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]

 

Bassett’s Allsorts – 13th July 2012

Racing at Chester racecourse...

A disappointing set of performances from the previous selections. Red Cadeaux ran a solid enough race, though never really looked like winning and Dr Red Eye was well supported, being sent off 13/8 favourite, but was unable to capitalise under a penalty.

Tomorrow offers some good racing, which on the whole looks fairly competitive. My Girl Anna is a horse who has impressed me recently, shaping like a progressive filly. She steps into group 3 company at York tomorrow and should be capable of running a big race, with conditions to suit. I came close to putting her forward as a selection, but feel she may find one or two too good tomorrow, but she is a filly to keep on side while conditions are right.

The horse that makes most appeal from a betting perspective is Niceofyoutotellme at Chester. The colt was making his handicap debut in a hot race at Royal Ascot shaping with a good deal of promise, before fading late on. A drop down in trip looks ideal and with a good draw, a big run looks on the cards in this weaker race. Ralph Beckett has his string in good order and another visit to the winner’s enclosure tomorrow looks a distinct possibility.

[notification_box]Basso’s Bets:
8.10 Chester: Niceofyoutotellme 2pt Win @ 9/2 with Bet365, Ladbrokes[/notification_box]

 

Bassett’s Allsorts – 12th July 2012

Red Cadeaux

The July meeting at Newmarket kicks off with a fantastic card, featuring the Group 2 Princess of Wales Stakes. Red Cadeaux is a horse who has seemingly improved with age and has run some cracking races this season in defeat, most recently in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, when finishing third to Sea Moon. That race was no doubt a much stronger contest and this looks an ideal opportunity for him to add another win to his record. The juice in the ground should aid his cause and hopefully make the race a good test of stamina. Harris Tweed also looks sure to appreciate any ease in the ground and along with Fiorente, whose trainer has an impressive record in the race, should prove the biggest threat.

Dr Red Eye landed his first victory on turf last week and is quickly turned out under a penalty by trainer Scott Dixon. The gelding has long been a horse I thought had the potential to be better than he had shown and the addition of cheek pieces seems to have been the key to his improved performance last time. With those retained and testing conditions holding no fears, a follow up looks highly likely. The unexposed Red Trump makes his handicap debut for an inform yard and could be capable of giving the selection most to do.

Liberty Ship put a good sequence of runs together around this time last year, winning two races in the process. His efforts this season have on the face of it been disappointing, however, this can be put down to the lack of a tongue tie, which was key to the horses improvement last year. Although still 5lb above his last winning mark, he ran good races last season off higher marks and with the tongue tie back on, should be capable of running a big race in what otherwise looks an open sprint.

[notification_box]Basso’s Bets:
3.35 Newmarket: Red Cadeaux 2pt WIN @ 5-2 with William Hill, various
4.50 Doncaster : Liberty Ship 1pt WIN @ 14-1 with BetVictor
5.20 Doncaster: Dr Red Eye 2pt WIN @ 4-1 with Bet365 [/notification_box]
 

Coronation Cup 2012 Preview

First run in 1902 to commemorate the coronation of a new monarch in King Edward VII, the Coronation Cup has tended to attract small but high class fields over the years.

Three of the most famous fillies in thoroughbred history won this race twice: Pretty Polly (1905-06), Petite Etoile (1960-61) and Triptych (1987-88). Those three fillies make up part of an elite band consisting of five horses to have won the Coronation Cup more than once: The White Knight (1907-08) and Warrsan (2003-04) make up the remainder.

The Aidan O’Brien trained St Nicholas Abbey is bidding to join these elite band of thoroughbreds to have completed the double, having won the race last year. He is currently a hot favourite to retain his crown in what is a small but select field, and looks to have every chance in doing so.
The leading jockey in this race is the great Lester Piggott with 9 wins: (Zucchero (1953), Nagami (1959), Petite Etoile (1960, 1961), Park Top (1969), Roberto (1973), Quiet Fling (1976), Sea Chimes (1980), Be My Native (1983)).

Andre Fabre heads the top trainer in this race with 6 victories: (Saint Estephe (1986), In the Wings (1990), Apple Tree (1994), Sunshack (1995), Swain (1996), Shirocco (2006)).

Bustino still holds the fastest time on record in winning this race, clocking 2:33.31 when winning the 1975 renewal.
[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/bup.png” href=”#”]Beaten Up[/frame_right]
BEATEN UP
This is a very smart horse indeed who wasn’t seen to best effect when far too keen in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan. He was only having his fourth start of his career up against battle-hardened sorts, and he threw his race away in the early stages. Johnny Murtagh gets on him again at the weekend, he has a clear liking for faster ground and talk is the Melbourne Cup is a likely option in the future. His speed rating at Newbury was massive when winning the St Simon Stakes (Group 3) and the form of that has worked out since. The track is a slight worry given his size but I expect a big run given the form of the William Haggas yard.
[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/mm.png” href=”#”]Masked Marvel[/frame_right]
MASKED MARVEL
Had done plenty of work prior to a disappointing comeback in the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket. He had the run of the race in what was a tactical affair before dropping out of things at the two pole. His pedigree suggests to me the he is a stayer, and not a mile-and-half horse, and I can see a similar thing happening here. When the race quickens in earnest he doesn’t possess the necessary turn of foot to take him into his races, and I can’t contemplate backing him until he goes back up in distance. He would be a potent force over two miles and possibly further given his high cruising speed (for that distance) and copious stamina reserves, I just hope they step him back up sooner rather than later.
[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/qfp.png” href=”#”]Quest For Peace[/frame_right]
QUEST FOR PEACE
A former stable-mate of both St Nicholas Abbey and Robin Hood, Quest For Peace improved leaps and bounds on his first run for Luca Cumani when lowering the colours of the previous year’s St Leger winner Arctic Cosmos at Ascot. He never really stood any sort of chance at Woodbine on his next start coming from the rear of the field in a steadily run affair, he was stopped in his run at a vital stage before keeping on at the finish. He made his return and debut as a four-year-old at Newmarket at the Guineas meeting when second to Al Kazeem in the Jockey Club Stakes (Group 2). He’ll need to improve plenty on that performance from what I’ve seen, but the forecast quicker ground will play to his strengths and he wouldn’t be totally out of it.
[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/rcad.png” href=”#”]Red Cadeaux[/frame_right]
RED CADEAUX
A really likeable horse who has done nothing but improve with racing, and most notably so when finishing a massive second (beaten a nose) in the Melbourne Cup last November, and returning at York in style to readily account for a decent field in the Yorkshire Cup. The time of that race was really good, and one which gives him a chance in this sort of race. I have my worries though given he is a big horse that the cambers and idiosyncrasies of Epsom may go against him, as could the distance. He appeared to want every yard of the mile and six furlongs at York last time, and dropping back in trip on this sort of track has to be seen as a negative.
[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/rhood.png” href=”#”]Robin Hood[/frame_right]
ROBIN HOOD
Looks to have been deployed as a pacemaker for stable-mate St Nicholas Abbey, and gets a switch of headgear with the visor replacing the blinkers. He is a free-going sort which is perfect for pacemaking duties around this sort of track, and he should enable they go a true and honest gallop throughout.

ST NICHOLAS ABBEY
A really likeable horse who probably hasn’t lived up to the hype that was billed before him at the start of his classic campaign, but went some way to make amends last season when securing Ormonde Stakes (Group 3), Coronation Cup (Group 1), and Breeders Cup Turf (Group 1). His most recent run can be forgotten as Joseph O’Brien overplayed the waiting tactics in what was an awful ride, and his run before that in a steadily run Dubai Sheema Classic was nothing short of remarkable. The fact he was held up off the steady fractions, was on the back foot when one of the best turf horses in the world in Cirrus Des Aigles kicked clear 1.5F out, and almost managed to run him down was something to behold. [frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/sna.png” href=”#”]St Nicholas Abbey[/frame_right]That powerful long stride devoured into the ground and almost pulled off the unthinkable. He has an eye-catching ability to run left handed tight-sharp tracks scarily well with form reading (111) according for two group 1’s and a group 3 in those three victories. He is a very short price to retain his crown at the weekend but he is the clear class angle in the race, and with Robin Hood and Masked Marvel likely to set a solid pace between them he can unleash that powerful stride that saw him run down Midday in the race last year.

THE DUKE SPEED RATINGS
St Nicholas Abbey (130), Beaten Up (127), Masked Marvel (122), Red Cadeaux (120), Quest For Peace (109), Robin Hood (93).

VERDICT
A race which to my eye looks St Nicholas Abbey‘s to lose on paper. He should get a decent pace set from pacemaker Robin Hood, and given the fact Masked Marvel is also likely to sit handy and press the pace once Robin Hood drops through the field like a lead weight in water he should be able to wind up down the outside and use that powerful grinding stride to maximum efficiency. He is unbeaten on sharp (tight) tracks in three tries and did well to win in a slowly run affair here last year, and has improved since.

Beaten Up is the potential ‘fly in the ointment’ as that run at Newbury last backend was a massive speed rating. He wasn’t at his best in Dubai and can be forgiven that effort, I’m slightly worried about how he’ll handle the uniqueness of Epsom but he should get a true pace throughout and looks certain to go close.

1st – St Nicholas Abbey
2nd – Beaten Up
3rd – Red Cadeaux
4th – Quest For Peace
5th – Masked Marvel
6th – Robin Hood

Melbourne Cup 2011 Preview

Around 36 hours remains until “the race that stops a nation” 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 last year becoming the first French trained horse to win the Melbourne Cup, and he bids to make history once again by retaining his Melbourne Cup crown.

It wouldn’t be the Melbourne Cup without ‘Cups King’ Bart Cummings saddling a runner, and the 12-time winner of this feature race has two entrants this year with Illo and Precedence representing him.

Owner detailsAmericain – Has the feat of carrying in his bid to retain his Cup crown, and a weight carrying feat of that nature was completed only by Makybe Diva when winning her third consecutive Melbourne Cup within the last 30 years, so it looks a tall order for the French trained runner. That said he looked improved when winning the Drake International at Moonee Valley when last scene, and he won one of the most competitive Melbourne Cup’s for some time last year. He is up around 8lbs on his winning weight last year, and most likely will get found out by one or two better weighted individuals.

Owner detailsJukebox Jury – European group 1 winners usually get heavily penalised for winning such races, and the same appears to have happened here to Jukebox Jury after dead-heating to win the Irish St Leger last time. He gets around 2.2lbs from Americain who he beat 5.5L (in receipt of 4lb) in France in the Prix Kergolay. At the weights he should finish very close to Americain, and possibly narrowly in-front but I think Americain is a different animal out here in Australia and his running style will be better suited to the race than that of Jukebox Jury.

Owner detailsDunaden – Winner of the Geelong Cup last time out for Mikael Delzanges but would arguably have been beaten by Bauer (didn’t get in) had the Luca Cumani trained gelding had a better run through that race, and he only gets 2lb reversal with Jukebox Jury whom he was beaten 5L by out in France a couple of months or so ago.

Owner detailsDrunken Sailor – A much better horse when allowed to hear his hooves rattle on the quicker ground, he was ridden with restraint on his first run in Australia last time in the Caulfield Cup, on a day where those on the pace seemed to hold an advantage. He is a pound better off with Lucas Cranach for that running, but I feel Lucas Cranach run a much better race from a wide position, and I think Drunken Sailor is a horse that will either place or run midfield – but doesn’t look good enough to win to my eye.

Owner detailsGlass Harmonium – Has slowly been improving out in Australia since his switch from Sir Michael Stoute’s yard out in England and bagged the Mackinnon Stakes on Friday night over ten furlongs. His performance was quite impressive given most of those on the pace throughout the day seemed to capitulate in the latter stages of the race but this extra distance of six furlongs here will surely find him out. Glass Harmonium barely stayed ten furlongs here in the UK, and when you take into account his barrier draw of 23 and his prominent running style, I can’t have him at all – won’t stay, and certainly wont win.

Owner detailsManighar – Seventh in the race last year, connections alluded to his run being hampered by the soft ground hampering his effort and that he would be a much better horse when the ground got quicker. His run in the Caulfield Cup was somewhat disappointing, and I don’t think the horse is good enough at this sort of level. He also doesn’t look the most genuine of types and its noticeable Luca Cumani reaches for the blinkers on this horse for the first time in the big one, Damien Oliver retains the ride but there are more in here with more promising profiles.

Owner detailsUnusual Suspect – A grade 1 winner in America, it has been well documented the problems he has encountered with his feet. He runs in first time ‘concussion plates’ on Tuesday, such equipment is used on horses prone to jarring up, shin soreness and lameness especially when encountering dry tracks. American distance horses aren’t as good as those here in Europe, and although he posted a solid effort in the Caulfield Cup behind Southern Speed I can’t see him being good enough to make the frame here.

Owner detailsFox Hunt – Has improved leaps and bounds throughout 2011 and gets the assistance of Silvestre De Sousa who flies out to partner him for Mark Johnston. Last seen winning a Group 3 in Germany, he gets 8lbs from Jukebox Jury and 10lbs from Americain at the top of the weights, and on official figures that gives him every chance of being in the shake up here.

Owner detailsLucas Cranach – Has solid form with Arc winner Danedream, and judging by his wins over in Germany is laden with an abundance of stamina that should see further improvement over this sort of trip. He run a huge race in the Caulfield Cup challenging ten wide on the turn into the straight to challenge Southern Speed, but the extra ground negated took its toll in the closing stages and his jockey looked after him. It transpired the horse had picked up a hoof injury prior to that run, and ran in bar plates (believed by some to take 4-5L off a horse’s optimum performance). When you take that into account, and how wide he ran the final bend at Caulfield, he has to have a massive chance now the bar plates are taken off. He run very similar sectionals throughout as Green Moon (who he gave 3kg too), and better sectionals than Southern Speed (3.5kg) but the wide posting did for him, he looks a very decent bet this year.

Owner detailsMourayan – Placed in the Irish Derby over in the UK in his three-year-old campaign, Mourayan has taken longer than many to acclimatise in Australia. He is finally beginning to get his act together though, and his defeat of Niwot (giving away 2.5kg) in the Bart Cummings on October 2nd reads well in the contexts of Niwot’s dominant performance in the Lexus at the weekend. Mourayan was finishing faster than anything behind Glass Harmonium in the Mackinnon Stakes, and although found to be slightly lame post-race he has to be high up on the shortlist given his back class.

Owner detailsPrecedence – I don’t think even Bart Cummings can coax a Melbourne Cup out of this gelded son of Zabeel and he was well beaten in the Mackinnon this weekend. He has a good draw in 2, but isn’t one for me and looks to be just making up the numbers.

Owner detailsRed Cadeaux – A runaway winner of the Curragh Cup in June, he was beaten 3L by Jukebox Jury in the Prix Kergolay off level weights (he receives 8lbs in Melbourne Cup), and judging by his run in the Irish St Leger when not knocked around to finish third off levels he should theoretically reverse form with Jukebox Jury given this pull at the weights. Ed Dunlop would prefer the heavens to open, but I just feel his lack of tactical speed could prove his undoing but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he finished in the top six.

Owner detailsHawk Island – Has so far posted an in-different performance campaign in his preparations for the Melbourne Cup. A cracking second at Randwick in the Metropolitan Handicap (giving 8lb to The Verminator) was followed by a poor run in the Caulfield Cup, and he isn’t one to be trusted from what I can read into the form and he wasn’t anything other than ordinary here in the UK. He is also drawn in barrier 18, the only stall yet to produce a Melbourne Cup winner so that comfortably rules him out – given his pedigree suggests he’ll struggle to see out this two mile trip.

Owner detailsIllo – The second and most intriguing runner from the Bart Cummings squad and this German import comes into the race on the back of a third to Americain in the Drake International. His sectionals from that race shown a rapid decline of power towards the end of his race, and a quick check of his pedigree suggests he’ll struggle to see out this two mile trip despite his German pedigree. That said it was his first run since July and knowing Bart Cummings he would have left something to work on, and his 3.5kg turnaround with Americain will help him significantly but he has far too much speed in his pedigree for me, and although he could finish in the frame, I’m looking elsewhere.

Owner detailsLost In The Moment – From the UK and Godolphin camp, Lost In The Moment has steadily improved throughout the year since being upped in trip. He came second in the Goodwood Cup behind stable-mate Opinion Poll and arguably would have won with more luck in running, and wasn’t knocked around on his latest start at Ascot. Ridden by William Buick and gets a pound from closely matched Fox Hunt, he has a decent draw in stall 3 and this looks like Godolphin’s best opportunity to date of landing the Melbourne Cup – definite place claims.

Owner detailsModun – Won well on the all-weather last time and gets the assistance of Kerrin McEvoy, but only beat Lost In The Moment by 1L in the Ebor when in receipt of 4lbs, and off levels here it is difficult to see him finishing in-front of his stable-mate.

Owner detailsAt First Sight – Adopted mostly pacemaking duties when trained by Aidan O’Brien in Ireland throughout this three-year-old career. He ranked behind the likes of Midas Touch, Jan Vermeer, and Cape Blanco at the time and aside from Cape Blanco’s exploits in America neither of the remainder have done much for the form since. He is certainly bred to stay this trip but his form behind December Draw (ordinary horse in the UK) in the Turnbull Stakes wouldn’t be good enough to win and on a line through Tanby (Dunaden gave him 11lb and a beating, At First Sight gave him 9lb and lost) Dunaden holds At First Sight on form, and it’s difficult to see this son of Galileo in the placings.

Owner detailsMoyenne Corniche – Winner of the Ebor over here in the UK, Moyenne Corniche has steadily improved under the watchful eye of Brian Ellison since being upped in trip. He was finishing off well behind Shewan in the Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield, and on a line through Tanby (gave 6lb for length beating) looks held by At First Sight and Dunaden and looks like he will struggle to win, should finish in the top ten though.

Owner detailsSaptapadi – On the same terms with Lucas Cranach on their Caulfield Cup run where I can offer no excuses as to why Saptapadi was beaten so far. He showed promise at York earlier in the season behind Twice Over but has since disappointed. I can’t see him featuring in the race if I’m honest from his draw in 22, despite being a full brother to stamina laden Patkai.

Owner detailsShamrocker – The first filly in 23 years to win the AJC Derby earlier in the season, she has since been disappointing this campaign putting in poor efforts in the Underwood and Turnbull Stakes. However I witnessed some sign of revival in the Turnbull Stakes and she wasn’t knocked around in the straight at Flemington before staying on quite well under hands and heels riding into seventh after looking like dropping out the screen. She wasn’t on song at Moonee Valley last time in the Cox Plate but she looks to be crying out for this sort of trip, runs well at Flemington and is bred to stay the distance – however the draw in 24 makes things rather difficult. Has a place chance if getting luck in running.

Owner detailsThe Verminator – Will appreciate going back up in trip after a dismal second-last placing in the Mackinnon Stakes at the weekend, but he doesn’t look to have the class to trouble the principles here and looks to be making up the numbers.

Owner detailsTullamore – Won the Brisbane Cup at Eagle Farm back in June defeating Glass Harmonium, he shortly went off the boil for a couple races before returning to form with a game third in the Caulfield Cup behind Southern Speed. He had a better trip through that day than Lucas Cranach (giving away 3lb) and looked to have no excuses in defeat. He returned a week later posting an even better effort finishing second to Americain in the Moonee Valley Cup getting just 2lb from last year’s Melbourne Cup winner for a 2.25L defeat. The son of Silvabeel gets a turnaround of 11lbs at the weights for that defeat and the Gai Waterhouse trained gelding holds very solid claims, and is likely to play ‘catch me if you can’ into the stretch.

Owner detailsNiwot – The beneficiary of a fierce tempo set in the Lexus Stakes at the weekend at Flemington; he drew right away from his rivals to score impressively but is held by Mourayan on my interpretation of the form. I think he’ll prove vulnerable to any stop-start tempo usually seen in the Melbourne Cup and I think he’ll struggle to improve on that win on Saturday.

Owner detailsOlder Than Time – Managed a solid second to Stand To Gain in the Sydney Cup earlier in the year but has since failed to build upon that effort this spring. She rounded off her Melbourne Cup prep with a dismal run behind Niwot in the Lexus and it is hard to imagine she will be troubling the judge here on most recent form.

Verdict:
A 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 a few of the European contingent yet to race out in Australia, it is difficult to gauge how they will perform ‘Down Under’. From what I have seen and the sectionals I have witnessed I can’t see past the impressive LUCAS CRANACH now he has the bar plates off. That Caulfield Cup run was sensational given it came off a break, and given he’ll strip fitter for that outing and has a good barrier draw in 11, he shouldn’t be out the frame.

Of the remainder it looks a very close call, but I think Tullamore could run a decent race upped in trip and has done nothing wrong in preparation so far, with Lost In The Moment faring the best of the European contingent in third.

Owner details1st – Lucas Cranach
Owner details2nd – Tullamore
Owner details3rd – Lost In The Moment
Owner details4th – Shamrocker

 

2.5pts each-way Lucas Cranach @ 10-1 with Ladbrokes, PaddyPower, Bet365, Boylesports and WilliamHill