Sport Racing Melbourne Cup 2013: The ultimate guide to picking a winner

Melbourne Cup 2013: The ultimate guide to picking a winner

Melbourne Cup 2013
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Sick of pulling a name out of the hat? Or are you tired of picking the “prettiest colours”, or the “coolest name”? Then look no further than our ultimate Melbourne Cup guide, in which we give you the lowdown on every runner in this year’s race.

1. DUNADEN 58.5kg (1)
8yo bay horse
Trainer: Mikel Dezangles, France
Jockey: Jamie Spencer
Prizemoney: $7,663,406
Best win: Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m), 2011
Record: 41 starts, 10 wins, 11 seconds, 8 thirds
Betting: $35 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: Dunaden is a proven two-miler, winning the 2011 Melbourne Cup before being given no chance last year when he drew very wide and had to be ridden cold in what turned out to be a slowly-run race. From barrier one, jockey Jamie Spencer should be able to position Dunaden somewhere close to midfield on the fence, before looking for room in the straight. Dunaden is second up into the Melbourne Cup, and that’s also a recipe for success — he’s won one race and been placed four times from seven first up runs.

Why he can’t win: The number of Melbourne Cup winners who’ve carried 58.5kg in the past 30 years? Zero. The number of repeat Melbourne Cup winners in the past 30 years? Just one … Makybe Diva, who won three successive Cups. When you win a Melbourne Cup, the handicapper invariably gets a hold of you. There’s also some doubt as to whether Dunaden is in the kind of form that saw him win the Melbourne Cup in 2011 and the Caulfield Cup in 2012. In fact, his most recent win was last year’s Caulfield Cup!

The verdict: History is against Dunaden, so I’m happy to risk him as a winning hope. If you’re taking trifectas and first fours, though, consider him for the minor placings.

2. GREEN MOON 57.5kg (10)
7yo bay horse
Trainer: Robert Hickmott
Jockey: Brett Prebble
Prizemoney: $5,061,346
Best win: Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m), 2012
Record: 25 starts, 7 wins, 3 seconds, 0 thirds
Betting: $35 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: Australian jockey Brett Prebble spends most of the year plying his trade in Hong Kong … but it’s a good pointer that he’s made himself available for each of Green Moon’s five starts leading into this year’s Melbourne Cup. The return to Flemington after lead-up runs at Caulfield (in the Memsie and the Underwood) and Moonee Valley (Cox Plate) is a real positive, because three of Green Moon’s seven career victories have come at this track. Barrier 10 gives Prebble plenty of options, as he can choose to go back if the pace is hot, or settle closer to the speed if it’s a moderate tempo.

Why he can’t win: After winning last year’s Melbourne Cup with 54.5kg, Green Moon jumps to 57.5kg, which equates to around 2-3 lengths in distance. That’s all fine if the horse has improved 12 months on, but has Green Moon improved? On exposed form, you’d say he’s probably not going as well as he was last year, when he won the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes before a gutsy seventh, racing wide, in the Cox Plate. Last year, owner Lloyd Williams declared Green Moon was his best Melbourne Cup chance … and there have been no such predictions this year.

The verdict: Difficult to see Green Moon beating his more fancied stablemates, Seville and Fawkner, let alone win the race. He’s a top 10 chance, but not in the top four for mine.

3. RED CADEAUX 56.5kg (23)
8yo chestnut gelding
Trainer: Ed Dunlop, Great Britain
Jockey: Gerald Mosse
Prizemoney: $5,137,875
Best win: Group 1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m), 2012
Record: 40 starts, 7 wins, 10 seconds, 6 thirds
Betting: $51 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: Ed Dunlop’s globetrotting gelding is a force wherever he’s turned out, whether that’s at home in the UK, or chasing international riches in Australia, Hong Kong or Dubai. While he’s never won beyond 2816m, we know the two miles is no problem … his most famous result in Australia was that famous photo finish in the 2011 Melbourne Cup, when he was just nosed out by Dunaden. His 56.5kg handicap will feel like a postage stamp compared to the weights he’s been carrying back at home … in his past three runs, he’s shouldered 60.5kg, 61.5kg and 62kg. Red Cadeaux also has the services of one of the world’s top jockeys, Gerald Mosse, who won the 2010 Melbourne Cup aboard Americain. Tres bien!

Why he can’t win: Red Cadeaux’s back for his third tilt at the Melbourne Cup, and each year, his barriers have gotten progressively worse. After drawing 15 when second in 2011, he found himself in 18 last year (when a 5.9-length eighth). This year, he’s just about in the car park, drawing barrier 23 of 24. Jockey Gerald Mosse will have no choice but to go right back to the tail of the field and pray that one of his rivals sets up a cracking tempo. If not, Red Cadeaux might only just be getting warm as the winning jockey is giving his Channel 7 interview.

The verdict: Barrier 23 just makes it too difficult for Red Cadeaux. He’s a chance to pick up a $100,000 cheque for a top 10 placing, but he won’t be finishing in the top five.

4. SEA MOON 56.5kg (7)
6yo bay horse
Trainer: Robert Hickmott
Jockey: Steven Arnold
Prizemoney: $1,182,202
Best win: Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes (2414m), 2012
Record: 14 starts, 6 wins, 3 seconds, 1 third
Betting: $15 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: Take a look at the video of the 2012 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and you’ll realise why Lloyd Williams was so keen to buy the son of Beat Hollow. In that race last year, Sea Moon gave a galloping lesson to the likes of Dunaden (2011 Melbourne Cup, 2012 Caulfield Cup winner), Fiorente (second, 2012 Melbourne Cup), Jakkalberry (third, 2012 Melbourne Cup) and Red Cadeaux (second, 2011 Melbourne Cup). He’s been given plenty of time to acclimatise to Australian conditions, and has come into his own in the past month — losing the Listed Bart Cummings (2520m) at Flemington on protest, before winning the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield. Steven Arnold takes the ride, and from barrier seven, should be perfectly positioned in the first six or seven coming out of the straight the first time.

Why he can’t win: What’s the one thing in common with the most recent winners (Green Moon, Dunaden, Americain, Shocking, Viewed, Efficient) of the Melbourne Cup? They all possessed a brilliant turn of foot and used it to great effect in the final stages of their victory. From what we’ve seen of Sea Moon in Australia this year, he’s more of a grinding type … a horse who likes to gradually increase the tempo and get his rivals off the bit before the home turn. It’s difficult to see Sea Moon getting conditions to suit here, with a real lack of noted frontrunners in this year’s Melbourne Cup field. Lloyd Williams has also suggested Sea Moon’s best hope of winning a Melbourne Cup might come next year, after he’s had a full year to acclimatise to his new home.

The verdict: I’ve backed Sea Moon in both of his two lead-up runs to the Melbourne Cup, but he won’t have my money in the big one. Can see him challenging for the lead at some point in the home straight, before being over-run late. However, he goes in all trifecta and first four bets.

5. BROWN PANTHER 55kg (6)
6yo bay horse
Trainer: Tom Dascombe, Great Britain
Jockey: Richard Kingscote
Prizemoney: $486,315
Best win: Group 2 Goodwood Cup (3219m), 2013
Record: 17 starts, 7 wins, 3 seconds, 1 third
Betting: $19 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: Owned by former England soccer international Michael Owen, Brown Panther has a similar profile to recent international winners such as Dunaden and Americain in that he’s a lightly-raced, well-weighted stayer coming into the Cup with good form in second-tier races. His work at Werribee in the past week has been eye-catching, and there’s no doubts about him at the two miles … his best win came over that trip in August, when he won the Group 2 Goodwood Cup, a race in which he defeated last year’s unlucky Cup runner, Mt Athos. An on-pace runner, Brown Panther has drawn perfectly in barrier six and should be able to find a spot right behind the pacesetters in the early stages.

Why he can’t win: The internationals have a terrific recent record in the Melbourne Cup, but the likes of Americain and Dunaden both had a run here before going on to capture the big one. Brown Panther, on the other hand, had his lead-up runs back in the United Kingdom, so there’s no telling how he’ll go in his first start on Australian soil. Jockey Richard Kingscote is hardly a household name, and has never experienced the hustle and bustle of a Melbourne Cup.

The verdict: A huge query. Plenty of people want to back Mt Athos in this year’s Melbourne Cup, and this fellow gave him a donkey-licking in August. I see only two scenarios for Brown Panther … he either wins or goes terribly close, or puts in a shocker. For the record, I’m banking on the latter.

6. FIORENTE 55kg (5)
6yo brown horse
Trainer: Gai Waterhouse
Jockey: Damien Oliver
Prizemoney: $1,571,611
Best win: Group 2 Goldsmith Stakes Cup (2414m), 2012
Record: 15 starts, 3 wins, 4 seconds, 2 third
Betting: $7 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: Ever since his slashing second at odds of $31 in last year’s Melbourne Cup, Fiorente has been at the top of betting for the 2013 edition. The experts took note when, under new trainer Gai Waterhouse, he produced a slashing third (beaten just 2¼-lengths by superstar colt All Too Hard) over an unsuitable 1400m in the Group 1 All Aged Stakes at Randwick in April. His form leading into the Cup has been first class … a fast-finishing win the Dato Tan Chin Nam (1400m), a desperately unlucky 0.5-length fourth in the Group 1 Turnbull (2000m), then a brave 0.5-length third in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley. Jockey? Damien Oliver. That’s a tick. Barrier? Five. Another tick. Distance? Second last year. Tick. Weight? 55kg, just 0.5kg more than that carried by the past three winners (Green Moon, Dunaden, Americain). Again, a tick. Need I go on?

Why he can’t win: Gai Waterhouse is unquestionably one of the best trainers we’ve seen, but she has not been able to crack it for a Melbourne Cup. Does she have what it takes to get Fiorente to peak on Melbourne Cup day? Fiorente also had to endure a gut-busting run in the Cox Plate. After beginning slowly, he raced wide for the first half of the race before having to really dig deep in the final 600m. The run could hardly be described as a pipe-opener … it was a lung-crusher. Has he recovered in time?

The verdict: It’d be silly to say he can’t win, but it’s been telling that some bookies have left his price drift to as much as $9, believing the Cox Plate run will work against him. I still think he’s one of the major players, and I’ll be backing him, but I’m looking for $8 or better before I really unleash on an each-way basis.

7. FORETELLER 55kg (15)
7yo bay gelding
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Craig Newitt
Prizemoney: $1,469,771
Best win: Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m), 2013
Record: 36 starts, 10 wins, 4 seconds, 1 third
Betting: $26 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: Is Foreteller the most improved horse in Australia? If he’s not, he’s certainly close to it — Sydney trainer Chris Waller transforming what was a moderately-performed import into a genuine Group 1 weight for age star. His Cox Plate run had to be seen to be believed: with 500m left in the race, Foreteller was stone-motherless last, stuck on the fence with around 10 lengths to make up on the leader and eventual winner, Shamus Award. After finding clear-running on the turn, he exploded in the straight, beaten just 1.3-lengths in what looked to be a cracking Melbourne Cup trial.

Why he can’t win: Of all the horses in this year’s Melbourne Cup, Foreteller has the biggest question mark on him when it comes to whether he’ll run out a strong 2400m. Trainer Chris Waller has decided to give him his chance … his Cox Plate run certainly justifies the decision! … but do not for a moment forget that he’s only won up to 2000m. I also can’t get out of my mind an interview with Chris Waller on TVN a few weeks ago, when he said Foreteller was a rung below the top horses when it came to being competitive in the big Group 1 races. In that interview, he said the Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) on Derby Day would be Foreteller’s main spring target.

The verdict: You can’t win the Melbourne Cup when running in it is an afterthought. Good luck to the owners, but they would’ve been better off sticking to the original plan in contesting the Mackinnon Stakes — a race Foreteller would’ve won, I reckon. The Melbourne Cup is a bridge too far. Or maybe it’s better put that the Melbourne Cup is 1200m too far!

8. DANDINO 54.5kg (4)
7yo bay or brown horse
Trainer: Marco Botti, Great Britain
Jockey: Ryan Moore
Prizemoney: $1,345,644
Best win: Group 1 American St Leger (2716m), 2013
Record: 26 starts, 8 wins, 9 seconds, 1 third
Betting: $11 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: The past three winners of the Melbourne Cup were all bred or raced in Europe, have all carried 54.5kg, and all have jumped from fair to good barriers (Green Moon 5, Dunaden 13, Americain 11). If you were trying to find the horse that most closely matched that criteria this year, you’d come up with Dandino. Like the three winners before him, he goes into the Melbourne Cup with an Australian run under his belt — and what a beauty it was, a fast-finishing 1¼-length second to Fawkner. Had he drawn well, instead of out in barrier 16 of 18, we may well have been referring to him as the Caulfield Cup winner and this year’s Melbourne Cup favourite. From barrier four, he’ll lob midfield with cover — and then it’s just a matter of him finding the gaps in the straight.

Why he can’t win: Throughout his career, when Dandino has stepped up to challenge Europe’s top stayers, he’s inevitably fallen just short. Go through his past 20 runs and you’ll see he’s been unable to beat horses such as Red Cadeaux, Sea Moon and Fiorente (although he did beat home Mt Athos when second in an average edition of the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes earlier this year). I’ve got a big question mark on whether he can turn the tables on some of his better-performed rivals … particularly the likes of Sea Moon and Fiorente.

The verdict: Dandino’s Caulfield Cup run was a beauty, and I’m banking on the fact that he’s probably a better horse this campaign than he was when beaten by the likes of Sea Moon and Fiorente last year. On an each-way basis, he’ll give you a great run for your money.

9. ETHIOPIA 54.5kg (14)
5yo bay gelding
Trainer: Pat Carey
Jockey: Rhys McLeod
Prizemoney: $1,153,300
Best win: Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m), 2012
Record: 13 starts, 1 win, 1 second, 2 thirds
Betting: $71 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: Trainer Pat Carey didn’t have to run Ethiopia in the Lexus Stakes (2500m), the Derby Day race that gives unqualified runners the chance to earn a last-minute place in the Melbourne Cup field. Running in the Lexus was all part of a plan to have Ethiopia cherry-ripe for the first Tuesday in November, so Carey would have been thrilled to see Ethiopia working home out wide for a 2.7-length fourth. That run suggests he’s exactly where Carey wants him.

Why he can’t win: Let’s for a moment put to one side Ethiopia’s 63.6-length last placing in the 2012 Melbourne Cup, and instead focus on his most recent form. His best run this preparation was his Lexus fourth, but against the top liners in two previous starts, he could only manage a 9.7-length 13th in the Caulfield Cup and a 7.9-length last in the Turnbull. Also has a tricky barrier (14) and has won just one race in a 13-start career … the 2012 Australian Derby against his own age as a three-year-old.

The verdict: If he was to be a hope in the Melbourne Cup, he had to be doing a lot better than fourth in an average edition of the Lexus Stakes. The Melbourne Cup is aiming too high for a horse who’s failed to live up to his potential. He’s not in the top 10 for mine.

10. FAWKNER 54.5kg (8)
6yo bay or brown gelding
Trainer: Robert Hickmott
Jockey: Nick Hall
Prizemoney: $2,420,751
Best win: Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m), 2013
Record: 20 starts, 9 win, 3 second, 3 thirds
Betting: $16 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: The Caulfield Cup is a terrific guide to the Melbourne Cup … horses to have won the Caulfield Cup/Melbourne Cup double in recent years include Ethereal (2001), Might and Power (1997), Doriemus (1995), while Delta Blues (2006) and Makybe Diva (2004) both placed in the Caulfield Cup before going on to win the Melbourne Cup. Barrier eight sees jockey Nick Hall land midfield, and with 54.5kg, he’s in with a winning weight. Lloyd Williams believes of his six runners, Fawkner is his best chance … and he said exactly the same thing before Green Moon won last year.

Why he can’t win: Can Fawkner run a strong 3200m? Many good judges would have answered with a resounding “no” 12 months ago, when Fawkner was getting ready for a tilt at the 1600m Group 1 Emirates Stakes (a race in which he finished second behind Happy Trails). Fawkner looked good winning at 2400m in the Caulfield Cup, but another 800m in a high pressure race could really test his stamina reserves.

The verdict: When Lloyd speaks, it’s wise to listen. In the past few years, the maverick owner has spent millions buying overseas horses in a bid to win the Melbourne Cup … yet he thinks this horse than better than all of them. Don’t leave him out of your quaddie.

11. MOURAYAN 54.5kg (19)
8yo brown horse
Trainer: Robert Hickmott
Jockey: Brenton Avdulla
Prizemoney: $2,043,451
Best win: Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m), 2013
Record: 41 starts, 5 wins, 8 seconds, 5 thirds
Betting: $126 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: Mourayan’s a proven two-miler, doing it most recently in this year’s Group 1 Sydney Cup, in which he was a dominant winner. His run last year, when he was a 4.9-length seventh behind stablemate Green Moon, was full of merit, given he copped a bad check early in the race. Despite a Group 1 victory earlier this year, he only goes up 1kg in the weights as well compared to the 53.5kg he carried in last year’s Cup.

Why he can’t win: His run in Saturday’s Mackinnon Stakes — a fading 8.1-length ninth — didn’t have “Melbourne Cup winner” written on it, it had “I need a spell” written on it. For some reason, Mourayan also seems to reserve his best form for Sydney … he hasn’t won a race in Melbourne for two years. He’ll also have to do plenty of work to get across from barrier 19.

The verdict: Even the Lloyd Williams polish isn’t enough for Mourayan, who seems well below his best this preparation. If you’ve drawn him in your office sweep, bad luck!

12. SEVILLE 54.5kg (9)
6yo bay horse
Trainer: Robert Hickmott
Jockey: Hugh Bowman
Prizemoney: $1,171,943
Best win: Group 1 The Metropolitan (2400m), 2013
Record: 19 starts, 2 wins, 6 seconds, 1 third
Betting: $17 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: The import is the fifth prong in Lloyd Williams’ arsenal, and he is primed to produce a career-best run. He had a terribly difficult run in the Group 1 Cox Plate, with jockey Hugh Bowman forced to track a three-wide path the entire trip (albeit with cover). Commencing a run with 800m to go, he was six horses wide on the home turn yet still managed to flash home to be beaten only 5½-lengths. That amazing Cox Plate run came after he proved too strong for Julenias in the Group 1 Metropolitan at Randwick. He’s looking for two miles now, and he’s perfectly drawn in barrier nine.

Why he can’t win: In the past 30 years, no Metropolitan winner has managed to go on to win the Melbourne Cup. Before being bought by Williams, Seville was also just a rung below the top European stayers, finishing behind the likes of Masked Marvel, Brown Panther and Sea Moon in the 2011 Group 1 St Leger.

The verdict: If you’re a $20 a bet punter, he’s the kind of horse who you’d happily have $5 win and $10 place on. Prefer for the minor placings, but like previous Williams winners in Efficient and Green Moon, a win wouldn’t shock.

13. SUPER COOL 54.5kg (13)
4yo bay gelding
Trainer: Mark Kavanagh
Jockey: Corey Brown
Prizemoney: $1,396,350
Best win: Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m), 2013
Record: 14 starts, 4 wins, 2 seconds, 3 thirds
Betting: $51 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: Mark Kavanagh knows what it takes to win a Melbourne Cup with a four-year-old gelding … he did it with Shocking in 2009. The jockey on board that day was Corey Brown, who takes the ride in the Cup on Super Cool. It’s a proven combination! Super Cool has shown he’s got what it takes in big Group 1s at Flemington, with a victory in the Australian Cup (2000m) earlier this year, and a second in the VRC Derby (2500m) last year.

Why he can’t win: By Fastnet Rock out of a Kingmambo mare, Super Cool’s pedigree says he should be a sprinter-miler, not a two-miler. Big doubts about him running a strong 3200m. He’s also had a setback … Kavanagh was forced to change tack and run in the Cox Plate instead of the Caulfield Cup after Super Cool pulled up sore following a disappointing ninth in the Turnbull Stakes. His 3.3-length fifth in the Cox Plate) was solid, rather than spectacular — but horses don’t have setbacks and win the Melbourne Cup.

The verdict: Mark Kavanagh’s a genius, and he’d be elevated into God-like status if he can win the Melbourne Cup following Super Cool’s preparation. A top 10 placing — and a $100,000 cheque — is the best connections can hope for.

14. MASKED MARVEL 54kg (2)
6yo bay horse
Trainer: Robert Hickmott
Jockey: Michael Rodd
Prizemoney: $644,242
Best win: Group 1 English St Leger (2937m), 2011
Record: 17 starts, 4 wins, 1 second, 2 thirds
Betting: $35 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: There aren’t many more difficult races to win in the world than the Group 1 English St Leger (2937m), a race Masked Marvel won back on September 10, 2011. On that day at set weights, he beat Brown Panther, Sea Moon and Seville — today, he receives weight from all three of them. Drawn perfectly in barrier two, he’ll get a gun run in the first half of the field.

Why he can’t win: Following his English St Leger victory, Masked Marvel’s form inexplicably tapered off. While it meant Lloyd Williams was able to buy him relatively cheaply last year, the jury’s out on whether he can still mix it with the likes of Sea Moon, Seville and Brown Panther. Wasn’t able to beat Moriarty in the Hill Stakes (2000m) at Randwick in September, and Moriarty didn’t make the cut for the Melbourne Cup.

The verdict: Masked Marvel is a genuine 3200m hope, so consider him for your trifectas and first fours. On exposed form, though, I can’t see him beating the likes of Sea Moon and Seville.

15. MOUNT ATHOS 54kg (22)
7yo bay gelding
Trainer: Luca Cumani, Great Britain
Jockey: Craig Williams
Prizemoney: $499,699
Best win: Group 3 Ormonde Stakes (2696m), 2013
Record: 26 starts, 8 wins, 1 second, 1 third
Betting: $9 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: Undoubtedly, Mount Athos was the unlucky runner in last year’s Melbourne Cup. He copped major interference at both the 600m and on the home turn, cruelling any hope he had of victory. It was the sign of a very, very good horse that he was able to pick himself up and still finish a 3.3-lengths fifth to Green Moon. Better still, he stays on 54kg, while most of his rivals from last year go up in weight.

Why he can’t win: Luca Cumani hasn’t had much luck in his quest to win a Melbourne Cup for England, even though he’s gone close in the past with the likes of Mount Athos last year, and with Bauer, who was beaten a nose by Viewed in 2008. That bad luck continued in this year’s barrier draw, when Mount Athos was left with barrier 22. Does jockey Craig Williams go back and ride for luck? Or does he go forward and try to get a position? His race could be decided within the first 400m.

The verdict: I was keen on Mount Athos … until the barrier draw, which I believes rules him out as a genuine winning hope. If he repeats his effort from last year, when a game fifth, he’ll have done well.

16. ROYAL EMPIRE 54kg (11)
5yo bay horse
Trainer: Saeed Bin Suroor, Great Britain
Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy
Prizemoney: $261,176
Best win: Group 3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes (2716m), 2013
Record: 13 starts, 5 wins, 5 seconds, 1 third
Betting: $21 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: Godolphin has come close to winning a Melbourne Cup over the years, with a slew of placegetters — yet trainer Saeed Bin Suroor believes Royal Empire represents his stable’s best-ever chance of finally taking home the Cup. He won first up over 2018m in June before defeating Red Cadeaux in a dashing performance in the Group 3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury. Close seconds over 2414m at his past two starts have him fit and ready to fire.

Why he can’t win: Even after 20 years of trying, and some of the best horseflesh in the world at its disposal, Godolphin still hasn’t been able to win the Melbourne Cup. The stable’s dominance in the UK and in Dubai can be attributed to the fact that pacemakers are permitted in the northern hemisphere, setting up the race for Godolphin’s best hope in what are regularly small fields. Pacemakers are banned in Australia, making it difficult for Godolphin to control the pace.

The verdict: Place is best, yet again, for Godolphin.

17. VOLEUSE DE COUERS 54kg (21)
5yo bay mare
Trainer: Mike Moroney
Jockey: James McDonald
Prizemoney: $279,235
Best win: Group 1 Irish St Leger (2816m), 2013
Record: 13 starts, 5 wins, 2 seconds, 2 thirds
Betting: $15 (TAB fixed odds)

Why she can win: Omen punters, take note. Mike Moroney might be the official trainer of Voleuse de Couers, but the man who’s prepared the mare for the Melbourne Cup is none other than Dermot Weld, who was the first overseas trainer to win the Melbourne Cup. He did it with a horse called Vintage Crop, who won the Irish St Leger before winning the Melbourne Cup. Voleuse de Couers’ last victory? A six-length demolition job in the Irish St Leger, in which he beat the likes of Red Cadeaux. And the final omen? Voleuse de Couers won a race in May called … the Vintage Crop Stakes.

Why she can’t win: Good barriers win good races, and unfortunately for the connections of Voleuse de Couers, he’s drawn a bad one. From barrier 21, it’s going to be very difficult for jockey James McDonald to settle Voleuse de Couers in his normal racing pattern — up on the speed, with cover.

The verdict: Before the barrier draw, it was a big “yes!”. After the barrier draw, it was a big “oh, no”. That’s not a no, because you can’t write off a well-weighted, on-the-up stayer in the Melbourne Cup … but it’s now a very, very difficult task.

18. HAWKSPUR 53.5kg (18)
4yo chestnut gelding
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Jim Cassidy
Prizemoney: $871,380
Best win: Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m), 2013
Record: 23 starts, 7 wins, 6 seconds, 0 thirds
Betting: $14 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: Hawkspur has had the perfect preparation for this year’s Melbourne Cup — five lead-up runs that might have yielded three victories, instead of just one (in the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes). Hawkspur started favourite in the Caulfield Cup and copped severe interference in the early stages, forcing him back to the tail of the field. His effort to finish seventh, beaten 2.4-lengths was outstanding, given you could make a case he should’ve won the race. Ditto in his two previous runs in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (a 0.6-length fifth to Happy Trails) and a 2.1-length fourth to Streama in the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m).

Why he can’t win: Queensland Derby winners have a terrible recent record in the Melbourne Cup, with no horses going on to capture the double in the past 20 years. While Hawkspur has shown he can handle 2400m, he isn’t proven at two miles … and he’s by a sire (Purrealist) who was a noted sprinter.

The verdict: Definite winning hope. Finishing unplaced in the Caulfield Cup might be a good thing, because he would’ve been rehandicapped if he’d have won … and I think he just about should’ve won. Ignore him at your peril. He’s a serious horse, and he’s a serious chance.

19. SIMENON 53.5kg (12)
7yo bay gelding
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Jockey: Richard Hughes
Prizemoney: $452,642
Best win: Queen Alexandra Stakes (class 2, 4369m), 2012
Record: 32 starts, 6 wins, 4 seconds, 6 thirds
Betting: $16 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: If you give Sea Moon a chance, and many good judges do, then you have to give Simenon a chance. You can make a case that he should have beaten Sea Moon when a fast-finishing third to the Lloyd Williams star in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield on October 12. On that day, he just knocked up a little in the final 100m. With another two weeks of preparation into the Melbourne Cup, he’ll be peaking for the big one.

Why he can’t win: Simenon’s current owners bought him with the intention of winning a few hurdle races in the UK, so to be in a Melbourne Cup is beyond their wildest dreams. While he has won at Royal Ascot in restricted races, the step up in class to tackle the world’s toughest handicap for stayers is not big, it’s huge!

The verdict: He’s into $16, so clearly somebody gives him a chance! For mine, the Melbourne Cup is aiming too high. But I’d still love to own him!

20. IBICENCO 53kg (17)
6yo bay horse
Trainer: Peter Moody
Jockey: Luke Nolen
Prizemoney: $601,608
Best win: Group 3 Geelong Cup (2400m), 2013
Record: 21 starts, 4 wins, 3 seconds, 2 third
Betting: $51 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: The Geelong Cup has provided two (Dunaden 2011, Americain 2010) of the past three Melbourne winners, as well as a second placing in 2008 (Bauer). While he was originally raced in Italy, he’s been with Peter Moody since October last year, rounding out his first Australian campaign with victory over two miles in the Listed Zipping Classic at Sandown.

Why he can’t win: This year’s Geelong Cup lacked the influence of the best overseas stayers, with Ibicenco beating home a field who can best be described as “Country Cuppers”. While he’ll run out 3200m, he lacks a turn of foot, which is so crucial in this race.

The verdict: Peter Moody thinks he’ll finish top 10, and that’s a good goal. He won’t be top five, let alone top three … so save your money.

21. VEREMA 53kg (3)
5yo bay mare
Trainer: Alain De Royer-Dupre, France
Jockey: Christophe Lemaire
Prizemoney: $436,565
Best win: Group 2 Prix Kergolay (3000m), 2013
Record: 12 starts, 4 wins, 2 seconds, 1 third
Betting: $14 (TAB fixed odds)

Why she can win: Trained by canny Frenchman Alain De Royer-Dupre, of Americain fame, Verema has been specifically set for this race with a view to capturing a first Melbourne Cup for her influential owner, His Highness The Aga Khan. She’s been given a traditional European lead-up for this race, with just two runs in the past three months — both victories at Group 2 level in France. She’s got a devastating turn of foot, has won up to 3000m … and she’s drawn perfectly in barrier three.

Why she can’t win: Many judges question whether Verema would have been better placed by being given a run here in Australia before tackling the Cup. While she’s reportedly acclimatised well to her new surroundings, you never really know how they’ve settled in until you see them in race conditions. Big question mark.

The verdict: She’s a must for me for quaddies, and I’d be recommending a sneaky each way bet … particularly if she gets out beyond her current quote of $14. There’s a lot to like about her.

22. DEAR DEMI 51kg (16)
4yo bay mare
Trainer: Clarry Conners
Jockey: Chris Munce
Prizemoney: $1,916,600
Best win: Group 1 VRC Oakes (2500m), 2012
Record: 28 starts, 6 wins, 5 seconds, 6 thirds
Betting: $18 (TAB fixed odds)

Why she can win: Arguably the most consistent mare in Australia today, Dear Demi rounded out her preparation with an eye-catching second, beaten less than a length, in Saturday’s Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes. That run came after another eye-catching performance … a fast-finishing third, beaten less than two lengths, in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup. There aren’t many horses with better form in the key races leading into this year’s Melbourne Cup.

Why she can’t win: Dear Demi’s owner, John Singleton, backed her to win $6 million last week … which means he stands to win almost $10 million (including prizemoney) if she salutes in the Cup. Singo would’ve been rubbing his hands with glee after her Mackinnon performance … and then cursing his luck when she drew barrier 16 for the Melbourne Cup. It doesn’t make it impossible, given she’s a horse that gets back in her races anyway, but jockey Chris Munce is going to have to work some magic to find a spot early in the race. Or does he decide to go forward and find a position? Decisions, decisions.

The verdict: Simply cannot write her off. Definite winning hope, and she goes in all multiples. And given Singo’s the owner, there’s another reason to cheer her on … he’ll probably shout the public bar at Flemington if she wins!

23. TRES BLEU 51kg (20)
4yo bay horse
Trainer: Gai Waterhouse
Jockey: Tommy Berry
Prizemoney: $401,608
Best win: Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville (2500m), 2013
Record: 10 starts, 4 wins, 2 seconds, 1 third
Betting: $21 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: Gai Waterhouse almost did it last year with a lightly-raced import in Fiorente … who’s to say she can’t go one better with this fellow? Tellingly, most of the overseas trainers rate Tres Bleu as one of the main threats to their hopes. There’s good reason for this … he’s got no weight, and he’s coming off two most impressive 2500m victories in France. Before that, he was a ¾-length second in the German Derby. That’s simply outstanding form.

Why he can’t win: Once again, we look at the barrier (20) and wonder just how much petrol he’s going to have to use up to find a spot that suits his normal racing pattern … with cover, up on the speed. From barrier 20, there’s every chance he could still be three or four horses wide as they approach the turn out of the straight the first time. If that happens, throw your ticket in the bin.

The verdict: He’s too well-regarded by the overseas trainers to dismiss as a chance. But given the bad barrier, Gai’s instructions may well be to find the front at all costs … setting the race up for the backmarkers. Not for me.

24. RUSCELLO 50kg (24)
5yo bay gelding
Trainer: Ed Walker, Great Britain
Jockey: Chad Schofield (a)
Prizemoney: $235,199
Best win: Group 3 Lexus Stakes (2500m), 2013
Record: 18 starts, 5 wins, 3 seconds, 4 third
Betting: $51 (TAB fixed odds)

Why he can win: In recent years, both Shocking (2009) and Brew (2000) have won the Lexus Stakes before going on to win the Melbourne Cup, so the form out of the race has to be respected. With just 50kg on his back, Ruscello gets his chance to get to the front and run them along. And that’s exactly what his jockey, Chad Schofield, did when stealing the Cox Plate on Shamus Award.

Why he can’t win: He might have won the Lexus, but Ruscello certainly didn’t beat any superstars. Indeed, if third-placed Araldo had have run straight instead of laying in badly in the final 300m, he probably would’ve beaten Ruscello. His form back home in the UK is moderate to say the least … the Melbourne Cup represents a big step up in class. Especially from barrier 24.

The verdict: Wouldn’t it be nice to own a Melbourne Cup runner? Even better yet, wouldn’t it be nice to own a Melbourne Cup winner? Ruscello’s connections have got the former. They won’t be seeing him turn into the latter.


I’m sticking with Fiorente, and I’m counting on Gai Waterhouse to ensure he’s overcome any ill effects that a tough Cox Plate run might’ve had. Enormous respect goes to the likes of Verema, Dandino and Hawkspur, while I think Sea Moon represents Lloyd Williams’ best chance in the race.

1. Fiorente
2. Verema
3. Hawkspur
4. Dandino

Best roughie: Dear Demi