Vauban might be the Melbourne Cup favourite, but it’s stablemate Absurde that’s perhaps the better bet to win the great race at Flemington on Tuesday.
As always, finding a winner in the 3200m classic is an extremely difficult task.
Form obviously has to be taken into account, but for many punters, particularly those who only bet once a year, lots of other factors and variables come into the equation.
They include the barrier draw, the saddlecloth number, the sex, age and weight of a horse, and for those desperate enough, even the colours worn by the jockey.
The strong presence of international horses only adds to the complexity of making the correct choice.
Legendary Irish trainer Willie Mullins is supremely confident in the chances of Vauban and Absurde, believing they are his ‘best chance’ of winning the Cup for the first time.
Former Courier-Mail racing editor Bart Sinclair also likes the look of both of Mullins’ hopes but would have preferred had they had some Australian form on the board.
Two happy punters are pictured at Flemington during last year’s Cup.
Jockey Mark Zahra is congratulated by his wife Elyse after riding Gold Trip to victory in the 2022 Melbourne Cup. The horse will be aiming for two in a row this year
‘You understand that they are very good stayers, but no-one knows how horses travel until they actually race here, so the ones that go straight into the race, like Mullins’ two, it’s hard to know how they have travelled,’ Sinclair said.
‘Vauban has worked very well so that encourages you, and they’re very good stayers.
‘Because they’ve got hurdle form, they’ve gone in a bit lighter at the weights, so that’s a big help, but there have been a lot of international horses that have come out here with similar reputations, and they just don’t adapt to the hard track, if it is a hard track, or coping with the travel.
‘They’re coming out of a lot cooler conditions. It’s the heat, as well as the noise from the crowd, that does throw some of the European horses off.’
Recent history suggests Vauban won’t win, with the most recent favourite to have won the Cup being Fiorente in 2013.
‘And Fiorente started at $7 so it was wide open race,’ Sinclair said.
In fact, only four Cup favourites have finished in the top three since 2006/
So if that convinces punters not to back Vauban, stablemate Absurde, who was rated a $19 shot on Monday, could very well be the wiser choice.
‘He’s the best value,’ Sinclair said.
‘He’s got a great trainer. Mullins has never won a Melbourne Cup but his horses always run well in it, and has a superstar jockey on him in Zac Purton, who will be desperate to ride a Melbourne Cup winner for the first time..’
Sinclair said it was ‘highly unusual’ that Absurde had been gelded since his last run,
‘He was over-racing in a couple of his races but they want him to relax and settle,’ he said.
Vauban (pictured on Derby Day) is the favourite this year – but the Melbourne Cup is famous for being won by unheralded horses instead of highly rated entrants
Perhaps the other top chance is Caulfield Cup winner Without A Fight, an international horse who stayed in Australia after racing in last year’s Melbourne Cup.
‘The Caulfield Cup is always a good indicator for the Melbourne Cup,’ Sinclair said.
How they’ll start
Serpentine (18) loves the speed early and having drawn barrier one will look to lead them out. Military Mission (17) and Magical Lagoon (16) will also look to set the pace early from decent barrier draws.
From those drawn wider ,Future History (21), Breakup (4) and Vow and Declare (9) would like to get around to the front of the pack. With an even spread drawn both inside and out of early speed, expect a decent pace to start off the race before the group settles.
1. Gold Trip (2)
J: James McDonald
Won the race last year and is a decent shout of doing it again. Knows the track and looked decent last start. Has to battle through top weight to get there but has the class to do it with top jockey James McDonald on board.
2. Alenquer (9)
J: Damien Oliver
Overseas jet who has failed to replicate the same form on Australian soil. Battled hard last start at Mooney Valley but never looked likely. Needs to find some form and pace today to give fan favourite jockey Damien Oliver a fourth Melbourne Cup victory and first since 2013.
3. Without A Fight (16)
J: Mark Zahra
Caulfield Cup winner is in form and a red hot chance to make it two Melbourne Cup wins in a row for jockey Mark Zahra. Struggled in the same race last year but is a different horse this go around. The overseas raider has to be one of the favourites come the jump.
Michelle Payne – the only female jockey to win the Cup after her triumph in 2015 – delivers the trophy to Flemington last Monday
Many of the racegoers who hit Flemington every November are more into the fashions and social side of the Cup, which sees many Aussies place their only bet of the year
4. Breakup (18)
J: Kohei Matsuyama
Beaten by Without a Fight for the Caulfield Cup but was always aiming for the 3200m Melbourne Cup for which he is better suited. The Japanese stayer will have to push from the wide barrier draw, but those that know say that he is a decent shout at decent odds.
5. Vauban (3)
J: Ryan Moore
The odds on favourite at the time of writing coming into the race fresh from a break and was in dazzling form before the rest. Loves the distance having at least placed in every race over the trip, can see why the punters are on board especially with the dream draw of barrier 3.
6. Soulcombe (4)
J: Joao Moreira
Finished over five lengths behind in the Caulfield Cup but is a fan of the track at Flemington. A better horse than recent form and current weight suggest which gives him a chance to play a part late. Will settle back and hope to make ground late.
7. Absurde (8)
J: Zac Purton
Winner last up in the UK, the Irish horse is hoping to show the same form here before he crossed the Atlantic. Was beaten easily by pre-race favourite Vauban a few meets back and needs to really find something to get the win here.
8. Right You Are (15)
J: John Allen
Showed a bit in the Caulfield Cup when finishing fifth and has had decent form leading up. Can he run out the extra metres for the two miles is the big question especially from a pretty wide draw.
9. Vow And Declare (19)
J: Billy Egan
Proven winner on the day having taken home the Melbourne Cup back in 2019 so not without a chance. A couple of second place in his last two races shows he isn’t in bad form either, so will want to put on a show on his home track.
10. Cleveland (23)
J: Michael Dee
SCRATCHED. A last start winner, Cleveland is hoping to keep the party going in the big one. A big step up in class for this race though means he will have to be at his absolute best and get a dream run from out wide.
11. Ashrun (11)
J: Kerrin Mcevoy
Only three races back from a nearly three-year spell, Ashrun should have plenty of fuel in the legs. Finished second in his last start so form isn’t bad, though the Geelong Cup has lost some of its reputation of being a good Melbourne Cup gauge in recent years.
12. Daqiansweet Junior (12)
J: Daniel Stackhouse
Hasn’t had the greatest preparation leading up to the big one and the odds show it. Stranger things have happened in the Cup before though and 3200m is right in his wheelhouse. Ran well last year as a $61 roughie.
13. Okita Soushi (20)
J: Dylan Gibbons
Finished 12th in the Caulfield Cup in a disappointing run which has raised questions about Okita Soushi’s class. Has nine places in 13 career starts so knows how to compete at the finish, but will be paying plenty.
14. Sheraz (22)
J: Beau Mertens
A bit of an outsider stepping up in class and not expected to threaten. Was beaten rather convincingly by Cleveland last start and the French-bred gelding hasn’t won in 12 starts in Australia.
15. Lastotchka (21)
J: Craig Williams
Reasonably backed mare who is making her Australian debut in the Cup. Won last start at Longchamp and was in excellent form before the trip to Aus. Proven Group 1 winner Craig Williams is on board and hoping to add a second Melbourne Cup to his resume.
16. Magical Lagoon (7)
J: Mark Du Plessis
Not fancied to do much in the race, Magical Lagoon may need a drink from her namesake pre-race to have a real chance. Went out hard early in the recent Geelong Cup but was overrun by lesser horses than she will face here.
17. Military Mission (5)
J: Rachel King
Has won two of his last three starts and his last five starts have all been over 2000m. Has never travelled 3200m before but those previous runs should hold Military Mission in good stead. Low weight will also help.
18. Serpentine (1)
J: Jye McNeil
Likes to get out early and drew barrier one which will help him find his spot and settle in. Having said that, got the dream run last year and fell off late, but will have 7kg less on his back this go around.
19. Virtuous Circle (6)
J: Craig Newitt
Odds would say look elsewhere and Virtous Circle’s recent form would suggest the same. Struggled against a weaker field in Geelong when it was one of the favourites.
20. More Felons (24)
J: Jamie Kah
Was right in the thick of things at the recent Geelong Cup finishing fifth, but only a length behind winner Amade. Drops down a few kilos here and has jet jockey Jamie Kah set to bring him home.
21. Future History (13)
J: Hollie Doyle
In some spectacular form, finishing no worst then third in any of his last five starts and the odds back that form up. It is a bit of a step up in class for the gelding however so will find things a touch tougher here.
22. Interpretation (17)
J: Teo Nugent
Won last time out at Bendigo but will be facing a different calibre of competition here. Not a rank outsider by any means but needs some luck to go his way. Ran last year and was disappointing.
23. Kalapour (14)
J: Zac Lloyd
Really impressed when leading all the way on Saturday at the same track, so has some fanciers. Is a step up in class but cant fault the form and fitness coming in following the win on the weekend.
24. True Marvel (10)
J: Ben Thompson
True Marvel has seen much love leading in remaining at $101 odds without fluctuating in the lead up. Likes the distance but isn’t expected to do much in a field full of higher rated runners.
The favourites: 5- Vauban, 3- Without A Fight, 6- Gold Trip
Smokey: 20- More Felons
Chance to shock: 12- Daqiansweet Junior