Few people in racing are as far across every form line – local and international – like Luke Murrell from Australian Bloodstock.
He’s given Champion Bets his thoughts on every runner in the big race.
1 Preferment (Chris Waller / Hugh Bowman) – Barrier 15 – 57kg
He’s always been a “love to own him” type, but he’s never really run a strong 2400 metres. If you’re backing him, it’s based on the win in The BMW in the autumn, and I think he got a lot of favours there and everything clicked for him.
He’ll have to go right back given the draw. For me he just hasn’t had the same action lately and hasn’t been running through the line, although the last run was an improvement. But he’s five – six lengths behind what’s he previously done, and he might be a stallion just looking to go to the breeding barn and relax.
2 Our Ivanhowe (Lee & Anthony Freedman / Dwayne Dunn) – Barrier 6 – 56.5kg
His best run in Australia is probably ten lengths behind his average European form, so they clearly haven’t got him right although his best runs here have been with glue-on shoes and interestingly they go back on here.
He does get a few ticks but I think the ground might be too firm for him, and he didn’t run the trip last year: he ran third, but if they’d gone another fifty metres he’d have run eighth. He is one of the few horses with a top rating good enough to win easily here, but you take that on a lot of faith, its been a long time since he’s done anything like that. Happy to oppose.
3 Exospheric (Lee & Anthony Freedman / Damien Oliver) – Barrier 3 – 55.5kg
Comes with the big boom but I think the English form always gets overrated by the general public. This year that form is very smelly anyway – it looks good on paper but in my opinion it’s no good.
From a mental aspect, in every run this prep he’s gone to pieces in the mounting yard, and that’s in England, so I think you’ll see him sweating up a lot in a Caulfield Cup environment. He’s just mentally unstable and I question his attitude while he’s still got his nuts.
He does get a great run in behind the speed here which stops me putting a complete line through him.
4 Scottish (Charlie Appleby / Kerrin McEvoy) – Barrier 7 – 55kg
Reckon he was a good thing if they ran him in an Emirates Mile. He had a throat operation before Godolphin bought him which affected him – in his 2000 metre run, even though he won, he lost six lengths of speed in the last 200 metres. He did get a fair squeeze mid-race, but I just can’t have him here over 2400 metres, even though he does have a great turn-of-foot, probably the best in the race.
He’ll find it particularly tough if they go hard. His 2400 metre runs have been very soft, and I don’t think he gets that here.
It makes the decision not to run Hartnell here a very strange one for mine.
5 Sir Isaac Newton (Aidan O’Brien / Colm O’Donoghue) – Barrier 9 – 55kg
His biggest issue is he’s very, very suspect out of the gates, and it seems like they’re almost scared to get him out in case he over-races. They normally just leave him alone for a couple of furlongs, so you’ll see him out the back somewhere. His run was better than Exospheric’s when they met last start, and for mine he’s got a better chance here. If you wanted to back one of the internationals I think he’d be right up there with Articus.
6 Tarzino (Mick Price / Craig Newitt) – Barrier 4 – 54.5kg
I can’t believe they’re running him. It looks like he has no desire to be there and he’s at millions for mine.
7 Almoonqith (David & B Hayes & T Dabernig / Michael Walker) – Barrier 2 – 54kg
If you look at his career form, his best runs were in Dubai on firm tracks, where they rode him like a wild black and led at all costs and he ran through brick walls. Here though, they keep trying to ride him like a sit-and-sprint weight-for-age horse. Admittedly he’s going horribly this prep, but if it ever clicked and they rode him as a leader i reckon he’d surprise the hell out of a lot of people. But he’s shown no gate speed this prep and he should be in the paddock, they’re wasting their time here.
8 Sir John Hawkwood (John P Thompson / Blake Spriggs) – Barrier 5 – 53.5kg
He’s never won in AUstralia on a two-week back-up, however the Metropolitan was basically a 1600 metre race, so he didn’t have a hard run. He profiles like a bleeder, so that would be my only question here, and he’s had an interstate trip and typically he’d always need three or four weeks between runs.
But with the quality of this field, he should beat the majority of them home and run in the first four – but only by default I suppose!
9 Articus (Andreas Wohler / Zac Purton) – Barrier 11 – 53kg
If this was 2000 metres you couldn’t have enough on him. The fact that it’s 2400 metres is the big worry. He’s had one go at 2200 metres and got a Veandercross ride – the winner actually cut the fence and came up the inside, but they were only four lengths outside the track record so it was a fast time. He’s actually ran good sectionals and fast times his whole career and he has a great turn-of-foot. The draw probably puts him worse than midfield, so his fate will be decided by those outside and whether they push on.
He is fairly well-found and perhaps should be a little bit longer, though the form around him is all Group 1 WFA that’s now been franked in France and Germany. And I would suggest Wohler improves any horse from another trainer by at least five lengths.
With the lack of depth here, if he gets the distance he’ll beat them. There’s just that query over the last furlong.
10 Tally (John O’Shea / Brenton Avdulla) – Barrier 19 – 53kg
Got no hope. I’d suggest they’ll ride him forward as cover for Scottish, to help him switch off.
11 Jameka (Ciaron Maher / Nicholas Hall) – Barrier 13 – 52.5kg
Everyone wants to tell me this is the best form, but 2400 metres is a different form reference to anything else, and her two efforts in the Autumn were as weak as water. She got the dream run winning at Caulfield the other day and while the Flemington run was good, they didn’t go that hard and she got good wind cover.
I’d suggest with Nick Hall’s riding style they’ll go right back, and I think they’ll ride Set Square as sacrificial lamb to ensure the speed is on and she can run on late.
12 Real Love (Darren Weir / Craig Williams) – Barrier 10 – 52.5kg
I think she’s a genuine Group 3 mare over here in the eastern states, but she has got really good leg speed from the gates. If you look at her really good runs up in Queensland and even the other night at Moonee Valley, she can handle high pressure and just keeps running through the lines.
She doesn’t have a turn-of-foot, but those races where they go too hard are when she does her best. I give her a really good chance based on that. On the map she’ll be in the top two or three pairs, and if the speed is on, she’s the consistent one.
13 Set Square (Ciaron Maher / Michael Dee (a)) – Barrier 20 – 52kg
She’s buggered from out there – they either have to go right back or right forward. If they’re trying to win with Jameka then I think Set Square has to go forward to ensure some speed so that the backmarkers can run on.
However, she’s drawn wide eleven times and has been snagged back in nine of them. So they obviously don’t like using her up too much, but I don’t know what else they do with her from out there.
15 Sacred Master (Chris Waller / Tommy Berry) – Barrier 8 – 51.5kg
He was an eye-catcher in the Metropolitan and his times were brilliant, which indicates he’ll love the trip (and is probably one of the only ones in the race that will). I don’t have him winning, but definitely a third or fourth flashing home.
17 Pemberley (Ciaron Maher / Ben Allen (a)) – Barrier 17 – 50.5kg
They normally like to be midfield, but from out wide they’re not going to be able to get there, and with the young jockey I think they’ll just push on and lead. The biggest plus for mine is he has a seven-day back-up at 2400m, which none of the others have, so he might be able to absorb the speed better than any of them.
If they leave him alone and there’s isn’t much speed from the others, i give him a good place chance. He’s very stoutly bred on the female side, and he’s one to be afraid off if he happened to get a soft lead, because a lot of the others won’t run the trip.
18 Go Dreaming (Grant Kluske / Ms Katelyn Mallyon) – Barrier 1 – 50.5kg
Good luck to them, I hope they run tenth and pick up some cash. He obviously can’t win, but he’ll kick up from that barrier and lead.
19 De Little Engine (Danny O’Brien / Ben E Thompson (a)) – Barrier 14 – 50.5kg
He doesn’t offer anything and goes right back. His last run was great but not on this race, even allowing for the fact it’s a touch weaker.
Looking at the field and their gate speed, it’s a race where there’s not many fast horses. I think it’ll be one of two things: the backmarkers will come into it if those wide come forward and force the issue. Otherwise they go back, then you’ve just got to find the horse that’s closest to the speed that’s got any ability, because the backmarkers won’t get into it.
It’ll probably be a very fast race with the typical Aussie mentality of “we’ve got no weight on our back, so we’ve got to use that advantage and go forward”.
In my opinion, if you looked at this and said it’s a Group 3 race over the Spring Carnival, you wouldn’t blink an eyelid. That’s the level this year. They’re never easy to win, but these are largely horses that are Group 3 quality.
I don’t think any of them go on and do anything in a Melbourne Cup.
If there’s no speed here, I’d go with Real Love. If there’s speed, Articus and Sir Issac Newton will fight it out.