The $5.5 million G1 Melbourne Cup is undoubtedly the world’s premier test for stayers, and tonight (Tuesday in Australia) a field of 22 will undertake the now-herculean task of racing 3200m, or 2 miles, in front of a crowd of 100,000 on course, and millions around the world via television and the internet. You can watch it live (and free) here (just register).
Two scratches of note: English-trained Yellowstone (failed vet test) and the New Zealand mare Zarita (throat virus).
The European invaders include Aidan O’Brien’s top weight Septimus who won the Doncaster Cup last September—at the distance of 18f, or 2-1/4 miles! He comes in off a devastating win (by 13 lengths) in the Irish St. Leger carrying 137 pounds, so his 58.7kg (129 pounds) assignment may not be an issue; a fast dry track, however, is another story, as this son of Sadler’s Wells apparently wants a little give to the turf. He drew a nice barrier mid-pack, top Irish jockey Johnny Murtagh is up, and there are so many upsides...still, I cannot bring myself to root for him.
Sentimentally, I would be happy with either of Bart Cummings’ runners winning, but both look to be rather longshots. Viewed (with Blake Shinn up) does not appear to be in form, having finished 5-6 lengths back in his three most recent starts. My interest? His sire Scenic is by Sadler’s Wells out of the Foolish Pleasure mare Idyllic, and his dam Lovers Knot is by the Seattle Slew son Khozaam out of the Sir Tristram mare Mount Tryst. Cummings’ other runner is Moatize, with Clare Lindop attempting to become the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup.
More solid selections would include:
1. Nom Du Jeu (NZ)
Four-year-old New Zealand-bred Nom Du Jeu is in excellent form, with a win and three placings in four races since September, including placings in three G1’s. He has won at 2400m, and his dam Prized Gem won the 2006 G1 Brisbane Cup over 3200m. Wet or dry track, this one can handle it all.
Zipping finished fourth in both the 2006 and 2007 Melbourne Cups, breaking from barriers 19 and 20 respectively. Arguably, he is in better form this year, having finished third in the G1 Turnbull and then second last out in the G1 Cox Plate. Could this finally be his breakout year? If the track is wet, double his chances.
3. Gallopin (NZ)
Gallopin is a horse-for-the-course, with three wins, one second and a third in five races over the Flemington track. Nice win last out in the 2500m G2 Cathay Pacific Airways Cup over Baughurst who is in excellent form. Only issue: extreme barrier (21), but carries mere 52kg, or 115 pounds.
4. C’est La Guerre (NZ)
C’est La Guerre has won three of three on slow tracks, but his current form is impressive enough to label him a threat even on dry surface. Place chance.
Of the Europeans, I am most impressed by:
1. Mad Rush (USA)
How could I not root for a son of Lemon Drop Kid? His run in the G1 Caulfield Cup was extremely good, and all things considered (breaking from barrier 4, Damien Oliver aboard, etc.) I expect him to be among the best of the Europeans, along with...
2. Bauer (IRE)
Stablemate of Mad Rush, Bauer won 12f Geelong Cup last out over Moatize so could be rounding into peak condition. Love Corey Brown up, and break from barrier 13.
3. Profound Beauty (IRE)
With Glen Boss up and breaking from barrier 2 with no weight (51.5kg, or 114 pounds), this 5-year-old mare looks in fine condition to pull off the surprise victory.
Not the least bit interested in Varevees (bad barrier and form), Alessandro Volta (rabbit for Septimus?), or Honolulu (outermost barrier, though exceptional stayer). Also toss-outs for me include:
1. Ice Chariot
Ice Chariot has won at 3200m (2007 G3 Queen’s Cup at Eagle Farm), but has not placed at G1 level since winning the Queensland Derby back in 2006. Breaking from barrier 22 further solidifies my vote against him.
2. Red Lord
Red Lord just does not have the class to win here, having never won a graded stakes; his best effort was a third in the 2007 G1 South Australian Derby. In his only previous attempt at 3200m, he finished fifth (four lengths back) to No Wine No Song in the G1 Sydney Cup back in May.
3. Prized Lady (NZ)
Prized Lady won the 3200m G1 Auckland Cup earlier this year on a slow track. Still, I am not crazy about her current form, and barrier 18 will not further her chances.
Master O’Reilly (NZ), Boundless (NZ) and Littorio have broken my heart so far this spring, and Guyno...well, what a hideous name! Whom am I forgetting? Newport, whom I am ambivalent towards and Barbaricus likes being on the lead, but I doubt he can run away with this one.
Who do I see there in the end?
1. Nom Du Jeu
2. Mad Rush
Best longshot chances: Gallopin and Moatize
So, who are your picks?