The Melbourne Cup (Flemington)
The Melbourne Cup was first run in 1861. Perhaps the most famous winner was Phar Lap, (pictured below) a horse that became a national hero during the Depression years in Australia.
Lyn Beaumont – Australian Equine Artist
Bought for £168 pounds in New Zealand he won his first major race, the AJC Derby in 1929. His Melbourne Cup victory came in 1930 winning in a canter off top weight of 9 stone 12 lbs. He enjoyed a hugely successful career and his bronze statue stands outside the entrance to the Members’ Enclosure at Flemington. His last race was in what was at the time the richest ever race, the Agua Calienti in Mexico in March 1932. Despite having to adjust to alien conditions and contend with a split hoof Phar Lap won in imperious fashion. Tragedy struck though when he died just 17 days later in mysterious circumstances, possibly as a result of poisoning.
Makybe Diva (pictured below) made history in more recent times by winning the race 3 times, 2003, 2004 and 2005. The horses was cleverly named after 5 of the owners employees – Maureen, Kylie, Belinda, Diane, and Vanessa – by taking the first two letters from each of their names.
Lyn Beaumont – Australian Equine Artist
Big race form guide
There is a strong British challenge this year with a number of trainers double handed. Mark Johnston saddles Jukebox Jury and Fox Hunt. The former comes into the race in top form having won 3 of his last 4 starts. He beat Kasbah Bliss in a Group 2 at Deauville in August and dead heated with Duncan in the Irish St Leger. He’s tough, stays and will handle the ground but he does seem to have plenty of weight. Fox Hunt is another St Leger winner, having won the German version at Dortmund last month. He has won 4 times this year, seems to handle any ground and goes well for Silvestre De Souza.
Luca Cumani’s bet chance could be Drunken Sailor who won a Group 3 at Goodwood earlier in the season and warmed up for this when 7th in the Caulfield Cup a couple of weeks ago. Manighar was 7th in the Melbourne Cup last year and has some good form this season. He certainly stays as evidenced by his 4th in the Ascot Gold Cup. His recent form is good. He was 4th to Jukebox Jury at Deauville and is now 7 lbs better off and his final prep race was a decent 4th in the Caulfield Cup.
Godolphin had their first runners in Australia in 1998 and since then their biggest victory came with All The Good in the 2008 Caulfield Cup. They will be represented by Modun and Lost in the Moment. The latter does not have particularly strong form this year not having won since January but has a turn of foot and Australian conditions may suit. Modun is unexposed with only 7 career starts but when 4th in the Ebor he appeared not to stay. He has since won over a shorter trip on the all weather at Kempton. He is drawn well in five and has the 2000 Melbourne Cup winning jockey, well known to English fans, Kerrin McEvoy aboard.
Moyenne Corniche looks the better of Brian Ellison’s two contenders. Named after a road in the South of France he was a surprise winner of the Ebor this season and ran well recently when 3rd in a Group 2 at Caulfield but he does not win very often. Saptadi’s only career win came in a Doncaster maiden and he is priced at 66/1.
Another English challenger is Red Cadeaux winner of the Curragh Cup over 14 furlongs in June having earlier won a listed race at Hamilton.
The French challenge looks really strong. Last year’s winner Americain has a big weight but is a strong type and is in top form having won the Drake International at Moonee Valley in October. The other French horse with a big chance is Dunaden who won the Geelong Cup at the Victoria track recently, a race which in the past has proved a reliable trial for the big race at Flemington.
Tullamore is consistent and has an each way chance. He was 3rd in the Caulfield Cup and runner up to Americain at Moonee valley.
Despite the marathon trip a turn of foot is a handy asset and this brings in a couple of comparative outsiders in Unusual Suspect and At First Sight. The latter has had a virus but has shown encouraging form when 2nd over 10 furlongs at Caulfield and more recently when occupying the same finishing position over 12 furlongs in the Bendigo Cup. Jockey Steven King has won the race before. Unusual Suspect is an 8 year old formerly trained in the USA. He won a Grade 1 at Hollywood Park on firm ground in November and on his most recent start was 6th in the Caulfield Cup.
One runner that will be familiar to British racing fans is Glass Harmonium who used to be trained by Sir Michael Stoute. His best win in the UK was in the Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown last April where he bet Redwood by a head. He is a course winner having landed the 10 furlongs Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington in October. His form looks good but doubts about his stamina are a slight concern.
German import Lucas Cranach won a Group 2 at Hamburg in June and put himself in the Melbourne Cup picture when 5th in the Caulfield Cup. Connections have a good record in the race and this one is not out of it.
My short list for this would be At First Sight, Americain, Lucas Cranach and Dunaden. Best of the Brits? Fox Hunt is a possible but his lack of an Aussie prep run could count against him. The Luca Cumani pair look to have ideal preparation.
The Haldon Gold Cup (Exeter 2.50)
The most successful trainer in this race in recent years has been Henrietta Knight with 4 wins in the last 10 years, thanks to Best Mate, (pictured below) Impek and Edredon Bleu (twice). Best Mate’s win came in 2001 but in the 2005 renewal tragedy struck when Best Mate collapsed and died during the race. He won 3 Cheltenham Gold Cups, eleven of his 16 chases and never once looked like falling. He truly lit up the jumping world.
It was good to see Henrietta Knight back amongst the winners today with Loch Ba and Somersby although she has no runner in the Haldon.
Big race form guide
Captain Chris is yet to finish out of the first 2 in 10 starts over hurdles and fences. He finished last season in tremendous form winning the Pendil Novices Chase at Sandown, the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival and the Ryanair at Punchestown, all Grade 1 races. The ground should be perfect for him. His main challengers could be Medermit and Ghizao. They finished 4th and 5th in the Arkle behind Captain Chris. Medermit has earlier beaten Captain Chris half a length in the Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown. The form lines are further confused by the fact that Ghizao beat Captain Chris twice in the early part of last season at Cheltenham and Newbury.
The prize for the first ever Melbourne Cup was 220 sovereigns and a gold watch.
The best of the rest at Exeter
1.50 Rocky Creek was an impressive winner of an Irish point to point and is expected to make up into a decent staying chaser in time. Starts off over hurdles here and could be one to follow.
2.20 Jump City was a winner on the flat in France. Injury problems restricted him to just one run last season over hurdles. He finished 2nd in a race at Wincanton the form of which has worked out well. Another that has suffered all sorts of niggling injury problems is Mirific. He last ran at Maisons-lafitte in July 2009. He has ability if he can be kept fit and well. His trainer Tony Symonds used to be assistant to Nicky Henderson.
3.20 Only 3 runners contest this novice chase but certainly two of them could well be among the leading novices come the end of the season. Menorah was the Supreme Novices winner in 2010, and returned to Prestbury Park last season to land both the Greatwood and the International Hurdles. Sam Winner was a leading novice hurdler last season and should do well over the larger obstacles although he may need further in time.
3.50 There are 3 in this that are worth considering. Victor’s Serenade was consistent over hurdles last season and should do better still over fences but may need softer ground. Meet the Critics is a very good jumper who won over fences at Newbury in March. Only 5th on his return at Wetherby he should be better for that run. Strongbows Legend was runner up at Carlisle on his last start. His jumping seems to be improving and his stable could not be in better form.
2.40 Fieldgunner Kirkup has disappointed since finishing 2nd on his seasonal debut but could repay losses here.
Nap of the day
My thanks to Lyn Beaumont for her pictures in the Melbourne Cup section and the artist Lisa Miller for permission to use the picture of Best Mate.