LISTEN: Luke Murrell’s Melbourne Cup Preview

An international form expert previews the big race

Melbourne Cup Spring racing

The pinnacle of Spring racing is here with the running of the prestigious Melbourne Cup.

One half of the mighty Australian Bloodstock team, Luke Murrell, has previewed the race that stops a nation.

Luke is no stranger to the Melbourne Cup after Protectionist took out the prize in 2014 for his team.

You can listen to his preview just here:

Or alternatively, here is a full transcript of the chat:

Mark Haywood: We’ll run through the Melbourne Cup field. Number one Best Solution.

Luke Murrell: Yeah. He’s a proper weight for age horse, which is why it was such a good option at Caulfield. Look, I think he’s close to 20 starts now as a horse and he’s got plenty of miles in his legs. I think it’s very important to stress that all previous proper run Melbourne Cups, you had to have 10,000 metres or more. And you’ve seen horses previously, like Red Cadeaux have as much as 17,000 metres, so I think that’s gotta be the first filter when you’re going through this type of race that you’ve gotta apply. So he ticks that box, but he’s at a number of starts and I haven’t even attempted to run him in this type of distance range which would suggest he’s a massive doubt, and I think European horses it’s not as if they’re short of two mile races or even further, so the work I do sectionally he is a doubt, but he has drawn nice and soft and I’ve got this race to be an absolute brutal race. That’s probably the first one in a heap of years where we’ve got a field of horses with big big miles in their legs. And the way this race is mapped is gonna be a shitload of speed. So I wanna be on horses saving ground. Not happy to work in that first sorta four or 600, ’cause I think a lot of them will lose their race in that part of it. He maps in there forward of midfield, but whether he gets a distance I don’t know. Llook, he’s one of only a few weight for age horses in the race, so… He’d be in wider exotics to me, but I just don’t think he’ll run the trip as strong as some of the others.

Mark Haywood: Number two is The Cliffsofmoher.

Luke Murrell: Yeah, I sorta don’t know what to do with these horses. I sorta watch him and I think he’s got a bit of pussy cat in him. He has got good sectionals that indicate that he wants further. He’s obviously a classy horse. He’s run well in an Epsom Derby which most years is a decent guide. He’s a worse than midfield horse suited by the pace, he’s got miles in his legs. Whereas I had him on the second line earlier before the draw, he’s now one of the main chances I think.

Mark Haywood: Number three is Magic Circle.

Luke Murrell: Barrier 17 gives them next to no hope. Corey’s a very good rider as far as getting them to relax and settle. But tactically I’m not so sure. And you watch the horse, he’s got this big big extravagant knee bend in his action, which would indicate he just wants a wet track. So if they got the rain, it’ll definitely help. If it’s firm, he’s absolutely no hope. He races like a bit of a cripple to me, the way they’ve spaced his runs. And he’s not a bad horse, but I see somewhere he’s 2nd and 3rd favourite. There missing a zero there. He’s a genuine $41 but when the rain comes he’s some type of hope. From out there, I don’t wanna be on him.

Mark Haywood: Number four is the Japanese runner Chestnut Coat.

Luke Murrell: Lovely barrier to save plenty of ground which gives him a tick. His best form in Japan is on soft tracks. So that gives you another tip. Again, I’m including him to run fourth in a first four, but he’s certainly not a winning chance.

Mark Haywood: Number five is Muntahaa from barrier 13.

Luke Murrell: He was my pre draw pick and quite clearly I’ve got him down for a small fortune, but he’s a horse who possibly likes being on the outside of horses. He’s certainly gonna get that from that barrier draw. He should map to be midfield or forward of midfield. And that first 400 metres will determine whether he’s gonna be in the finish. Because does look a bit sticky, where there’s a lot of speed, and he could be 4 wide most of the trip. We know the pommies like to sit wide, and I certainly don’t think that’ll be in his favour if they do it on such a swift tempo, so that’s some concern for him . But to me he’s the classiest horse in the race in terms of the staying type of horse, and if he’d had a run post Ebor I would have nearly declared him, but it just worries me. Last run was August, he comes into a really really strong tempo here. That’s my only little concern with him now. But you’ve gotta include him in everything. He’s a ripper.

Mark Haywood: Number six is Sound Check.

Luke Murrell: Yeah, I said in the Caulfield Cup a couple months ago he was a benchmark 76 horse. He’s one that will run the trip, but I just don’t think he’s got the class or the ability. I didn’t see anything in the Caulfield Cup I really liked. He’s one of those horses. You’ll remember, as owners, there’s a lot of guys just running to try and run top 12 this year. And it’s $125,000 if you run top 12, so he’s one of those horses. But he’s certainly not a top four candidate.

Mark Haywood: Number seven, the old boy is back. Who Shot Thebarman.

Luke Murrell: Yeah. I thought he was in the wheelchair and absolutely cast, but Moonee Valley was absolutely sensational. I think that’s gonna be a really good race for this. It was a strong run. And really, there’s arguments saying he was a top two run in that race. So he’s gonna map worse than midfield. The pace suits him that way. My worry is he doesn’t have the miles in his legs this prep, but I do know there’s a pattern recently with Waller horses where there’s a pattern and he’s been training them more European style. Wide first fours, but not a winning chance.

Mark Haywood: Number eight is Ace High.

Luke Murrell: Been a good horse, you’d love to own him, but I don’t know why they paid up the 60 grand to run. I don’t see that he’s any hope. He sort of got exposed the other day in the Caulfield Cup when it was slowly run. He was up on speed and had his chance to sprint. And admittedly, he’s not a weight for age horse, but he was just beating way too far. And I think they’ll go back from that draw. Probably a lot of people have him going forward, but I think he’ll go back and be one of those trying to run into the top 12 placings.

Mark Haywood: Number nine, another one that’s come back and that’s Marmelo.

Luke Murrell: There’s always a spruik around this horse but I don’t see it. I spoke to Bowman during the week and he said the horse was going much better than last year. I felt last year he had every possible chance in a slowly run race. He was up on speed, but pricked like a balloon. Personally, what I’ve seen his European form this year, it’s nowhere near as strong coming into this race. Although you gotta respect Bowman’s opinion. I certainly don’t have him as a top four chance, but he’ll be that fourth to twelfth position, I suppose.

Mark Haywood: Number ten is Avilius for James Cummings and Glyn Schofield.

Luke Murrell: He was one I had on the second line pre draw, and now I think he’s possibly the horse to beat. He’s gonna be worse in midfield. Schofield’s obviously much maligned, but he can pull out a ride ride, and I think these better jockeys in these staying races sorta come to the fore. I think he’s a massive chance. He’s got the miles in his legs, and gets a tempo to suit. If we get any rain that’ll certainly help him. And I think he’s a winning chance.

Mark Haywood: Number 11 is the favourite Yucatan. James McDonald rides from in barrier 23.

Luke Murrell: Personally, I just hate horses that are trying at distance for the first time after so many starts. He’s another one. They’ve always kept him around the ten furlong mark. And now they  wanna stretch him out, I find that very unusual. I do understand it as he demolished them in a high rating race at Corfield. He’s gonna go forward, surely. Although I note, when there’s been the 2400 previously, outside of the Melbourne race, they’ve always gone back. But I think from out there, Lloyd always believes he’s got the fittest horse, so he’ll want the horse up on the speed. I just think he’ll be one of the ones creating the speed. I think he’ll prick himself. But, his Caulfield ratings suggest and even a couple from his three year old days suggest that he’s up to winning it, but I think he’s definitely short enough in the market. I’m happy to include him in first fours, but I don’t wanna back him to win.

Mark Haywood: Number 12 is Auvray. Richard Freedman, Tommy Berry, and the inside barrier.

Luke Murrell: They rode him midfield in the Sydney Cup and I think that’s where they’ll put him here. Quirky horse, he just doesn’t have the class of some of them, but just from that draw and given we’re gonna have so much speed, I think it’s gonna be a race where you need to be saving ground, so I’m gonna have him at a big price to run third and fourth in my wide exotic. Just because he does get a few ricks like that, you know.

Mark Haywood: 13 is Finche for Chris Waller and Zach Purton. Barrier 15.

Luke Murrell: Personally, I hate his French form. I think there’s no substance to it. I thought the Geelong Cup run, he looked like he was going up and down on the one spot and he’s no hope for mine. He’s a real whacker. To me, he’s a hurdler, you know? I just don’t have any opinion of him at all, and from that draw, he’s gonna be cast on a limb. He normally likes to settle forward, but those French races are slowly run. I just think he’ll find the occasion too much for him.

Mark Haywood: Number 14 is your boy Red Cardinal. Darren Weir and Damien Oliver from barrier five.

Luke Murrell: Good draw. Was favourite for the race last year at the same stage. On paper, looks like he’s going only just- to-ordinary. His coat hasn’t been there the whole way through the prep, and he’s just taken a while to acclimatise. Darren has said though that he thinks if we get some rain, he’s a genuine winning chance and top five chance. Darren’s certainly not from the Gai Waterhouse school of talking them all up. He’s very reserved and conservative. His work’s been really good, so from that draw, if we got rain, I think he’s a blowout chance at big odds. Especially with the exotics.

Luke Murrell: Good draw. Was favourite for the race last year at the same stage. On paper, looks like he’s going only just- to-ordinary. His coat hasn’t been there the whole way through the prep, and he’s just taken a while to acclimatise. Darren has said though that he thinks if we get some rain, he’s a genuine winning chance and top five chance. Darren’s certainly not from the Gai Waterhouse school of talking them all up. He’s very reserved and conservative. His work’s been really good, so from that draw, if we got rain, I think he’s a blowout chance at big odds. Especially with the exotics. That’s not as an owner talking. Legitimately, his form when he won in Belmonth, when he won in Germany, some of these UK runs which certainly would be up to running top three and in this. We’ll see.

Mark Haywood: 15 is Vengeur Masque. Barrier two.

Luke Murrell: He’s always been a Group 3 handicapper, and he gets a nice run, he’ll be forward of midfield. But he’s not one I like. I think there’s better roughies in the race than him. He’ll just whack away. He’s by Monson so the wetter the better, but I don’t see him as a top four chance. Another outsider.

Mark Haywood: 16 is Ventura Storm. Lindsay Park. Mark Zara. Barrier seven.

Luke Murrell: To me, real Flemington horse. High rating Moonee Valley Cup run, and he’s a real tough bastard, this horse, and he’s gonna map unbelievably well. I think he’s a real knockout for a place chance. I couldn’t see him winning, but he’s a genuine top four chance, and I think that they will bet some type of odds about him. I know he’s only won the one race in Australia, but he’s won nearly eight or 900,000 since he’s been here, and I think this is his race. I think he’s the best roughie in the race myself.

Mark Haywood: Number 17 is A Prince Of Arran. Barrier 20.

Luke Murrell: Really talented horse. He’s in career best form. I had a little nibble at him pre barrier draw but goy my fingers burned because he’s stuffed from out there. He normally likes to settle midfield. Distance won’t be a problem. And he has got a good turn of foot. What they do with him even when they’ve drawn wide previously, they have gone to midfield or forward of midfield trying to slot in and I just think these Pommy horses just don’t get it as far as saving ground in a fast run race. And I think he’ll be a victim in that regard, but if it was a straight race over the distance, I’d be wanting to be on him, because he’s got some ability.

Mark Haywood: 18 is Nakeeta. Barrier three.

Luke Murrell: I think if you’re in a sweep and they pay for running for running last, I think he’s the horse that you’ll wanna get. He’s going nowhere near as good as he was last year. Had every chance in the Ebor and I just don’t like him. At all.

Mark Haywood: 19 is Sir Charles Road. Barrier 14.

Luke Murrell: He’s the one of the New Zealand horses that I think will finish first home. He’s a good tough honest bugger. He’s another one, draw wise I think he’s in a world of pain though, that they normally like to settle on speed when they get him out over this trip. And he’s certainly not gonna have the leg speed to get there. He’s gonna be one of those ones… There’s gonna be a few of them cast out on a limb. And I think he’ll be gone in that regard. So can’t have him.

Mark Haywood: Number 20 is Zacada. Damian Lane from all the way out in barrier 24.

Luke Murrell: Yeah, I felt really sorry. Obviously, Patrick Hogan has had a wonderful life, but the poor bastard drew that wide barrier. And he’s made it well know that the only thing he wants to do is win a Melbourne Cup, but Zacada is nowhere near good enough, and I think him and Nakeeta will be challenging for the last spot, myself. Can’t have him.

Mark Haywood: 21 is Runaway for Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott. Steven Baster’s riding. Barrier 12.

Luke Murrell: Baster rides these types of horses really really well, and I think you gotta give him a tick for that. He’s just not good enough, though. Massive distance doubt. He’s had no miles in his legs… He’ll probably be there to the turn, and then bust I would say given such a brutal run race. You gotta have those miles in your legs. And he just doesn’t have it.

Mark Haywood: 22 is Youngstar for Waller. Craig Williams riding. Barrier eight.

Luke Murrell: I’m really surprised that they’ve decided to run her. Another one doesn’t have the miles in her legs… Never looked like she’s a Melbourne Cup horse. Chris Waller, Craig Williams obviously ticks there, but that’s about it, you know? I’m sure she’ll get plenty of the mug money, but you couldn’t have her at all.

Mark Haywood: 23 is Cross Counter. Charlie Appleby. Kerrin McEvoy. Barrier 19.

Luke Murrell: He was the horse I thought would challenge Muntahaa pre barrier draw. But from out there….You gotta remember he’s only a three year old. Just from last year, he wasn’t even racing. And does have the miles in his legs, so that’s one benefit. Had a setback, and I just don’t think you can win a brutally run Melbourne Cup off a setback. He’s certainly got the class. That old Persian form, and things that he’s got there in England is really top draw. But for this race… If he was to be any hope he needed to draw one to six. I think nine was the biggest field he’s ever raced in. He’s likes to be forward to midfield. The jockey can take the paintbrush and paint the outside fence, he’s gonna be that wide. He’s just no hope you know? I really wanted to make a case for him, but you just can’t from that draw now.

Mark Haywood: And at the bottom, we’ve got Rostropovich. Aiden O’Brien. Barrier 21.

Luke Murrell: Another three year old. He’s got one run at Ascot that was in good figures. The rest are a bit pooey. He’s our leader. And forcing the issue. I think he’s there, obviously he’s gonna be there for The Cliffsofmoher and Yucatan maybe to provide cover for them but I don’t like him. He’s a tough horse, though. So if you wanted to include him to hang on after a brutal run, he may be the one of the on-speeders I’d be happy to include as a young horse on the way up. But not as a winning chance.

Mark Haywood: So you’ve got Muntahaa on top?

Luke Murrell: Yep. I still have to stick with him. I think that it’s a real smell that they’ve set him for it. He’s a big beast of a horse. They just need Jim Crowley getting in early that first three or 400. If they do, I think the race is all over. Yeah, I think he’s clearly the one to beat.

Mark Haywood: And punting wise, any tips on how to go about it?

Luke Murrell: Look, I think obviously there’s massive pools. You really got to stick to that miles in their legs, or metres in their legs theory. The way to do that, is for the Europeans you go back to January 1st and for the Australian horses you go back for this preparation only. You don’t count the Autumn because European horses don’t spell like ours do, and start again, they’re always in work, whereas our horses are basically spelled completely and let down. Look, I’m just a big sucker. I love these First 4 pools. The trifecta pools are nowhere near worth it anymore, but the First 4 pools are fantastic, and I think you gotta play it that way. I think you’ll see it possibly be a race with those roughies fill in the minor money. Red Cardinal, Auvray, Ventura Storm, maybe Rostropovich to create that little bit of value. That’s the way I’ll be playing it. And, hopefully we get a couple of winners and have a good day.

Mark Haywood: Very good. Luke Murrell. Thanks for your time.
Luke Murrell: Any time.

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