We’ve arrived at 2018 Melbourne Cup Day and world racing’s focus will be locked on Flemington on Tuesday for a huge ten-race card.
The Race That Stops a Nation has drawn a talented field of local stayers and international raiders this year and we are set for one of the most open editions of the Group 1 Melbourne Cup since the turn of the century.
Showers are expected on 2018 Melbourne Cup Day, but the Flemington track remains rated in the ‘Good’ range. The rail will be set out two metres around the entire course.
Twelve two-year-olds will step out in the first on Melbourne Cup Day and of those runners, only four have race day experience.
The Lindsay Park-trained Champagne Boom ($2.50) debuted for a dominant win in the Listed Debutant Stakes (1000m) three weeks ago and has subsequently opened a clear race favourite. She should only improve from that run and will be able to find a position off the pace from barrier 8, before calling on her smart turn of foot.
On exposed form Champagne Boom is clearly the one to beat, but these two-year-old races full of debutants are extremely difficult to analyse and I am happy to watch.
A capacity field of mares has been confirmed for Race 2 and there is plenty of value around every horse in betting.
Leon & Troy Corstens had Mamzelle Tess ($4.50) on track for a berth in the Group 1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) on Derby Day, but she missed a start as the race’s emergency runner and will be extremely difficult to beat in this company. The six-year-old took up the running in the Group 2 Blazer Stakes (1400m) two runs back before finishing third, while she was unlucky to be pipped late at Group 3 level at Moonee Valley last time, finishing second. Jye McNeil can take Mamzelle Tess straight to the lead from Barrier 1 and she’ll give them something to chase.
I have respect for the likes of Mrs Gardenia ($6.50) and Samovare ($16) in this field, but Mamzelle Tess is rock-hard fit and ready to return to winning form.
The early scratching of Oak Door means that first emergency Bravo Tango ($26) has gained a start in the third on Cup Day, but he would need to improve substantially to compete in this company.
The Darren Weir-trained Fifty Stars has tuned up with two credible efforts this time for season and looks ready to peak third-up on Tuesday. The Sea The Stars colt won each of his first four starts when debuting in autumn and everything that he has done so far suggests that he’ll be in the finish again. Ben Allen does have a bit of a task on his hands though, after drawing barrier 13.
Godolphin will be offered two live chances in this race but Haunted ($9.50) looks particularly well placed and is certainly up to winning a race of this calibre. Haunted recorded consecutive wins in sprints at Geelong and here at Flemington when resuming in September and he was last seen finishing fairly on soft-going at Moe (3rd). He takes 6kgs from the topweight today and has a fitness edge over many of his rivals.
Sixteen stayers remain in contention for what is always an open affair on Melbourne Cup Day and there is a case to be made for more than half of the field.
I’m leaning towards the Darren Weir-trained Steel Prince ($5.50), who has been in strong and consistent form this time. This is obviously a pretty noticeable step up in class, but he hasn’t finished worse than second through his last five runs and won a pair of mile-and-and-half races with ease in September. He’s drawn ideally in barrier 4 and with Dean Yendall in the saddle.
Stable mate Azuro ($5.50) looms as a major threat, while Doukhan ($5.50) and Shraaoh ($5) have both been racing well and can fight out the finish, with appropriate luck.
A dash down the straight is always an exciting highlight on Cup Day and eleven horses are set to contest this year’s Flemington Fling.
With leading contender Roosevelt and early scratching, David Brideoake-trained filly Feared Eyes has been a huge market mover and is $34 into $7.50 at the time of publish. She’s only had one career start to date but was an impressive winner at Ballarat and with improvement, looms as a live threat.
At her current price, I think that South Australian raider Heaven’s Deal ($10) looks like a nice each-way chance. The daughter of prolific sprinter Spirit Of Boom has stamped herself as a genuine 1000m specialist and was an impressive winner of the Listed Queen Adelaide Stakes as a two-year-old. She was an easy winner over this trip at Morphettville last time out and should be ready to peak third-up.
The first black type race on Melbourne Cup Day will lay a great foundation for the feature race and there is plenty of value to be found in the market for the sixth.
Two horses at odds have caught my eye in this field and I will be happy to have something each-way on both Zizzis ($13) and Into The Abyss ($10).
Zizzis saluted for us at her last competitive start and looks to have returned to her best form. She immediately stamped herself as a filly to follow during her two-year-old campaign in autumn and has fought into the winner’s stall of races to this quality.
Into The Abyss typically improves with racing and looks ready to do something third-up on Melbourne Cup Day. The Foxwedge filly resumed for a credible fifth in the Group 3 Thoroughbred Club Stakes (1200m) behind Sunlight last month before another tough performance to finish within a length of Beauty in the Listed Crockett Stakes (1200m) last time out.
The Race That Stops a Nation has drawn an outstanding field of local and internationally-trained stayers this year and we are set for one of the more open editions of the Melbourne Cup since the turn of the century.
Yucatan ($5.50) has remained Melbourne Cup favourite since his bullish win in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) three weeks ago, and he’ll be right in the finish again with any sort of luck.
Magic Circle ($9.50) has the best form over two miles of any horse in the 2018 Melbourne Cup field and has reportedly relished his time in Australia. He’ll jump from barrier 17, but will settle off the early pace regardless and boasts a strong turn of foot.
The Cliffsofmoher ($17) worked home well to finish third in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) a fortnight ago and will take plenty of benefit into the Cup. The Galileo entire is drawn ideally in barrier 9 and has the notable advantage of Ryan Moore in the saddle.
A Prince Of Arran ($19) completed an eye-catching run for third behind Yucatan in the Hebert Power and gained a Melbourne Cup start with a tough win in Saturday’s Group 3 Lexus Stakes (2500m). He’s clearly fit and has the class and ability to fight out the finish.
I’ll be having something on each of these horses, but Magic Circle and The Cliffsofmoher are my top picks.
The field for the eighth is simply outstanding and that has been supported by the open betting market on offer for the Furphy Plate.
Stampede has been charged with carrying the 60kgs topweight, but he has most of this field covered on class and will carry winning form into the race. The High Chaparral entire will appreciate a return to firmer going and a step up to 1800m, and Gai Waterhouse certainly knows how to prepare a Cup Day runner.
The Chris Waller-trained Kaonic ($10) has experienced plenty of bad luck this time but it up to the class of a race like this. The Savabeel entire won each of his first two starts this time, before finishing fourth in each of the Group 3 Cameron Handicap (1500m) and The Star Mile (1600m) most recently.
Given that Stampede has the great amount of upside, I’m happy to take him straight out again.
**UPDATE – With Stampede a late scratching, I’ll be having a little bet each-way on Kaonic, but wouldn’t want him a lot shorter than the $7 currently on offer.
Another tough betting race late on Melbourne Cup Day, but it could loom as a lucrative one from a betting perspective.
I’m always happy to follow the form of horses with form down the Flemington straight and former Perth galloper First Among Equals has that. The Exceed And Excel gelding won the Listed Straight Six here in winter and while he has not been the most consistent horse this time, his best performance was a smart third placing in the Group 2 Bobbie Lewis Quality (1200m) here in September. With the Darren Weir polish, he’s certainly good enough to get the chocolates.
Keen Array ($34) will strip fitter into his third-up assignment and is a black type winner here, while Stellar Collision ($20), Trekking ($4.7) and Brave Song ($8) are all more than capable.
A particularly tough way to end Melbourne Cup Day from a betting perspective and a case to be made for nearly every mare in this capacity field.
Topweight Pedrena ($21) was blocked for a run first-up but will strip fitter for the hit-out and could prove over the odds. Ellicazoom ($15) failed to fire last time out, but her two runs prior were excellent and a repeat of either would see her right in the finish of this race. Savapinski ($12) will take plenty of benefit into her second-up appearance and can win at this level.
Our Crown Mistress ($15) took up the running in the Group 3 Cape Grim Beef Steaks (1200m) three weeks ago and was only beaten in the final 100m. She’s ready to peak third-up and Gai Waterhouse has been bullish of her condition and chances leading up to Cup Day.