JAMEKA (53.5kg) Ciaron Maher
She proved me wrong in the Caulfield Cup, but if you go back and watch the tape she got the best run in a race you’d ever want to see, and the way the wind played gave her every advantage. I don’t think it was a great race and I don’t think we see a winner come out of it. There’s no way she runs first four in a Melbourne Cup, even given the lack of strength in this field.
I don’t like her at the trip and I don’t like her in comparison to some of the overseas horses. She might crack the top 10.
ALMANDIN (51kg) Robert Hickmott
In all his European racing, 2200m saw him out. He has won his last two at 2400m, but the early pace in both races was barrier trial speed. In that case you’re just looking for the horse with the best turn of foot, which is something he has.
I wouldn’t completely discount him because it’s a weak race, but I don’t like him at the trip and I don’t think his form is good enough.
BIG ORANGE (56kg) Michael Bell
He has the best weight-for-age form from the UK, but his last run was the 28th of July. The internationals who’ve done well here have always had a run very close to quarantine, and have had 9,000 – 10,000m in their legs. He has the latter, and if he’d had a closer run he’d be a definite chance, but given that I think he’s more of a place chance.
OUR IVANHOWE (56kg) Lee & Anthony Freedman
He couldn’t get the trip last year when they walked, and he’s not going as well now so certainly won’t get it this year.
CURREN MIROTIC (55.5kg) Osamu Hirata
If he was here the year Delta Blues and Poprock were, he’s would’ve beaten them by five lengths. And that was a much stronger year then this one. I think he’s one of only three possible chances to win. He’ll love the trip, and we should get a decent tempo. He likes firm ground and is a massive chance. I’ve backed him to win.
HARTNELL (55kg) John O’Shea
He’s a terrific early-season weight-for-age horse, but he proved in the Cox Plate that the longest he can sustain a run for is about 600 metres. So the only chance he’s got is if we get a Green Moon or Fiorente type race where they crawl and then sprint from the 600m. If it’s an average-run race then he’s got no chance.
WHO SHOT THEBARMAN (55kg) Chris Waller
One of the very few that’s proven at the trip. I don’t think he’ll run top three, but wouldn’t surprise if he’s not far behind them.
WICKLOW BRAVE (55kg) William Mullins
Another one who I rate as a genuine winning chance. He can sustain a strong 800m burst and is running low 11 second sectionals, which 90% of this field can’t do. The trainer is a freak with a great record, who knows how to get them fit, and importantly he had a close run to quarantine in the Irish St. Leger. He ticks all the boxes for me.
BONDI BEACH (55kg) Aidan O’Brien
The only other one that can win for mine. His form on paper isn’t as strong as the other two I have, but there’s been some funny tactics in my opinion and they haven’t even pushed him since last year’s Cup. I think they’ll be very happy with how weak a race they’ve got this year.
EXOSPHERIC (55kg) Lee & Anthony Freedman
I thought his Caulfield Cup run was really good – he was one of the few horses that did run well. I think he’ll be better second-up but I’ve got a big question of the form. On his European form he won’t run the trip, but he’s a sneaky for a first four, as a place chance more than a winning chance.
GRAND MARSHAL (53.5kg) Chris Waller
Like Who Shot Thebarman I think he’s going better this year, and I think could be a top five hope. He can’t win, but maybe a place chance.
GALLANTE (53.5kg) Robert Hickmott
He’d need Noah to be getting the ark ready to have any chance. Flemington drains well so even heavy rain the night before wouldn’t be enough. He’d need torrential conditions on raceday to win this.
ALMOONQITH (53.5kg) David & B Hayes & T Dabernig
As I said in the Caulfield Cup preview… if they actually twigged that they need to ride him forward and aggressively then he’d be a chance. He’d run the trip and is really tough, but they just keep riding him back. His Dubai runs at the front were enormous, he just kept coming. But he’s got no turn-of-foot and they’re too scared to ride him ugly.
His run at Caulfield was okay, but Hayes usually has his runners set for earlier in the carnival these days.
He will run the trip however, and there’s only half a dozen here that will.
SIR JOHN HAWKWOOD (53kg) John P Thompson
I thought the Caulfied Cup was more his go. He didn’t like the two week backup, he’d never done that before, and now he’s doing it again. Another top ten chance at best.
HEARTBREAK CITY (53kg) Tony Martin
He won a decent enough Ebor Handicap, but that form’s never much good. The trainer has pulled off some amazing plunges in the past, which says he can train, even if his stats say he can’t.
For mine the form here isn’t good enough, it’s a mile off that of Wicklow Brave and Bondi Beach. He’d need a massive improvement.
BEAUTIFUL ROMANCE (51.5kg) Saeed Bin Suroor
They’ve got no hope at all. Her UK form is rubbish, she’s slow, she’s one-paced.
I wouldn’t back it in a Listed race, let alone a Melbourne Cup.
EXCESS KNOWLEDGE (52.5kg) Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott
Just not going well enough and won’t get the trip. I understand them wanting to have a runner, but it’s one of many here that I think are just trying to pick up that lower prizemoney.
ASSIGN (IRE) (51kg) Robert Hickmott
It’s amazing it’s made the field with its form. You need miles in the legs and although Lloyd does train them hard, it’s just not good enough.
SECRET NUMBER (51kg) Saeed Bin Suroor
The pot on him is he’s had no racing. If he’d been racing I’d have him as a genuine chance, but you just can’t back those that haven’t had many runs in such a long time. He has got the ability that many here don’t, but he’s too injury-prone so they have to take it so easy.
He’s had one run close to quarantine, which is a tick.
OCEANOGRAPHER (52kg) Charlie Appleby
He looks a completely different horse down here, so maybe just likes the conditions. The Geelong Cup and Lexus were really slowly run races, which gives him a chance to back up, but three runs in the short time span is a big ask. There’ll be too much speed here, which sets it up for the stronger horses, and he hasn’t done well in those sort of races in the UK.
He surprised me on Saturday though, that was a great run.
GREY LION (51kg) Matt Cumani
The Geelong Cup was really poor I thought. This thing is an off-season horse; good on them for getting a run, but if it wins a Melbourne Cup I’ll give the game away.
QEWY (50.5kg) Charlie Appleby
He’ll be a pacemaker and will whack away, but he’s six or eight lengths behind the other Godolphin horse (Secret Number). People will like that he’s run in Australia but again, the Geelong Cup form is horrible. He’s a country cup horse.
PENTATHLON (50.5kg) John Wheeler
He’s a good top ten chance. He’ll stay and stick on and is actually going quite well.
ROSE OF VIRGINIA (50kg) Lee & Shannon Hope
I think she’ll be a good top ten chance. She can’t win, but might be a really silly price. She’s not legless at this trip.
It’s an embarrassing field this year I think. Good luck to anybody who’s got a runner, but it’s really well down on what we’d normally be used to. It was the same with the traditional lead-ups in the Caulfield and Geelong Cups, they were a long way down on what they normally are.
I don’t think a lot of these horses would usually even make a Sydney or Adelaide Cup, which are of course a lot weaker than this race.
I really hope we see some speed so that it brings out the better quality horse, and not a crawl followed by a 400 metre sprint.
Having said all that, whilst it’s a poor race, I do think it’s a good race to have a bet. The three I like are all decent prices and clearly the best horses for mine over this distance range.
Luke’s winning chances: Wicklow Brave, Curren Mirotic, Bondi Beach.
Luke is a leading form analyst and Director of Australian Bloodstock.