The Melbourne Cup has long been a fixture of the international racing calendar, providing a whole host of legendary memories such as Vintage Crop’s win that broke the duck for international raiders, or Makybe Diva’s three timer to name just two examples. Recently international contenders have managed to find the formula to winning the Cup and staying up – along with punting on – the race that stops a nation has been a far more fruitful exercise for those from the Northern Hemisphere. This year’s edition is one of the most challenging yet, but there’s still value to be had, perhaps with these three contenders.
1) Master Of Reality
One of three in here for Lloyd Williams, he is normally a stouter stayer than one would recommend for this race but with the ground riding soft to heavy by Australian standards (Flemington was riding a Soft 7 at the end of their Derby Day on Saturday), this could end up being more of a test than most renewals. That lends an advantage on paper to the raiders here and notably Master of Reality, who has plenty going for him.
A rapid improver as a four-year-old, his form has been rock solid since the start of the season. On his seasonal debut, he landed a shock in the Vintage Crop Stakes when he got the better of subsequent Ebor winner Mustajeer (who also runs here) and then he was fourth in the Levmoss Stakes under a penalty behind three good stayers. He improved massively to then come a very close third in the Gold Cup at Ascot, when he had Cross Counter (now 4.5lbs worse off) behind and then he was third in the St Leger Trial behind Southern France and Downdraft under a penalty.
He was perhaps a little disappointing in the Irish Leger itself, but he’s much better off at the weights with Cross Counter there and perhaps the softer ground here will suit him more. One of the few horses here with genuine soft ground form, his confirmed stamina means that going forward should be ideal from stall 1 and it’s worth noting that O’Brien’s Melbourne Cup winner Rekindling had plenty of 1m6f form too.
Sticking with the Joseph O’Brien stable, Downdraft’s runs since June are extremely eye-catching. He was unlucky not to go a lot closer in the King George V Handicap at Ascot when blocked for a run at a crucial time but he quickly made up for it with a Listed double and then he gave Southern France a start in the Irish Leger trial off a slow pace, when he did well to be a clear second.
Brought down under since, he was third in the Moonee Valley Gold Cup when Hunting Horn and Mr Quickie were too quick for him but that was a fair effort on his first Australian start and he was deeply impressive in the Hotham Stakes, when he settled the contest in a matter of strides and was five lengths clear before being eased down late. That came over 12 and a half furlongs over this course on Saturday when the ground was riding soft and an Australian style 2 miles with cut could really bring out the best in him here, whilst 15 is a better draw than many in the field have for his style of running.
3) Cross Counter
Yes, he does have to carry 14lbs more than in 2018. But the manner of his victory last year – a last to first swoop in the last two furlongs – was truly outstanding and since he’s become one of the best stayers on the planet.
He won the Dubai Gold Cup in March, and he’s run extremely creditably in three of Europe’s top staying races since, finishing fourth in the Ascot Gold Cup, third in the Goodwood Cup and fourth in the Irish St Leger. We know he has the speed and stamina for this race and a draw of five ought to be perfect for him to attack if he can break well.
Crucially, he also has soft ground form thanks to his fourth in the Gold Cup, and whilst the weight is an issue, literally nothing else seems to be; It’s also not impossible to defend the Melbourne Cup, or run very well in doing so – Americain, for example was fourth defending his title in 2011 carrying 9-2.
2019 Melbourne Cup
Tuesday 5th November
UK Start Time: 4am
Live on Sky Sports Racing HD, and via Racing.com
Had the ground been better, then Magic Wand (uber consistent, high-class filly who has plenty of tactical pace and lots of form in the book), and Vow and Declare (1m7f Group 3 winner who was a good second to Mer de Glace in the Caulfield Cup) would have been the two leading choices.
The Chosen One, the winner of the 1m4f Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield last month, was ninth in the Caulfield Cup and fifth in the Hotham. He could enjoy going upto 2 miles and is a big price but he didn’t seem to love the soft ground there and he has a ton of ground to make up with Downdraft at the weights.
Constantinople was a big eye-catcher in the Caulfield Cup who should be upto going very close but the ground is a slight worry and he’s been well found in the market too. Mer De Glace is super talented but the ground is another concern for him and Finche, fourth last year, makes the most appeal of those who ran in the Caulfield Cup.
Il Paradiso has soft ground form from the beginning of his career and has been progressive, but he looked tapped for speed in the St Leger at Doncaster and others might be finishing quicker than he is. Southern France has a whole load of good form and the ground should help, although he still looks more of a grinder, and Latrobe might be one of Joesph O’Brien’s to fear.
Hunting Horn, the winner of the Moonee Valley Gold Cup, does have soft ground form from the beginning of his career, and whilst he’s going upto 2 miles for the first time, he’s never seemed to be a weak stayer and he could be underrated.
Prince of Arran has barely run a bad race but the ground is a question for him and also for Raymond Tusk in a race where no horse should be discounted.
RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK MASTER OF REALITY 1 pt ew at 16/1 with starsports.bet
BACK DOWNDRAFT 1 pt ew at 16/1 with starsports.bet
BACK CROSS COUNTER 1 pt ew at 11/1 with starsports.bet
PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 235.69 points
(excluding Political Bets posted 8 August, Premier League ante-post, Cameron Brown football bets)