Flemington Race 7 | The Melbourne Cup | 3200m Open G1 Hcp | 3.00pm

The Track

The track is currently a Good 4 (Monday) with Tuesday forecast to be mostly sunny with a top of 22c. The track should be a Good 3 by race time.

The rail has been moved out 2m for the meeting, which should put the Derby Day “fast lane” out of play and result in a fair and even racing surface.

Speed and Tactics

Big Orange (barrier 23) is a natural front runner and from such a wide draw there doesn’t appear to be much option but for him to press forward. Of the runners drawn closer in from him, the likes for Kingfisher (9), Red Cadeaux (8), Sky Hunter (7), Criterion (4) and Prince of Penzance (1) shouldn’t be too far away from the early action.

There are also a number of other wide drawn horses that have decent natural speed at this distance and while their riders may all prefer to come out and let the horse find it’s natural rhythm and position in the field, the reality is that some will face the prospect of being caught wide unless they do some work to press forward. Horses in that group could be Snow Sky (16), Hartnell (17), Bondi Beach (18), Quest for More (21) and Excess Knowledge (24).

The structure of the map and large field itself looks to set up a genuine pace in this year’s race if not stronger. This will be a genuine test of 3200m.

The gruelling nature of a genuinely run Melbourne Cup usually means that some start to feel the pressure between the 800m and 600m, while others are moving forward. That opens up plenty of opportunities for horses going well enough to move into the clear, so luck in running is rarely a critical factor.

Early Pace Rating: Genuine to Above Average

Late Pace Rating: Average to Below Average

Best Suited: Neutral. Strength at 3200m will be far more important than position in running.

A Recap on Handicap Ratings

As I discussed in my Caulfield Cup assessment, when assessing the ratings for handicap races we are looking to forecast the performance each horse can achieve in the race based on its past WFA Performance Ratings (which are normalised to WFA) and the weight it will carry in this race.

A horse with a WFA Performance rating of 104 that is handicapped with 6kg less than WFA will naturally be able to run to better than that 104 figure on the day, because of the benefit of a lighter weight. This allows the 104 horse to be competitive with a superior 107 rated horse, who for example might be handicapped with just 1kg under WFA.

This is the fundamental principle of handicap racing… giving slightly inferior horses the chance to win based on the benefit of less weight carried. My philosophy is that weight does not affect performance nearly as much as traditional theories suggest, but it is still nonetheless a relevant factor.

All rating figures quoted in my assessment below are based on past runs adjusted to reflect the weight to be carried in The Melbourne Cup. They focus on expected performance “at the weights.”

Race Overview

Below are the ratings that recent Melbourne Cup winners have run to “at the weights.”

  • 2014 – Protectionist – 115
  • 2013 – Fiorente – 113
  • 2012 – Green Moon – 110.5
  • 2011 – Dunaden – 113
  • 2010 – Americain – 114.6
  • 2009 – Shocking – 108.5
  • 2008 – Viewed – 108.5

On pre-race race ratings this year, a figure of 109 at the weights looks the level to reach in order to be a key winning chance.

The eventual winner rating is likely to be higher as we typically see one or more runners reach a new career peak in the race, but it is usually those with demonstrated talent to reach the pre-race level and / or those with obvious scope to improve that push to new peaks. With that in mind, we can use that 109 benchmark as a key reference for assessing winning chances.

International Runners – First Australian Start

One of my key principles in assessing the Melbourne Cup field is to strongly penalise any international runner that has not had an Australian lead up run. Since Vintage Crop in 1993 there has been 80 international runners enter the Melbourne Cup without an Australian lead up run… for zero winners.

Red Cadeaux almost broke that trend in 2011 when just nosed out by Dunaden and numerous others have placed. However even if we had seen one or two win, the overall lack of success of these runners is still a very significant statistic, especially when you consider the stellar reputation that many of them have carried into the race.

International horses over the last 10 years:

  • With an Australian lead up: 43 runners – 4 wins – 9 placings
  • No Australian lead up: 41 runners – 0 wins – 7 placings

If we consider those runners under 20/1 in the last 10 years

  • With an Australian lead up: 19 runners – 4 wins – 7 placings
  • No Australian lead up: 12 runners – 0 wins – 2 placings

Running top four in the Australian lead up run has provided 15 Melbourne Cup runners in the last 10 years for 4 winners.

The combination of these statistics presents a compelling picture that an Australian lead up run is an essential component of success for the international runners.  Eventually we will see an international runner win without an Australian lead up race, it could happen this year… however I have been using this factor for more than a decade now and it has continued to serve me well.

Internationals without an Australian lead up run this year include: Big Orange, Max Dynamite, Red Cadeaux, Sky Hunter, Kingfisher and Bondi Beach.

Runner by Runner

1. SNOW SKY $67 MKT: $41

Was okay in the Caulfield Cup although looked to peak on his run late. I don’t like that as a sign for the Melbourne Cup, even allowing for the fact he could make sharp improvement on that run. He ran to a 102 in the Caulfield Cup and has a peak of 107.5 at the weights in this race. It’s hard to forecast him running to the new career peak he needs to with the 58kg in this race, especially off that Caulfield Cup run.

2. CRITERION $15 MKT: $14

He’s the best horse in this field when you consider WFA Performance Ratings without handicap weights. He had no luck in the Cox Plate after missing the start, settling further back than normal and then being hampered by Winx when going for an inside run. Without those two issues, he would have finished at least 1-2 lengths closer to her and clearly in front of the rest of the field. On that basis I can assess him at the 110 rating level in this race, which in theory makes him extremely hard to beat. The natural query of course is whether he can be as effective at 3200m and how much allowance should be made for that uncertainty. With that the only possible query on his chances here, I’m certainly not going to pot him. He’s among the genuine chances in this race.

3. FAME GAME $5.50 MKT: $4.00

It’s well documented that the combination of riding tactics and luck in running didn’t give him the opportunity to produce his best in the Caulfield Cup. He’s a proven very strong 3200m horse and with an Australian lead up run under his belt I’m happy to assess him right at his overseas peak for this race which puts him at a 109 rating level at the weights. On that basis though I can’t get him as short as the market is suggesting. He comes here with the aura of being an invincible Japanese stayer and it may well turn out that way with a big new career peak in this race. However taking a more direct comparison, both my ratings and those of at least two respected international organisation suggest there is somewhere between 0.5L and 0.8L between Fame Game and Trip To Paris. Fame Game is set to carry 2kg more than Trip To Paris in the Melbourne Cup, so on overseas form at the weights in this race they are close enough to equal. Taking that further, Fame Game was certainly a no better run that Trip To Paris in the Caulfield Cup. He’s undeniably a top chance in this race, but betting is about finding horses the market appears to be underestimating and there is just nothing about Fame Game at $4.00 that the market has possibly missed. For that reason, while I’m certainly fearful of him winning this race comfortably, I have to let him run against me.

4. OUR IVANHOWE $31 MKT: $23

A very solid run in the Caulfield Cup which brings him into this race with a 106 rating at the weights. The improvement needed to win is probably too much of a stretch, but he’s definitely a chance of finishing in the top 6 to 10.

5. BIG ORANGE $51 MKT: $51

His win in the Goodwood Cup (beating Trip to Paris and Quest for More) returned a rating that puts him in the mix for this race. However without and lead up Australian run I can’t assess him at that level. Also the prospect of crossing from a wide draw and doing all the work up on the lead detracts from his chances. There is a big difference to leading and controlling in 8 to 11 horses race in Europe compared to a 24 horse Melbourne Cup with much more pressure.

6. HARTNELL $67 MKT: $31

He’s been running okay this preparation but certainly below the performance level we saw from him in the Autumn. He needs to make too much improvement from last start in order to be a genuine chance.

7. HOKKO BRAVE $51 MKT: $31

Ran fairly in the Caulfield Cup, but didn’t attack the line as strongly as I would have liked coming to this race. He’ll no doubt improve over 3200m and it wouldn’t surprise to see him finish top 8, but I can’t have him as a genuine winning chance.

8. MAX DYNAMITE $41 MKT: $13

His last start rating from a win in the G2 Lonsdale Cup combined with 55kg puts him at the 109.5 level, which is capable of winning this race. However that was on a soft track (as all of his peak figures are) and he’s an International without an Australian lead up. On the basis of those two factors, I have to assess him much longer than the market.

9. RED CADEAUX $41 MKT: $23

He’s been an amazing competitor in this race over the years, even without that Australian lead up run. He always seems to defy his ordinary recent form when he comes to run in the Melbourne Cup, but if he hasn’t been able to win in previous years, then I find it hard to see him winning now as a 10 year old.

10. TRIP TO PARIS $5 MKT: $8.5

My top pick in the race and outstanding betting value at $8.50. His win in the Ascot Gold Cup and then 3rd in the Goodwood Cup when carrying a penalty for that prior win, returned ratings that put him at a performance level of 109.7 for this race. The Caulfield Cup looked too short for him to be effective, but he produced an outstanding run to finish 0.5L 2nd to Mongolian Khan with the best rating last 200m of any runner in the field. His last 200m was actually superior to Fame Game, who had a much easier time early well back off the pace. Trip To Paris ran to a 108 level in the Caulfield Cup and steps up to a more suitable 3200m with the benefit of that run under his belt. That’s a tremendous scenario for him to progress in his performance to at least that 109.7 overseas peak, potentially higher. As an overseas stayer with an Australian lead up run and the undeniable ratings quality to win this race, he presents with an outstanding profile for this race. The current market price is tremendous value.


His 3200m ratings put him right in the winning zone for this race and he’s been doing enough this preparation to suggest he can get somewhere near those ratings in this race. He’s among the more genuine chances in this race.

12. SKY HUNTER $101 MKT: $71

He’s another overseas runner without an Australian lead up run so I have to oppose him.

13. THE OFFER $67 MKT: $35

His last start Bendigo Cup win is well below the standard needed to win this. He was a big Sydney Cup winner in 2014, so obviously has no problem with 3200m, but on a dry track it’s hard to see him improving to the level needed to be competitive.

14. GRAND MARSHAL $51 MKT: $35

Surprised by winning the Sydney Cup earlier in the year and comes into this race off similar lead up ratings. He could finish in the top 6 to 10.

15. PREFERMENT $9 MKT: $10

Two runs ago over 2000m he ran to a 105 rating winning the Turnbull Stakes and has a stack of scope to rate higher here stepping up to 3200m, especially with Chris Waller targeting him at this race all along. He looks set to run to a big new career peak here and that potentially puts him right in the 109-110 zone that could win this race. I can’t assess him as highly as Trip To Paris and Fame Game that have the proven ratings, but he’s an undeniable good chance at a fair price in the market.

16. QUEST FOR MORE $41 MKT: $101

Has the overseas ratings to be competitive and did have excuses in the Geelong Cup. I can’t be confident in him as a winning prospect, but he’s definitely better than a 100/1 chance. He should be included in multiples.

17. ALMOONQITH $34 MKT: $17

His Geelong Cup win brings him into this race at the 107.3 rating level, which can certainly be competitive. He needs to push to a new peak to be in the finish, but that’s certainly not impossible. He’s not among the top chances, but should certainly be respected.

18. KINGFISHER $51 MKT: $31

Has been beaten almost 60 lengths in two lead up runs overseas and has had no Australian lead up run.


Comes into this off a last start 107 rating courtesy of his MV Cup 2nd placing to The United States. He may run to a similar level again, but doesn’t strike me as the type that can suddenly produce a new peak at 3200m.

20. BONDI BEACH $31 MKT: $26

He looks a genuine Group 1 horse and his last start 2nd placing in the St Leger Stakes combined with 52.5kg puts him in this race with the quality to be a very competitive chance. The difficulty is forecasting him to run near that level first up in Australia, steeping up to a high pressure 3200m at just his 6th race start. I can’t consider him a genuine winning chance, but he’s capable of finishing top 6.

21. SERTORIOUS $501 MKT: $201

Doesn’t have the ratings to be competitive.


One of the longer priced runners capable of surprising here. His last start MV Cup win gives him a 107.6 rating for this, just 1 length below the minimum standard needed to be competitive in the finish. What I like about his horse is that his two peak ratings have come in high pressure races run in fast overall time… which we are very likely to see here. On that basis he appeals as one that can run at least up to that last start figure and perhaps go a little better. That certainly puts him in this race among the chances to be respected.


His peak is in the rating range of 105 to 106, too far below the minimum standard needed here.

24. GUST OF WIND $51 MKT: $26

Her Oaks win would make her a competitive top 5 or 6 chance here but he’s been well below that in all runs so far this preparation. She will perhaps improve up to 3200m, but it’s hard to forecast her making the big leap that will be needed to challenge the better chances.

Betting Strategy

Trip To Paris is the clear value runner so I’m happy to focus my betting around him.

 BACK (WIN) Trip To Paris

Choose an amount you are happy to risk on your win bet and invest the total on Trip To Paris

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