Melbourne Cup 2018: an average punter’s guide

Melbourne Cup 2018: Fairfax Media sports journalist Matt Findlay breaks down the race that stops the nation


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He's no racing guru, but Matt Findlay's got tips to throw around like he's the Backstreet Boys’ hairdresser in the mid-1990s.

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I’m back, baby, and I’ve got tips to throw around like I’m the Backstreet Boys’ hairdresser in the mid-1990s.

After three weeks off doing little more than fishing, golfing and sitting in pubs I’m back on deck and make no mistake, I’m very much enduring the battle to figure out how to write properly again – although I’m sure there’d be plenty who’d argue I’ve never been able to anyway – but the Lexus Melbourne Cup is looming large.

Based on my recent success, I reckon you can take this ‘not-so-expert analysis’ of the race that stops a nation as gospel, although I probably shouldn’t lay claim to that ‘not-so-expert’ tag anymore.

Remember last year’s when I said “with a lucky ride who knows” about 2017 champion Rekindling?

I do.

Remember last month when I said Redzel would be “be incredibly tough to run down” in The Everest despite not being in the same form he was the year prior?

I do.

FALSE HOPE: This may as well have been Matt Findlay after tipping Redzel in this year's The Everest, before realising the rest of his tips have basically been duds.

FALSE HOPE: This may as well have been Matt Findlay after tipping Redzel in this year's The Everest, before realising the rest of his tips have basically been duds.

Remember when I said rank outsider Belflyer was a virtual lock for The Kosciuszko?

I do… not, mainly because that last one didn’t happen. I didn’t even give Belflyer a second look leading in.

Actually, I didn't outlay anything on Rekindling in the Melbourne Cup last year either so I probably can’t claim that one.

I did tip Redzel though, went pretty hard on him too, so that’s one box ticked. One of three isn’t that bad is it?

To be fair that record’s probably a lot worse considering I produce tips for all of Racing Orange’s meetings and never seem to do particularly well.

I’m beginning to hope no one actually bases their bets on these rundowns.

Nonetheless, once again I’ve decided to trawl through the field and form leading into the race that stops a nation and, for anyone who can’t tell a form guide from an Indian takeaway menu, provide an insight into which runners I like and why and which ones I don’t.

Take heed that most of this is actually based on logic, common sense and form even though I find it very hard to tip anything English. That’s got nothing to do with racing, it’s more to do with The Ashes, specifically the heart problems I still have from watching the 2005 series I think.

Once again I’ll give you a look at exactly where I’ll be outlaying my cash, so feel free to give it to me mercilessly when I inevitably lose that money.

As usual although I make light of having a punt several times here, gambling addiction is very real and can have devastating consequences so please gamble responsibly if you having a flutter.

MELBOURNE CUP 2018

THE DETAILS

TRACK: Flemington; DISTANCE: 3200 metres; PRIZEMONEY: $7.3 million (first $4 million, second $1 million, third $500,000, fourth $250,000, fifth $175,000, sixth-12th $150,000); TIME: 3pm

THE FIELD (number, name, trainer, jockey, barrier, weight)

1 BEST SOLUTION (S Bin Suroor; P Cosgrave; 6; 57.5kg)

2 THE CLIFFSOHMOHER (A O’Brien; R Moore; 9; 56.5kg) 

3 MAGIC CIRCLE (I Williams; C Brown; 17; 56kg)

4 CHESTNUT COAT (Y Yahagi; Y Kawada; 4; 55.5kg)

5 MUNTAHAA (J Gosden; J Crowley; 13; 55.5kg)

6 SOUND CHECK (M Moroney; J Childs; 16; 55.5kg)

7 WHO SHOT THEBARMAN (C Waller; B Melham; 18; 55.5kg)

8 ACE HIGH (D Payne; T Angland; 22; 55kg)

9 MARMELO (H Morrison; H Bowman; 10; 55kg)

10 AVILIUS (J Cummings; G Schofield; 11; 54.5kg)

11 YUCATAN (A O’Brien; J McDonald; 23; 54.5kg)

12 AUVRAY (R Freedman; T Berry; 1; 54kg)

13 FINCHE (C Waller; Z Purton; 15; 54kg)

14 RED CARDINAL (D Weir; D Oliver; 5; 54kg)

15 VENGEUR MASQUE (M Moroney; P Moloney; 2; 54kg)

16 VENTURA STORM (D & B Hayes, T Dabernig; M Zahra; 7; 54kg)

17 A PRINCE OF ARRAN (C Fellowes; M Walker; 20; 53kg)

18 NAKEETA (I Jardine; R Bayliss; 3; 53kg)

19 SIR CHARLES ROAD (L O’Sullivan, A Scott; D Dunn; 14; 53kg)

20 ZACADA (M Baker, A Forsman; D Lane; 24; 53kg)

21 RUNAWAY (G Waterhouse, A Bott; S Baster; 12; 52kg)

22 YOUNGSTAR (C Waller; C Williams; 8; 51.5kg)

23 CROSS COUNTER (C Appleby; K McEvoy; 19; 51kg)

24 ROSTROPOVICH (A O’Brien; W Lordan; 21; 51kg)

THE TOP PICKS (number, name, approximate odds)

22 YOUNGSTAR ($15)

Certainly the best of the locals, in my humble opinion.

She’s a classy stayer from the Waller stable and gave Winx an almighty scare in the Turnbull Stakes, before running on well in the Caulfield Cup despite having lost a shoe. 

LOCAL HOPE: Youngstar during trackwork, she looks the best of the Australian-trained horses to me. Photo: AAP/JULIAN SMITH

LOCAL HOPE: Youngstar during trackwork, she looks the best of the Australian-trained horses to me. Photo: AAP/JULIAN SMITH

Has a good draw in barrier eight and next to nothing on her back.

Admittedly she’s lightly-raced and may be a little too raw for this kind of trip but with a bit of luck, I see no reason why she can’t give this a real shake.

23 CROSS COUNTER ($19)

An European stayer, one I like, there’s not a whole lot else to say really.

Is the best weighted runner with next to nothing on his back and two-time winner Kerrin McEvoy too, who I have a soft spot for as Redzel’s primary hoop.

Reportedly he’s been training the house down, has formlines similar to those of Rekindling last year and has continued improving, picking up a Group 3 win and a Group 2 second finish before landing on Australian shores.

Will need to step up the way Rekindling did if he’s to feature, and the rain around Flemington shouldn’t really concern him either.

11 YUCATAN ($5)

It’s impossible to not include him among the chances after his arrogant Herbert Power Stakes win.

That margin could’ve been 10 lengths if James McDonald didn’t ease off in the last 100 metres and he’s been given a 2.5kg penalty as a result, which is why he didn’t run in the Caulfield Cup, so as to not risk another.

If I’m completely honest I don’t actually think he’ll win and I initially had him in my ‘also-rans’ section. He’s never travelled beyond 2400 and is virtually jumping from Zimbabwe in barrier 23, but all things considered he does remain a top pick and I think he’s clearly Aidan O’Brien’s best chance this year.

I’m also terrified of picking him to finish mid-pack then watching him romp home.

Yes, I’m a coward.

9 MARMELO ($18)

Like many, many others I tipped him to win last year after his Caulfield Cup run only to be left disappointed.

He’ll be better for that though, I’ll regurgitate what so many others have and suggest he didn’t back up well last year so coming into this year’s race fresh will make a difference.

Has form on the board over the right distances – 2800 and 3000 – will get excellent cover from barrier 10 and 55kg isn’t a bad weight.

I get the feeling this might be Hugh Bowman’s last chance to win a Melbourne Cup too.

He’s had his fairy tale with Winx, but even so, he’s from Dunedoo so you’d love to see him win this too.

3 MAGIC CIRCLE ($7.50)

My tip, and not just because the money’s started rolling in for him since the heavens opened at Flemington on Tuesday morning.

That does make me more confident in the Ian Williams-trained Chester Cup champion, he’s won six of his 12 starts on soft ground, and his Group 3 Henry II Stakes (3264m) victory over Red Verdon was stunning.

ECCENTRIC: Magic Circle's owner Marwan Koukash shows off the G-string he's vowed to accept the Melbourne Cup in should his runner win. Photo: AAP/STEPHEN POSTLES

ECCENTRIC: Magic Circle's owner Marwan Koukash shows off the G-string he's vowed to accept the Melbourne Cup in should his runner win. Photo: AAP/STEPHEN POSTLES

Has Corey Brown for the ride too and that is very, very appealing to me. He’s the defending champion and won on Shocking in 2009 too, and is probably my favourite hoop.

There’s also the prospect of owner Dr Marwan Koukash accepting the Melbourne Cup in a G-string, which he’s vowed to do if Magic Circle wins.

Whether or not Flemington officials let that happen, it'd be entertaining.

THE ALSO-RANS

19 SIR CHARLES ROAD ($101)

Yeah, nah.

12 AUVRAY ($126)

As honest as the day is long so it’s hard not to like him and he has won over 3000 metres in the past, the distant past though.

That win was four years ago in France so I think he’s aiming a little high, happy to move on.

21 RUNAWAY ($51)

If you could bet on him leading you’d put the house on it.

DECENT INDICATOR: Stephen Baster rides Runaway (red silks) to victory in the Geelong Cup. Photo: AAP/JULIAN SMITH

DECENT INDICATOR: Stephen Baster rides Runaway (red silks) to victory in the Geelong Cup. Photo: AAP/JULIAN SMITH

With a light weight he’ll probably ensure there’s decent pace but even though he won the Geelong Cup and that’s usually a pretty good indicator for this race, I think he’ll get overrun, although a wet track might suit him a little bit more than it does some of the others.

THE OUTSIDERS

7 WHO SHOT THEBARMAN ($51)

Don’t sleep on the 10-year-old veteran.

We all love a fairy tale and this bloke winning the Melbourne Cup a full four years after finishing third would be just that.

This is absolutely heart over head, but I actually don’t mind the look of him this year.

Hit the line very well for fourth in the Moonee Valley Cup and proved the trip’s not beyond him with a win in the Sydney Cup in April although I’ve said Sir Charles Road, which ran third in that, is going to be an also-ran.

He’ll push and he will grind out the trip from barrier 18, so with a bit of luck…

24 ROSPOTROVICH ($21)

This one actually comes at the recommendation of Daily Liberal sports guru Nick Guthrie, I hadn’t looked into him too much but he knows more about gallops than I do so I’m happy to listen.

But, after studying the Aidan O’Brien three-year-old, I quite like what I see.

Although lightly-raced he’s been treated well in the weights and is a son of Frankel, considered by many the greatest horse to grace the turf, although whether that pedigree suits two miles is another question.

Has shown glimpses, particularly in the 2075-metre Listed Dee Stakes back in May. The question for me is whether he has the turn of foot over 3200, especially if it’s wet.

But I do think O’Brien is going to win a Melbourne Cup sooner rather than later.

THE BETTING STRATEGY

As I say every year, the Melbourne Cup trifecta and first four pools are ginormous so I focus a lot of my energy there most years and will do so again in 2018.

I’ve got $100 to outlay on this year’s cup, and naturally I’ll be putting a lot more horses in my trifecta than I’ve nominated above – combinations, that’s the key.

And my usual bunch of mystery trifectas, $20 worth.

EACH WAY ($50)

Magic Circle ($25)

TRIFECTA ($30)

First: 3, 9, 11, 22

Second: 1, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 22, 23, 24

Third: 1, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 22, 23, 24

That’ll roll in around 15 per cent.

MYSTERY TRIFECTAS ($20)

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