This is the race that stops the nation.
Even those who are not racing fans know about our great race because most get a day off work and an excuse to dress up, drink champagne and win some cash in the thousands of sweeps which will go on around the country.
2015 saw Prince of Penzance interrupt the reign of victory from the international competitors which has seen Aussie-bred horses struggle to compete since Makybe Diva peeled off her third consecutive Cup win in 2005.
This year seems no different to the past 15 with two handfuls of Irish raiders, another handful from Great Britain, a Kiwi and a Japanese entrant making up a fearsome group of international entrants swooping in to claim the Lexus Melbourne Cup riches. Even most of the Australian trained participants were bred overseas, though we’ll certainly claim them.
Finding the winner of the Melbourne Cup can seem impossible so here’s how I’ll be breaking them down and then you can bet accordingly…
LEXUS MELBOURNE CUP (Group 1, 3200m, $7,750,000, 3pm AEST)
(1) Cross Counter $13
The defending champion returns a bigger stronger horse but he’ll need to be as he goes around as the top weight with 57.5kg. His international season has been all built towards another tilt at this race. I think he can join the very best and go back-to-back.
(2) Mer De Glace $7
A powerful and dominant Caulfield Cup victory but the double has become increasingly difficult to complete. Drawn perfectly and has won six on the spin.
(11) Finche $10
A huge horse with a big stride who needs galloping room. Kerrin McEvoy will be looking for repeat wins in the Cup with a horse prepared by Australia’s absolute best, Chris Waller.
(15) Magic Wand $26
Has drawn the bird cage (24) but her run on speed in the Cox Plate was really good. Has nearly $4m in the bank despite two wins so you know she competes at any level. Ryan Moore widely considered the best hoop in the world – that helps!
(19) Constantinople $7
How interesting is this fella !?! Many astute judges say he has a think about trying in his races. That’s a big knock. Beautifully weighted, has Magic Man Moreira aboard and fits the bill for recent winners profiles.
(20) Il Paridiso $14
A genuine up-and-comer in the vein of Cross Counter and Rekindling. He’s shown some class at the elite level. 52.5kg is a plus, gate 17 is awkward. Big chance.
NOT QUITE, BUT MAYBE
(3) Master of Reality $14
A masterful combination meet to guide Master of Reality but hoop Frankie Dettori has a horrid record in Australia’s great race. The son of Frankel is in the market but others appeal.
(4) Mirage Dancer $34
Been in the money its past handful of starts but the class rise here is telling. The stable are in form and Ben Melham has ridden many top imported stayers.
(5) Southern France $26
Not without a hope but moves on from the all-conquering Aidan O’Brien stable and despite joining Maher/Eustace out here that has to be a detraction.
(6) Hunting Horn $31
Liked his dogged effort to win at Moonee Valley but steep improvement is needed here. With the right trainer but hard to see him winning.
(7) Latrobe $26
Initially I was keen on this guy but gate 22 is awful. Has class but is he going well enough to win?
(8) Mustajeer $18
The Spring king Damien Oliver rides for Kris Lees. Sixth and fair in the Caulfield Cup but has been well held in Great Britain behind Twilight Payment and Latrobe.
(9) Rostropovich $67
Fifth in last year’s race but has probably not come on like some thought. Dwayne Dunn got a double on Derby Day and he will need to produce a miracle here.
(10) Twilight Payment $81
An unusual entrant from the Joseph O’Brien yard. An older horse who is 1-1-1 from three tries at two miles. His most recent win was over fellow Cup hope, Latrobe.
(12) Prince of Arran $21
Won his way in last year and backed up to run an inspirational third in the Cup. Excellent when winning the Geelong Cup but on European form many others appeal.
(13) Raymond Tusk $14
Drops 7kg on last start and is one who will be looking for early tempo she he can hustle home over the top of tired horses.
(14) Downdraft $17
Smoked the opposition in the Lexus Hotham to ensure a start. The ground was soft Saturday so will that effect him across two miles ?
(18) Surprise Baby $17
For some, he’s the fairytale story of the bush horse gunning for the riches. A staggering Adelaide Cup victory had him prepping for this one for a while. Alley No. 20 will make life real hard.
(23) Vow and Declare $13
Danny O’Brien already has a Group 1 victory at the carnival and many think this local can upend the international domination. Third-up, light weight and excellent local jockey in Craig Williams.
MONEY BACK FOR LAST
(16) Neufbosc $201
Below-average effort at Geelong last up and the grey heads to two miles for the first time in his career.
(17) Sound $101
The former German stayer is beginning to get up in age (7) and looks unlikely to challenge these.
(21) Steel Prince $67
The stable is better than 20% in Group 1’s this season but this is an ask. His light weight helps but he only whacked away in the Geelong Cup.
(22) The Chosen One $101
A poor run Saturday in the Lexus Hotham means he is a) coming off a quick back-up in soft ground and b) needing to improve lengths and lengths and lengths to be competitive.
(24) Youngstar $51
Ran a gallant sixth in this race last year and returns for another crack as a mature five-year-old mare. A repeat top six performance would be excellent.
1 Cross Counter $13 – Proven at the distance, has great turn of speed when ridden colder and has been set for this ever since claiming glory 12 months ago.
2 Il Paridiso $14 – Light weight, young horse, lightly raced, Irish staying type. Heard that before!?! The profile is there, this fella could well continue to trend.
3 Magic Wand $23 – Excellent in the Cox Plate and would’ve gone much closer had Black Heart Bart not been up pressuring her in front. Gun hoop, gun trainer but car park alley.
4 Finche $10 – Bowing to the thoughts (more likely hopes) of Aussie tipsters who say this big guy is the one to upstage all the international threats. The Waller-factor does fill me with hope.
Race 1 – Darley Ottawa Stakes
1 Marchena $7
2 Unblushing $17
3 Amorosity $10
4 Cut It Out $11
Race 2 – Grinders Coffee Roasters Trophy
1 East Indiaman $5
2 Phaistos $3.20
3 Bravo Tango $5
4 Bad Wolf $11
Race 3 – TAB Trophy
1 Sure Knee $4
2 Aristocratic Miss $26
3 Seewhatshebrings $5
4 Extreme Pride $12
Race 4 – The Maccas Run
1 Shared Ambition $1.75
2 Exemplar $10
3 Kentucky Diva $14
4 Big Blue $23
Race 5 – Schweppervescence Plate
1 Athiri $7
2 McLaren $12
3 Hawker Hurricane $10
4 Garner $11
Race 6 – Jim Beam Stakes
1 Jamaican Rain $4
2 Bella Martini $7.50
3 Sweet Scandal $4.80
4 Gina’s Hope $21
Race 7 – Lexus Melbourne Cup
1 Cross Counter $13
2 Il Paridiso $14
3 Magic Wand $23
4 Finche $10
Race 8 – Furphy Plate
1 Plein Ciel $12
2 So You Win $5.50
3 Kaonic $23
4 Junipal $4.80
Race 9 – MSS Security Sprint
1 Haunted $4.20
2 Parsifal $4
3 Milwaukee $8
4 Lagerfeld $23
Race 10 – The Hong Kong Jockey Club Stakes
1 Xilong $3.10
2 Pretty Brazen $5
3 It’s Kind of Magic $8
4 Excused $21
R2 5 East Indiaman $4.80
R7 N1 Cross Counter each way $13 & $4.20
R7 N20 Il Paridiso each way $14 & $4.20
R9 N3 Haunted $4.40
R10 N5 Xilong $3.10
Melbourne Cup day is magical. It’s historic, social, memorable and hopefully safe for all involved.