Melbourne Cup 2012 Preview

Not long now until the Melbourne Cup 2012 and one horse will add itself to racing history winning the biggest race in the whole of Australia. Question is though, who will it be?

It has been six years since Makybe Diva made it a historic third win in consecutive years, and she was the first horse since Think Big back in 1975 to retain the Melbourne Cup after winning it the previous year. The Alain Royer-Dupre trained Americain made history in 2010 becoming the first French trained horse to win the Melbourne Cup, although he sadly failed to defend his crown last year but finished a very gallant fourth in the process – going out on his shield.

It seems that you wait all those years for the French to win one, and then they come back the following year and take it again as Dunaden edged out Red Cadeaux in a thrilling finish, and both horses return to do battle again, but it is now Dunaden’s turn to try and defend his crown. Can he do it?

Owner detailsDunaden – Has been a revelation since switching to the talented Mikael Delzangles, and bids to retain the Melbourne Cup and make it back to back victories after winning the race last year. Craig Williams has taken over in the saddle after several lacklustre efforts from Christophe-Lemaire, and Williams wasted no time in getting acquainted with his new partner when steering him to success in the Caulfield Cup. Dunaden bids to become the first horse to win the Melbourne Cup off top weight, and before that the last horse to do so dates back to the legendary Rising Fast in 1954, a tall order. That said Dunaden has looked a different animal in Australia, going 3-3 unbeaten and it would be very unwise to write him off despite the weight.

Owner detailsAmericain – Has seen heavy support over in Australia over the last 24hrs and has been backed into favouritism over there to do what no horse has done since Peter Pan in 1934, and that is to regain the Melbourne Cup after losing it. His run last year when fourth was massive off top weight but he is getting on in years, and personally I don’t think Damian Oliver will do a better job than Gerald Mosse did on this lovely staying type. The ground is also likely to be on the quick side for this big son of Dynaformer after heavy rain forecast failed to hit Flemington overnight. I would love him to go and win it again (after backing him 2yrs ago) but I think a place at best is what they can hope for here.

Owner detailsJakkalberry – This was my idea of the winner earlier in the year and although he didn’t run totally as I expected in the Caulfield Cup (Group 1 Hcp) his run translates a lot better than it seems. Ridden on the outside rounding for home, he lost his position after getting outpaced before meeting trouble and then staying on again near the finish. The longer straight of Flemington will work to his advantage as will the step-up in trip. Jockey booking has to be a worry as Colm is either all or nothing but with such a big pot on offer you can expect him to be giving it his all. A winner of the American St Leger with serious ease on his previous start, his form in Dubai reads well and his run at Ascot off level weights with Red Cadeaux gives him hope of going close off these revised terms, and looks overpriced.

Owner detailsRed Cadeaux – Came within a width of a cigarette packet of lifting ‘The Cup’ last year narrowly losing out to Dunaden. He came wide into the stretch and was making laboured progress until Michael Rodd dropped his hands at the ‘Clock Tower’ where Red Cadeaux found an extra gear and put in a resilient late surge at the wire. He is better off at the weights with Dunaden this year and from a similar position has to have a big chance. Has gone well fresh in the past and Ed Dunlop is one of the very best in prepping a horse for a big international race and I expect him to be thereabouts at the finish again.

Owner detailsWinchester – A three time Grade 1 winner in America back in 2010 but hasn’t really done it since coming to Australia. Generally the American turf division are quite weak thus it is very likely he isn’t up to this sort of grade. Failed to run down the likes of Zabeelionaire three days ago in the Mackinnon Stakes (Group 1) off a strong pace and would literally need utter carnage in the run to be in with a shout, and even then is likely to be beaten by the milk man on his daily rounds.

Owner detailsVoila Ici – Started off well in his new career in Australia, with solid runs in both the Underwood Stakes (Group 1) and Turnbull Stakes (Group 1) but bombed out emphatically in the Caulfield Cup on his latest run. Given that both he and Glencadam Gold both ran so below par suggests to me they went too quick in front, and talk from the Moody camp is that he’ll be ridden with more restraint this time but even so it is difficult to envisage this ageing grey getting into the thick of things.

Owner detailsCavalryman – Will go down in history as being the last ride Frankie Dettori has for Godolphin at the end of a glorious partnership but that is all it will be. Has regressed significantly since his third place finish to Sea The Stars in the 2009 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, so much so they’ve tried to reinvent him as a stayer. The problem is he hasn’t exactly been beating anything of note over longer distances either and it would take a sheer miracle from Saeed Bin Suroor and Dettori himself to put this old boy’s head in-front.

Owner detailsMount Athos – Has turned a corner this season and comes into the Melbourne Carnival unbeaten this campaign signing off his domestic season with a win in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes (Group 3) at Newbury. Luca Cumani loves to have a runner in the Melbourne Cup and gets the services of excellent international race pilot Ryan Moore to steer home to son of Montjeu.  There is a slight question to what he has actually beaten this season but the Australian handicapper has given him every chance here getting 11lb from Dunaden and 9lb from Americain (the UK handicapper has him rated 1lb inferior to Dunaden) – solid chance if handling the hustle and bustle of the race.

Owner detailsSanagas – In a similar mould to Winchester but nowhere near as good, the form of the American turf staying division really is suspect in the greater terms of the discipline and has shown nothing under the tutelage of Bart Cummings to suggest he’ll get anything out of this runner on the greatest stage of Australian racing.

Owner detailsEthiopia – This for me has to be the number one hope for the Aussies this year and has impressed me with his attitude throughout his campaign. Is still a very lightly raced horse and I’m not entirely sure they are doing the right thing in running him here so soon into his career. Closed savage well at Randwick to take the Australian Derby (Group 1) on the nod from miles out the back, and followed that up with a solid effort in the Turnbull Stakes (Group 1) before a really eye-catching run in the Cox Plate (Group 1) last time. A change of equipment and tactics saw the blinkers on and him setting a searching pace. After being passed by the main protagonists on the home bend he rallied well to press the high-class Pierro for third after looking like dropping out and looks tailor-made for this step up in distance. Rhys McLeod has ridden him expertly so far throughout his career and I genuinely rate this one’s chances of getting in the money, perhaps even winning it!

Owner detailsFiorente – Has always promised to do much more than he actually has, and was held in high esteem at Freemason Lodge in his early three-year-old days. Gai Waterhouse purchased him just over a month ago and thus wouldn’t have had enough time to ready him for this test, and looks very much like a run with a view to the future. The extra distance ought to suit and that run at Newmarket two starts ago reads well, but once again I don’t think this year will be his year.

Owner detailsGalileo’s Choice – An intriguing runner from Ireland from a trainer that has done so well in this race, in the shape of Dermot Weld. Galileo’s Choice has solid form both over hurdles and on the flat, and his latest victory reads well in that second placed Massiyn since went very close in the Irish St Leger (2nd). Historically it tends to favour those that have had a prep-run in Australia before tackling the Melbourne Cup but Vintage Crop came here and won without having prepped so Dermot knows what he is doing, and has to have solid claims in a very open renewal.

Owner detailsGlencadam Gold – Was unbeaten in Australia before bombing out in the Caulfield Cup last time, and in truth he set too brisk a gallop on the front end. He doesn’t look the easiest to settle out in front and I remember from his days in England he wasn’t the most genuine of sorts either. Chances are he’ll be ridden on the sharp end again and his ability to see out the trip at a true pace will be exposed once more, given he nicked the Metropolitan Handicap off a soft lead – couldn’t back with stolen money, and is reported to have missed some work recently with a bruised foot.

Owner detailsGreen Moon – Won the Turnbull Stakes (Group 1) two starts ago but was heavily beaten when sent off favourite for the Cox Plate last time. Trapped wide throughout but still covered up, he made laboured late progress and judging by his run in the Turnbull Stakes I can see this trip stretching him and he’ll fade right out of it in the final half mile.

Owner detailsMaluckyday – This is another of the horses I like and thought there was plenty to like about his run in the Geelong Cup (Group 3 Hcp) when fifth behind Gatewood. His finishing position doesn’t tell half the story given they went a crawl throughout (he was held up practically last). He began his challenge from the same position as both Tac De Boistron and Exceptionally and beat them both by 4.5L at the line but was unable to peg back those whole stole a march on the field, over what would be an inadequate mile and half. Came second to Americain two years ago (getting 7lb) and has had injury problems since but looks to be tuned up to perfection for tomorrow, and will be 3lb better off with that rival and providing he gets a good pace, and a good passage he should be rolling home large as they reach the ‘Clock Tower’.

Owner detailsMourayan – Was well fancied for this race last year after a solid second placing in the Mackinnon Stakes but was found to be lame post race and thus missed the Melbourne Cup. Faces a tough draw on the inside in box 3, and will need to jump running to get a prominent position from that draw. Keeps on grinding in his races and won the Craven Plate (Group 3) last time out but will need to step up on that form to figure here, and in all honesty doesn’t look good enough to trouble the ‘big guns’.

Owner detailsMy Quest For Peace – Has a really difficult draw in the 1 box and will take a serious effort to win from there I reckon. Is no better off with those that beat him in the Caulfield Cup and he wasn’t finding anything for pressure late in the day either. Ability to stay the distance has to questioned based on that run, and I couldn’t say an extra 400m was what I thought he needed when watching that run, so another I’m passing over.

Owner detailsNiwot – Age really is against him this year and hasn’t really shown any sort of form that would give him a chance in this big prize. Finished 8th in this race last year but has looked slow and laboured in his runs to date this Spring comeback and his Caulfield Cup run did little to aide his cause and is looked over in favour of those with better scope for improvement.

Owner detailsTac De Boistron – Was ridden from a very disadvantageous position in the Geelong Cup but even so it was a very disappointing run from the son of Take Risks, and given he is only a small horse it has to be a worry how he’ll back up after a run so quickly. Has good form with both Shahwardi and Brigantin who have both run so well this Spring (neither run in the Melbourne Cup) but his record on ground quicker than soft is to be blunt, abysmal and has to be overlooked here against strong opposition.

Owner detailsLights Of Heaven – Ran well to finish third in the Caulfield Cup behind both Dunaden and Americain, and the impression I got off that run was that was as good as she is, and nor do I think she’ll improve from going up in trip either. She travelled extremely well from a perfection position in the race but flattened out in the straight and the longer straight of Flemington looks sure to work against her. Winner of the Brisbane Cup over twelve furlongs earlier in the year but is not really better off in the weights with either Dunaden or Americain and the extra distance is assured to suit them better than Peter Moody’s mare.

Owner detailsPrecedence – This son of Zabeel tried and failed in the big race last year (finished 11th) and from what I’ve seen this campaign he looks seriously out of his depth and will do well to beat home the American imports. Bart Cummings historically has a good record in this race, and has pulled off shocks in the past but this will require a work of god to get this seven-year-old in front, and it won’t be happening.

Owner detailsUnusual Suspect – Even worse than Precedence based on form in Australia, and this one will be leading home the charge for the wooden spoon. Finished 9th last year but is getting on in years now and his chances went long ago and faces a hopeless task.

Owner detailsZabeelionaire – A tough horse to get a firm handle on. Ran the rails at Caulfield and ran above his ability to finish sixth to Dunaden in the Caulfield Cup, and followed that run with a solid enough effort in the Mackinnon Stakes (Group 1) coming from far back to run fifth. 6lb better off with Winchester doesn’t sound good enough to place in the Melbourne Cup, let alone win it but I do like this horse and I feel the distance will bring out the best in him, small place claims off a low weight but not one I’m backing.

Owner detailsKelinni – Winner of the Lexus Stakes (Group 3 Hcp) last time and from what I saw he got potentially luck given that both Ibienco and the eventual second Dare To Dream were both stuck on the inside rail for a sustained period of the home straight. His previous run when second to Glencadam Gold (GC got an easy up front) reads fair, and as a lightweight could be running on through beaten horses late on and is certainly bred for this distance but once again I struggle to see this horse having the class to win this prestigious prize.

 

Verdict:
Another  very open and competitive renewal this year of the Melbourne Cup, it is quite intriguing as to trying to fathom which horse it will go to. With the likes of Mount Athos, and Galileo’s Choice have yet to race in Australia, it is difficult to gauge how they will perform ‘Down Under’. From what I have seen so far this campaign, it looks to be a tough and open heat where the best way to play it will be to side with value and hope for the best. Two of my selections come from the home guard in the shape of Ethiopia and Maluckyday. Both horses have run really strong preps and with the support of the majority behind the European’s after their recent success means both these horses have drifted to backable prices.

My final selection comes from the Europeans in the shape of Jakkalberry who should be suited stepping back up to this distance and his run in the Caulfield Cup last time was a lot better than it looked. He is a massive price given his general form and can see the hustle and bustle of the big race suiting him down to the ground.

Likely Result:

Owner details1st – Dunaden
Owner details2nd – Ethiopia
Owner details3rd – Maluckyday
Owner details4th – Jakkalberry

[notification_box]My Bets:
1pt each-way Maluckyday @ 14-1 with Ladbrokes, StanJames, WillHill
1pt each-way Ethiopia @ 20-1 with Bet365, Boylesports, BetVictor, Ladbrokes
0.5pt each-way Jakkalberry @  70-1 with Bet365

All bets are 1/4 odds 1-2-3-4 [/notification_box]

 

Beaten horses to take from Ascot 2011

TUESDAY

St James Palace Stakes – Zoffany
The horse was still last turning for home travelling noticeably well in-behind runners. Having to wait for a run momentarily he eventually got the split and began to bear down on the leader Frankel (who obviously went too hard too soon). Frankel is clearly a class above, but the way Zoffany finished his race off here suggests he’s coming to hand at just the right time for Aidan O’Brien and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise were he to pick up a Group 1 over a mile this season. He is said to have suffered a bout of colic prior to his comeback run in the Ballychorus (and badly needed the run) but he has improved leaps and bounds from that effort and is very smart.

Coventry Stakes – Gatepost
Can be rated better than the bare form suggests given this wasn’t jockey Jamie Spencer’s finest hour on board this smart colt. Spencer elected to explore every blade of grass on the straight mile course allowing the principles to get first run on him. Eventually when realising the winner and second had gotten too far away from him, Spencer made up ground on the Mick Channon trained colt but all was too late and he kept on well into fifth under relatively hands and heels riding.

Ascot Stakes – Zigato
In a race run at a relatively modest pace, this was the first poor judgement in the saddle from William Buick who will feature on Day 2 with another shocker. Positioned miles out of his ground at the back of the field, and making little to no effort to negate that deficit until rounding for home, the front two had stolen a march on Zigato. Zigato kept on eye-catching down the centre of the track under hands and heels riding to finish a going on fourth, and would clearly of won with a more tactically astute ride from his pilot (and I backed the winner).

WEDNESDAY

Jersey Stakes – Western Aristocrat
A horse that was previously unbeaten prior to this run, and after racing rather enthusiastically in the early stages Johnny Murtagh decided to sit in the slipstream of the favourite Codemaster in a bid to get his colt some cover, but that decision proved costly as it left him too much to do when the race quickened. Outpaced when asked for his effort, he was really going on at the finish in the style of a horse needing that extra furlong and judging by this display he could develop into a high class miler for Jeremy Noseda.

Queen Mary Stakes – Caledonia Lady
Almost caused a shock at 100/1 when finishing fast in the closing stages, and I believe she would have won granted a clear passage. Travelling noticeably well approaching the final two furlongs, she began to make her effort down the centre of the track but had to switch around the weakening Gypsy Robin and On The Dark Side meanwhile Best Terms and Shumoos were able to run straight and true to the line. The official distances were (short head, head) and that manoeuvre around beaten horses I believe has cost Caledonia Lady at least a length which is the difference here between victory and defeat. She is an absolute formality to win a maiden and looks to play her hand against her own sex in group races this season – and could well be a decent price being from an unfashionable stable such as Pat Murphy’s.

THURSDAY

Norfolk Stakes – Burwaaz
In a race where all the pace came down the centre, Burwaaz raced away from the pace up the stands rail under Richard Hills and was at a disadvantage as the race began to take shape. A horse with plenty of size he quickened up smartly on the stands rail just inside the furlong and put distance between himself and his group of 5 and can be marked up significantly for this effort. He looks the type to improve from this and connections must be itching to take on winner Bapak Chinta on a level playing field next time and I’d favour Ed Dunlop’s colt to come out on top judging by this effort.

Ribblesdale Stakes – Field Of Miracles
Ran an admirable race on the front end going down by the shortest of short heads to quite possibly the toughest filly in training at the moment in Banimpire. In front throughout, she quickened away from her field off the turn for home and had them all on the stretch. She was gradually worn down by the tough as teak Jim Bolger filly but battled back bravely when headed to force a photo finish. She clearly has her quirks but is improving with racing and a group race should come her way before long this season based on this effort and is worth keeping on side.

Britannia Stakes – Tropical Beat
The sequel in the William Buick trilogy of bad rides and this one would have gone very close to winning if things had gone his way. Switching to the inside Buick spent around a furlong trying to remove Tropical Beat from up the arse of a weakening rival and when doing so the horse absolutely took off closing the final furlong faster than anything else in the race to finish tenth. Now this isn’t great for those of us who’ve backed him (myself) but I’m willing to award him the title of the ‘moral’ winner of the race given a clear passage and a more tactically astute effort in the saddle he would have. Of the others Cai Shen and Bahceli look the two to take out the race.

Tercentenary Stakes – Laajooj
Positioned out the back by Mikael Barzalona on a week where this wasn’t the place to be on the round course, the Godolphin colt made a sweeping move down the outside of the pack. I had noticed he was positioned 1L behind Alkimos prior to entering the straight but as they entered he was some 8-9L behind (good race riding by Fallon), the race was pretty much over by the time Laajooj hit full stride and he came home well under the young sensation. This wasn’t Mikael’s finest hour in the saddle but the horse has shown his ability to us to suggest back on a straight track like Newmarket (July course perhaps) he looks capable of picking up a nice prize. Marksmanship who looks another worth keeping an eye out for, and he clearly needs to be upped in trip.

King George V Stakes – Census
Didn’t appear to be overly inconvenienced when hampered as the dash for home began, and he took a while to hit full stride allowing Brown Panther to poach an unassailable advantage. However after looking like getting nowhere near the leader two furlongs out, Richard Hannon’s charge absolutely took off on the approach to the final furlong and closed the race faster than anything else in the field. Although the gap was sixth lengths at the line Census is value to be a fair bit closer than that margin in my book, and it is worth stepping this colt up in distance to 14F where he could potentially be group class.

FRIDAY

King Edward VI Stakes – Fiorente
A horse that will without doubt make a better four-year-old, he was taken under the trees by Ryan Moore on the far side in the early stages of the race (along with Mijhaar and Neil Callan). This tactic is often used as an advantage by jockeys (most memorably deployed by Willie Carson on Bahri) when the ground goes soft; however this decision backfired as when they rejoined the pack they were forced to tuck in at the rear of the field (a place of disadvantage on the round course all week). Still at the back of the field turning in, Ryan Moore appeared to fall asleep reading the paper (or maybe he was doing the crossword?) aboard Fiorente allowing William Buick to blast clear on the impressive Nathaniel. Fiorente got going all too late in the end but made up masses of ground in pursuit of the leader, but John Gosden’s colt had gone beyond recall. There is a lot more to come from Fiorente, mark my words.

Buckingham Palace Stakes – Striking Spirit
Ran an absolute screamer from stall 2, in a race where high numbers were heavily favoured. Raced on the far side early before gradually edging across to the centre at the half-way stage, he was still racing away from the pace throughout and as those that had raced around him disappeared out of view, he powered all the way to the line, only to be outdone by the draw bias. Clearly the one to take from the race being beaten only 1.5L after racing at such a disadvantage he looks capable of striking in a similar sort of handicap before long. He has a liking for this track and his trainer Tim Easterby shall be more than capable of placing him to effect in the not too distant future.

SATURDAY

Wokingham Stakes – Mac’s Power
On a day where James Fanshawe did so well at Ascot (saddled the Golden Jubilee winner in Society Rock and winner of this race in Deacon Blues). This horse ran a massive race down the now unfavoured stands side. Travelling noticeably well as the camera zoomed in two furlongs from home, Pat Cosgrave asked this smart gelding for his effort shortly after spying a gap to go through and he drew nicely clear of his field. Sadly the action was all over on the far side and there will be other days for this son of Exceed And Excel and looks worth keeping the faith with now that the yard are amongst the winners.

Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes – Rock A Doodle Doo
This really wasn’t the best moment in the saddle Olivier Peslier has had in his lifetime, and it won’t be far from his worst either. All dressed up with nowhere to go out the back of the field as the action began to unfold, he continually ran into trouble as the horse was screaming for an out. Eventually getting a gap when the front two kicked on to fight out the finish he kept on under minimal assistance in the saddle, and can be counted an unlucky loser (he would have been ALOT closer). This goes down as a string of recent awful efforts in the saddle by Olivier, and isn’t anywhere near the form he is usually in at this time of year. Unfortunately every man and his dog will probably have seen Rock A Doodle Doo which will probably mean we’ll struggle to get any sort of price next time but one of these races will come his way before long.

I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts on the Royal Ascot meeting.