Melbourne Cup runner-by-runner guide

Adam Cusworth in Melbourne Cup 31 Oct 2020
Melbourne Cup horses

 

The Melbourne Cup (3200m) is Australia’s most famous race and and we take a look at the 2020 Melbourne Cup horses.

Known as the race that stops the nation, the $7.75 million event brings together the best of the local and international stayers and has been won by the likes of Phar Lap and Makybe Diva, while recent winners include Vow And Declare and Cross Current.

2020 Melbourne Cup horses

1. ANTHONY VAN DYCK 

One of two gallopers in the race for Aidan O’Brien, the Irish galloper is equal favourite with his stablemate, Tiger Moth, and is an $8 chance with NEDS after the barrier draw. He has had one run in Australia for a slashing runner-up performance behind Verry Elleegant in the Caulfield Cup (2400m) and comes to Australia with a decent CV having defeated Stradivarus in the Prix Foy (2400m) in France prior to his Caulfield Cup run, while he was runner-up in the Irish Derby (2414m) last year. He will be ridden by Hugh Bowman, who returns from a recent suspension. The pair have drawn perfectly in barrier 3 but with the 58.5kg, Anthony Van Dyck will need to defy history as no horse has won with more weight this millennium. The three-time champion, Makybe Diva, carried 58kg in 2005.

2. AVILIUS 

Golden Rose trends

The Godolphin galloper has been a high class performer since coming over to Australia a couple of years ago and was solid in the recent Caulfield Cup, finishing a luckless 6th behind Verry Elleegant. The three-time Group 1 winner appeared in the 2018 Melbourne Cup and was a $16 chance that day but was basically chopped out of it early on when suffering severe interference. The seven-year-old might just be a shade below the absolute top liners but is in the mix for a top five finish.

3. VOW AND DECLARE 

The local product held off a wave of international horses last year to win the Melbourne Cup for Australia but is not favoured in his quest to become the first galloper to score back to back wins in the race since Maybe Diva. The five-year-old just does not seem to be going as well as this time a year ago, having finished 15th in the recent Caulfield Cup but wasn’t too far away when 12th in the Turnbull Stakes, beaten three lengths. A return to the wide open expanses of Flemington could be the catalyst for a return to form but I can just not see him troubling them this year.

4. MASTER OF REALITY 

The Joseph O’Brien-trained galloper comes back for another tilt at the Melbourne Cup. He was relegated to 4th in last year’s edition of the race after passing the post as the runner-up last year, only to be demoted after a protest that was lodged but connections of Il Paradiso. The six-year-old carries the colours made famous by Lloyd Williams, who has won the Cup on six occasions, most recently with Rekindling in 2017. He comes into the race first up and was runner-up to Twilight Payment in the Curragh Cup (2816m) in July before again landing in that spot in the Irish St Leggier (2816m). At his most recent start he cruised to a comfortable win in the Her Majesty Plate, also over the 2816m trip. He has drawn barrier 11 and will be ridden by Ben Melham. With the right run, he can feature in the finish.

5. SIR DRAGONET (IRE) 

The recent Cox Plate (2040m) winner is an equal second favourite with NEDS and lines up for the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace stable, having previously raced for Aidan O’Brien in Ireland. The five-year-old has had just the 10 career starts, winning on three occasions and while he was no match for Magical in the the Group 1 Gold Cup at the Curragh, he could hardly have been more emphatic by taking out the Cox Plate. The slight question mark is the return to a dry track but he will be partnered by Glen Boss, who is no stranger to Flemington on Cup day, having steered Makybe Diva to her hat-trick of wins in this race in 2003/04/05.

6. TWILIGHT PAYMENT 

Another to carry the Williams colours is Twilight Payment and the eight-year-old ran 11th in this race last year after attempting to lead all the way. He finished less than four lengths off the winner and has been mixing it with the likes of Master Of Reality in recent times, defeating that horse at Group 2 level in July before running 3rd in the Irish St Leger in September. He is trained by Joseph O’Brien, who was successful for the owners with Rekindling in 2017, but will need to improve on his effort last year if he is to feature in the finish.

7. VERRY ELLEEGANT 

The Metropolitan odds

The star mare is arguably the best local galloper in the race and has been in scintillating form this spring, picking up three Group 1 races, the Winx Stakes (1400m), Turnbull Stakes (2000m) and the Caulfield Cup (2400m). The former Kiwi has won seven starts from 13 races at 2000m and beyond and seems to be getting better with age. She has drawn awkwardly and has a tendency to overrace. While Mark Zahra will need to produce a gem of a ride, she is not to be underrated.

8. MUSTAJEER 

The imported galloper has now had three preparations in Australia, coming over for a crack at last year’s Melbourne Cup and running down the track behind Vow And Declare. He was a well-beaten runner-up behind Verry Elleegant in the Tancred Stakes (2400m) in the autumn and recently missed out behind that mare when 8th in the Caulfield Cup. It is hard to see him making up the required ground and last year’s result doesn’t bode well for the confidence but he placed in some key races in Ireland last year and if he recaptures some of that form he can land in the top 10. Michael Rodd rides and partnered Efficient to a memorable win in 2007.

9. STRATUM ALBION 

Stratum Albion (right) (Late: Stratum (GB))

One of two gallopers in the field that has not had a start in Australia, Stratum Albion will be out to emulate the likes of Rekindling and Cross Counter, who were able to win the Melbourne Cup at their first race on Aussie soil. The eight-year-old has not won since 2019 and was racing over the hurdles during the northern hemisphere summer before a last start effort that saw him finish runner-up behind Enbihaar in the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup (3270m) at York. He might not be as credentialed as some of the foreign gallopers but his trainer has had four contenders finish in the top six since 2013 and he is not the worst at the quote.

10. DASHING WILLOUGHBY 

It is hard to make a case for Dashing Wiloughby after the British stayer ran a long last in the recent Caulfield Cup but the Andrew Balding-trained galloper had some good form prior to that by picking up wins in the Listed Buckhounds Stakes (2414m) in June as well as a victory ahead of the 2018 Melbourne Cup winner, Cross Current in the Group 3 Henry II Stakes (3264m). He should appreciate getting out to a longer trip and it is interesting that Michael Walker jumped off Prince Of Arran in favour of the five-year-old.

11. FINCHE 

Finche (L)

The Chris Waller-trained seven-year-old was one of the favoured runners heading into the Melbourne Cup last year and was beaten just over a length by Vow And Declare when 7th. He has had just the three runs since the and narrowly missed out on victory in the Turnbull Stakes when 3rd behind Verry Elleegant before producing a solid 5th in the Caulfield Cup. He was wide for much of the trip in that race and with luck in running this time around he can go very close.

12. PRINCE OF ARRAN 

The Charlie Fellowes-trained eight-year-old is no stranger to the Melbourne Cup and has placed in the race that stops the nation in the past two years, running 3rd in 2018 before landing in the runner-up slot last year. He ran home beautifully in the recent Caulfield Cup, coming from last at the 400m to finish on the heels of the placegetters in 4th position, just under two lengths from the winner. Jamie Kah rides the popular gelding and will be out to become the second female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup after Michelle Payne’s memorable effort aboard Prince Of Penzance in 2015. The pair have drawn barrier 1 and if the gaps appear at the right time they will be hard to beat.

13. SURPRISE BABY 

Caulfield Cup Odds

The Paul Preusker-trained gelding will have his share of admirers and was excellent in this race last year when running 5th behind Vow And Declare. On that occasion, he had to settle back from the wide barrier and his task was made all that more difficult as they crawled in front in the early to middle stages. He comes in with just the two runs under his belt this spring and was runner-up in the Feehan Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valle before really only warming up late when a close up 9th in the Turnbull. He will be ridden by Craig Williams, who was successful in this race last year aboard Vow And Declare, and the past have drawn perfectly in barrier 7.

14 KING OF LEOGRANCE 

The Adelaide Cup (3200m) winner from the autumn comes into this third up and is the third of the Williams gallopers in the navy blue and white. His win in Adelaide was at the same stage of his autumn preparation and while this is a step up, he should not be underestimated. At his lat start, he loomed as the winner in the Geelong Cup before just fading late but with improvement to come, he represents a bit of X-factor.

15. RUSSIAN CAMELOT 

The Danny O’Brien-trained galloper hasn’t quite lived up to the boom that surrounded him after the Underwood Stakes (1800m) victory earlier this spring but his form is first class all the same, having placed 3rd behind Sir Dragonet in the recent Cox Plate (2040m). He jumps sharply in distance but was an extraordinary winner in the South Australian Derby (2500m) when jumping up in trip and has been set for the Melbourne Cup (3200m) since then. Question marks centre on his form on top of the ground, while he has drawn awkwardly in barrier 16. He will be ridden by Damien Oliver, which is a big bonus and the gun jockey will be going for his fourth win in the race.

16. STEEL PRINCE 

Steel Prince might just be peaking at the right time and comes into the race with a last start triumph in the Geelong Cup (2400m) under his belt. The likes of Dunaden and Americain have come out of that lead up in the last 10 years to prevail in the Melbourne Cup and the lightly raced seven-year-old loves Flemington. He announced himself with a stirring win ahead of Surprise Baby in the 2018 Andrew Ramsden and will just need luck from the wide barrier. The West Australian jockey, Willy Pike, takes the ride.

17. THE CHOSEN ONE $51

The Chosen One narrowly missed out behind Etah James in the Sydney Cup in the autumn and comes into the equation on the back of a one length 3rd behind Verry Ellleegant in the recent Caulfield Cup. Trained by the Kiwi combination of Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman, the five-year-old finished down the track in this race last year but is a Flemington winner this campaign, having picked up a 1700m race in September and if he runs up to his Caulfield Cup effort, he can land in the first four at a nice price.

18. ASHRUN $17

The Andreas Wohler-trained galloper snuck into the Cup field after his win in the recent Hotham Handicap (2500m) on Derby Day. In that race, the son of Authorized stuck his neck out at the right time and will be out to emulate the feats of Protectionist, who won for the stable in 2014. His hopes were dealt a blow after drawing barrier 24 in the 24 horse field but he represents a bit of X-factor and with luck in running he can go close to joining the likes of Shocking and Brew as winners of the 2500m race on Derby Day to score a few days later.

19. WARNING $34

South Australian Derby Tips

The Anthony and Sam Freedman-trained galloper claimed the Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington this time a year ago and has specifically been set for this race since then. He placed behind Russian Camelot in the SA Derby (2500m) earlier this year and comes in wth some handy lead up form, having run 6th in the Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington before struggling at the unique Caulfield circuit when 12th in the Caulfield Cup. He should be better suited back at Flemington but does look to be a tier or two behind the best here.

20. ETAH JAMES $126

One of three in the race for the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace stable, Etah James is one of the longshot runners and it is hard to see her troubling these. The eight-year-old is one of three mares in the race and booked her ticket with a win in the Sydney Cup (3200m) earlier this year. She was 4th in the Moonee Valley Cup and roughie backers should consider that she can stay all day. But from barrier 22, she has her work cut out.

21. TIGER MOTH $8

The race favourite ticks plenty of boxes as a northern hemisphere three-year-old, which was the blueprint for the 2017 and 2018 edition of this race. A son of Galileo, it is remarkable to think that he heads in with just four starts under his belt, winning two of those and placing in the other two. He claimed the Kilternan Stakes (2414m) in devastating fashion back in September, while at his start prior he was a narrow runner-up behind Santiago in the Irish Derby (2414m). He has plenty of upside and carries just 52.5kg with the three-time Melbouren Cup winning jockey, Kerrin McEvoy to ride. The downside is that he has drawn barrier 23 but Vow And Declare jumped from a similar position last year and he has the class to get the job done.

22. OCEANEX $71

The Mick Price-trained galloper booked her ticket into the Melbourne Cup with a win in the Andrew Ramsden Stakes (2800m) ahead of King Of Leogrance earlier this year and struggled at her three runs earlier this preparation before running 3rd behind Miami Bound in the Moonee Valley Cup (2500m). I suspect that form is inferior to some of the other lead ups but Prince Of Penzance came out of that race in 2015 before saluting at Flemington and she seems to grow another leg at headquarters, having won three of five at the track. Any rain would be a bonus and she will be ridden by Dean Yendall with that pair drawing barrier 17.

23. MIAMI BOUND $34

VRC Kennedy Oaks

Last year’s VRC Oaks (2500m) winner stamped her credentials for the race that stops a nation with a recent win in the Moonee Valley Cup (2500m). In the lead up race on Cox Plate day she thrived on the Soft conditions and looped the field before cruising home to win by more than two lengths. The daughter of Reliable Man can stay all day and is suited to the Flemington track. She is not without a chance at the $34 quote.

24. PERSAN $51

A lightweight contender for the Maher and Eustace team, Persan claimed the recent Bart Cummings (2500m) at Flemington and announced himself with a series of wins over the winter at the venue. The four-year-old is at the odds of $51 after the barrier draw and is not considered to be a huge chance but carries little weight and is on the up, while he is in good hands.

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