 Single Gaze

Nick Olive / Kathy O’Hara

Barrier 11, 53kg

Looks like she will stay, which surprises me. But she’s clearly not good enough.

20 Wall Of Fire

Hugo Palmer / Craig Williams

Barrier 15, 53kg

Last run was a career best, but the sectionals say he isn’t good enough and won’t run the trip.

21 Thomas Hobson

William Mullins / Joao Moreira

Barrier 21, 52kg

Not really good enough, but the huge miles makes him some kind of chance. I just don’t think he’s going to be sharp enough over the distance. His Ascot win was just amazing ride from Ryan Moore, just pure genius. But in all his other runs, he travels so deep into the race, then they let him off the bridle and he just doesn’t let down. I reckon that’s a sign he really wants 4000m and probably more of a testing track where it’s just a slog-fest. He just doesn’t get that here.

He doesn’t have gate speed either, so he’s wide at the back or worse than midfield.

22 Rekindling

Joseph O’Brien / Corey Brown

Barrier 4, 51.5kg

Will get the trip and his last run was his best. He has big miles so is fit enough, and has to be a hope with no weight. Such a long season for a three-year-old is a question mark. Having totally re-done the race after Derby Day, I think he’ll be right there. I’ve really elevated him.

He’ll obviously have to be tough, but O’Brien horses seem to be.

23 Amelie’s Star

Darren Weir / Dean Yendall

Barrier 10, 51kg

Won’t run the trip despite having the miles in her legs.

24 Cismontane

Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott / Beau Mertens

Barrier 17, 50kg

Happy to see him in the race. He’ll be the leader and he’s got about 23,000 metres in his legs. He’s a good tough, honest horse but I think they just gave him too much of a start in the Lexus.

The verdict

Big Duke and Rekindling for mine look the standouts. After that take your pick – maybe Boom Time from a map point of view. I think it’s going to be really hard for the backmarkers to get into it.