Almanac Racing: Sal’s Melbourne Cup Preview

Here’s Sal’s Melbourne Cup preview.

After digesting all this information, pick your first, second and third (nominate them via the comments section) and we’ll add them to the tally today at the Almanac Cup Eve Lunch, where we’ll be picking our traditional trifecta.


From Sal:


Happy Cup Day to All,


What a magnificent day Melbourne put on for the Derby and selections went OK early but all on the shorties and fizzled as the day went on.  But a great day’s racing and highlighted by the fourth generation Cummings to train a Derby winner.  He also highlighted one of the biggest issues in racing when indicating that Prized Icon will not be aimed at a Melbourne Cup for commercial bloodstock reasons.  One hopes this will turn around and the local industry will work out a way to develop stayers instead of buying them all from Europe.


The fact there is only one Australian bred horse, Jameka, in the cup says much about the internationalisation of the race.  The media and racing officials all sing in unison about that benefit – which it is – but they need to turn their attention to what is happening locally.  For the local industry what a result it would be if Jameka could do the double.


Flemington Race 7 – The Melbourne Cup (G1, 3200m, HCP)


What looked like being a skinny renewal of the great race instead the committee had to meet and determine the final field with a surplus of final acceptors.  However relative to last year the race seems to have a longer tail.  Hoping we can get a fair track as opposed to last year where the inside was on fire – it lead to a very tight race with everyone looking for the sprint lane and several runners knocked out by interference in the straight.  A number of those contestants return and for most them it can be considered a forgive run.  Indications from a number of connections and some racing styles point to a more genuine pace being set, the backmarkers last had little chance with the dawdling pace set up front.


Picked out Hartnell (6) after his win in the Turnbull, which was after a couple of massive wins in Sydney.  He is beautifully weighted and has been outstanding in this campaign.  It was pretty easy as Jameka (12) was also impressive on that day and was a weight special for the Caulfield Cup, the 2kg penalty gives Hartnell (6) the advantage.  Of the locally trained gallopers I can really only envisage one other threat in Almandin (17) would have preferred a better barrier for him but McEvoy won on Brew from 24!  In on a lightweight and in form, slight question mark on the month break – but did not want to risk another penalty once the ticket was claimed.  Vintage Crop has been the only raider to win the cup without a local lead up run, that will change one day I thought it a fair chance till Wicklow Brave and Heartbeat City drew the outside two barriers.  Bondi Beach returns and does have plenty in his favour.  However it the prize does head overseas then I think it will be with one of the Charlie Appleby pair Oceanographer (20) or Qewy (23).  Three runs in 13 days is not normal for a European horse so there are some questions about Oceanographer – but his win in the Lexus was incredible – and we have seen Lexus winners run very well in the cup over the last few years with Shocking doing the double.  His other charge Qewy (23) will bowl along in front and make it a real test and will have plenty in the tank only carrying 51½.  For all that thought the best long shot was Gallante (10) who has Jameka (12) form and his MV Cup run was a wipe.


Here is a rundown of the complete field


No Horse Wgt Br Comments
1 Big Orange 57 7 Lumped a big weight to win the Goodwood over 2 miles and 5th last year certainly puts him in the hunt here.  Made the running in last year’s edition and likely to be trying to the same again.  Well drawn and some chance but I think weight will tell.
2 Our Ivanhowe 57 6 A meritorious run in the Caulfield Cup but needs to make up a few lengths on Jameka – some give in the track will help.  Pretty tough on this bloke to be equal top weight.  Others will have more brilliance.
3 Curren Mirotic 56.5 18 Has been described as inconsistent but if he runs to the performance in the Tenno Sho then he is a huge chance here.  Great respect for the Japanese stayers, but would have preferred him to have a run here.  Tommy Berry has assured us he will make it a solid test, this all goes well for pace in the race but not sure he can hold on.
4 Bondi Beach 56 5 Still lightly raced, always in small fields and no local lead up run.  Clearly has ability, an astute trainer, world class pilot and the weird one has bought in.  The Cup has been the sole target for this horse and is clearly one of the chances – but I think there are better ones
5 Exospheric 56 13 International with a great lead up – 3rd in the Caulfield Cup is usually great form for the Melbourne Cup.  Doubt the 2kg swing over Jameka will be enough to make the difference.  Expect improvement second up and Ollie back in the saddle will be looking to make up for what he has missed in the last couple of weeks.  Could fill a hole but I doubt the first one.
6 Hartnell 56 12 Was outstanding in the Turnbull and meets Jameka 1½ kg better off for the 3 length beating he gave her.  From there it was clear that this race was the target – would have started favourite in the Caulfield Cup but winning that would have drawn a penalty hence the WFA path where the handicapper could not have another crack.  Mr Carpenter has publicly stated he would like to lump on another 2kgs.  As for the Cox Plate he beat everything but Winx, wandered around the bend like a derby day socialite at 6:00pm, was doing his best work late once he got balanced.  (The socialites doing some of theirs when unbalanced!)  Some question over the distance despite winning over two miles at Royal Ascot.  The fourth in the Sydney Cup was a consolation run after claiming the Tancred  two weeks earlier and was holding ground against everything at the end of the Melbourne Cup last year and in worst part of the track.  He is just running better now, a justified favourite and top selection.
7 Who Shot Thebarman 56 20 Up for his 3rd crack at the Melbourne Cup and his 7th run over the distance for a 1st, 2nd and 3rd.  No doubt he will get the trip and would have finished much closer last year if not for interference at the 200.  Doubt he is the winner, but reckon will be in the top ten.
8 Wicklow Brave 56 24 International without a run here counts him out as a winning hope based on history, then thrown in the visitors barrier.  On the plus side Willie Mullins has produced Simenon and Max Dynamite for a fourth and second respectively.  He gave Trip to Paris (4th last year) a good beating last start and toppled Order of St George who placed in l’Arc for the Weird One in that race also.  A favourable draw would have him right  in this but probably too hard now.
9 Almoonqith 54.5 19 Was right in the Caulfield Cup finish with Exospheric so he must also be a chance.  All the same questions relative to Jameka, but the Hayes team would have always had this race in mind.  Expect to run well especially if there is some rain about, but don’t think a winning chance.
10 Gallante 54.5 2 The MV Cup runners have won the big one as recently as Prince of Penzance.  Tried to lead all the way but got no peace from Authoritarian and dropped out – very good previous run and meets Jameka 3kgs better.  Did win the Sydney Cup.  Could be this year’s Prince of Penzance!
11 Grand Marshal 54.5 9 Not many Moonee Valley Cup winners follow up, but proven over the distance and will still be batting away at the finish.  The soft track helped last week and any rain would help here.
12 Jameka 54.5 3 Could not have been more impressive in winning the Caulfield Cup and despite needing to set a record for 4yo Mares no reason why she cannot  do the double.  Can’t see anything that was behind her in the Caulfield Cup turning the tables.  Meets Hartnell worse off for the beating in the Turnbull so he rates higher but a definite winning chance and my 2nd selection
13 Heartbreak City 54 23 Was appropriately named when the barrier was drawn.  My international source assured me this was the best of the raiders and coming off a win in the Ebor.  If anyone can perform a miracle from barrier 23 it is Magic Man Moreira, got to be included.
14 Sir John Hawkwood 54 14 Metropolitan Hcp winners do not have a great record in this race – suspect he will see out the trip for a chance to be top ten but not in the top four.
15 Excess Knowledge 53.5 21 Finished seventh last year but lead up form was better winning the Lexus.  Has the fitness but not the form or the class to feature prominently.
16 Beautiful Romance 52.5 1 Gets the inside alley from where last year’s winner came from.  Lightly raced mare who has not seen more than a dozen horses in a field and has only won up to 100m.  No lead up run either, winning would surprise me.
17 Almandin 52 17 His last start in Germany was a win over Protectionist, since then The Weird One has brought him to Australia with the Melbourne Cup in mind, has had five starts winning his last two in style.  The latter was the Bart Cummings which gave him a freebie in to the cup, he has been put away since just waiting for the big one.  Despite the 1kg penalty he remains lightly weighted and Kerrin McEvoy is excited for good reason a real winning chance and my 4th selection.
18 Assign 52 22 Tough draw for the forgotten one of the Weird One’s quartet.  2nd to Almandin in the Harry White and then an all the way winner in the Herbert Power, but the rest of that field’s campaigns are finished through either form or injury.  Probably fourth of the quartet.
19 Grey Lion 52 16 Nice barb from the trainer Matt Cumani concerning Jameka’s staying ability, but this blokes only test beyond 2500 was 8th of 8 over 3000m!  Ran well in the Geelong Cup splitting Qewy and Oceanographer and has G Boss on board.  In the mix but suspect the Appleby pair might have him covered
20 Oceanographer 52 11 Wouldn’t it be Shocking if he too could do the Lexus Stakes-Melbourne Cup double?  Has become the wild card in the race after his outstanding effort to win the Lexus and get his ticket to the dance.  The stable has had an incredible time here with second in the Caulfield Cup plus winning the Geelong and Bendigo Cups.  This bloke could top it all off and is my 3rd selection.
21 Secret Number 52 10 Raider that has not had the lead up but did finish 2nd in the Queen Lizzie on final day last year.  Only one run since for a win in Scotland.  Not sure it is the form for this but Saeed Bin Suroor has been coming for a while and must be getting closer.  Not for me but lightweight could keep him there for a long way.
22 Pentathlon 51.5 4 Earnt his spot and deserves to run, but would not have many followers after the effort in the Lexus – not sure he is suited by Flemington.
23 Qewy 51.5 15 Tough win in the Geelong Cup leading from wire to wire – if you like Oceanographer then you have to like Qewy too.  Especially if there is any on-pace bias he will be tough to get past.  Not in my top picks but would not surprise.
24 Rose of Virginia 51 8 Not at the peak of her form but has earnt her spot and the owners can dare to dream – a punters nightmare if she wins


Selections – 6-12-20-17-23-13-8-5-10-7


Quaddie Time


Always a really difficult task on Cup Day with big fields and form lines from everywhere.  Will try and make sure we stay in for the first leg but need to narrow it down and hope for the last three.  A few in the cup quaddie selections but not in my 10 in order, anything behind Jameka can’t beat her but could place – a couple of internationals included instead if they pull out huge efforts.


Leg 1 – 1, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 17, 20, 23

Leg 2 – 12, 13, 14, 17

Leg 3 – 6, 11, 13

Leg 4 – 2, 3, 6


So $30 and 360 Combinations gives 8.33% of the dividend.  Watch out for scratchings – updates will be put up as responses to this piece on the Footy Almanac


Look forward to the Oaks on Thursday.  Third to Winx and Hartnell is great form and even better for a filly so Yankee Rose looks very hard to beat.  Have followed Harlow Gold through the campaign and just went at the valley but so did Prized Icon!  Tiamo Grace has hit form at the perfect time, Bella Sorellastera was disappointing on Saturday but could improve if she draws well.


Go Dolfin, Go Hartnell,


Cheers, Sal


  1. Scott McIntyre says:

    Thanks for taking the time to do these comprehensive summaries, Sal. Great reading.

    My tips, for what it’s worth:

    1. Big Orange – ran a nice race here last year. Had to work across from 23 to get on pace – won’t have to work that hard this year. Comes back a bigger, stronger horse this time, and his form since last year’s Cup has been impeccable. There’s a bit of a knock around on his weight, but he is giving only 1 kilogram to an animal like Bondi Beach, whose record has less depth to it, and who has won around 1/3 of the prize money. Can’t believe that this horse, coming into the race on the back of 2 successive solid Group 2 UK WFA victories is 4 or 5 points longer in the market than a horse like Almandin, who has been beating up on Black Tomahawk and Zanteca.

    2. Secret Number – has had his problems with illness and injury, which explains why he is so lightly raced at 7. Love the fact that he had a spin around this track last year. Saeed Bin Suroor has not won this race, but he has produced some cracking runs, particularly from his on pace merchants. This fellow will be bowling along in the first quarter of the field and with 52 on his back, will join in the fray at some stage in the last 200 metres.

    3. Curren Mirotic – too old, they reckon. Maybe. Too inconsistent. Nah. Yes, his form card is littered with 9ths and 11ths and 13ths, but most of those were in 2400 metre races and shorter. Drill down and isolate the 3200 metre runs. His two runs at 3200 metres have been cracking efforts, beaten a bee’s appendage and a neck in very quick time in high class Japanese company. He’s a proper high speed stayer and he will make this a true test of stamina.

    Honourable Mentions –

    Wicklow Brave – seemingly has it all against him, having drawn the car park, but the mind keeps harking back to Willie Mullins’s astuteness in previous years. He just seems to know which horse to bring.

    Who Shot TheBarman – probably lacks the class to win, but watch for him to be finishing late and wide. When the others are reaching for the Ventolin on the home turn because of the fierce pace, this tough old bastard will just be warming up.

    Pentathlon – will go around a million to one, but don’t be surprised if wily old Mr Wheeler coaxes him into a top 5 finish

    Lays Of The Day –

    Hartnell – he won’t run the trip. He’s a sit-sprint middle distance WFA merchant (and a very good one at that) but he has failed twice at 2 miles under Australian conditions. Wouldn’t back him at 4/1 with Donald Trump’s money.

    Bondi Beach – too close in the weights to the toppie, with a less impressive depth to his form and a mediocre effort in last year’s Cup behind him. We keep hearing how he has “been set for this race”, as if the other 23 runners have been tossed in as an afterthought. Genuine 25/1 chance, masquerading as a $10 hope.

  2. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou by Wes Anderson leads me to Oceanographer in today’s Melbourne Cup.

    Any horse with a Bill Murray connection…

  3. Sal Ciardulli says:

    Quaddie Update with the scratching of Observational (12) out of the race 8 is to swap him for Turnitaround (4)

    Leg 1 – 1, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 17, 20, 23
    Leg 2 – 4, 13, 14, 17
    Leg 3 – 6, 11, 13
    Leg 4 – 2, 3, 6

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