Picking the winner of any horse race can be difficult, but picking the winner of the Melbourne Cup is a real challenge. There is normally a full field of 24 horses, they come from different states and different countries, and they can have wildly different preparations that make it really difficult to try to compare one horse with another.
Looking at past winners of the Cup can give a guide to what to look for when studying the form. Look for horses that have run well in the Turnbull (4½ weeks before), the Caulfield Cup (2½ weeks before) and the Geelong Cup (2 weeks before). Also look at horses that have run in the Cox Plate (1½ weeks before) and the Lexus and the Mackinnon Stakes (both 3 days before). Sometimes horses have to race 3 days before to make sure they get a spot in the Cup field. Look for horses that were still running strongly at the end of those races, and didn’t tail off.
Age and Gender
Four and five year-olds have had most success at winning the Cup, and six year-olds have the next best success. Stallions have the best strike rate, followed by geldings. Not many mares win, but in some years there are no mares running. Three-year-olds rarely tackle such a long distance, and the last three-year-old to win was Skipton in 1941. The last eight-year-old to win was Catalogue in 1938.
Barriers and Weight
In a race over 2 miles, barriers are not terribly important. Barriers 11 and 14 have produced more winners than most, but it is not statistically significant. Never be put off a horse because it has drawn a “bad” barrier in the Cup. Weight is very important as it takes a lot of stamina to lug a big weight around the 2 mile distance. Most horses will have run in a weight-for-age race in their lead-up preparation. Compare the weight they carried at WFA to their handicap weight in the cup. Your best hope is a horse carrying 2 kg or more under WFA. Of course there are always exceptions – when Makybe Diva won her 3rd Cup she carried 2.5 kg over WFA.
Jockey and Trainer
Any jockey on a Melbourne Cup horse is there because he is good at his job or has a better knowledge of his mount than any other. Pick a jockey who appears to be on a winning streak in the month leading up to the big one. Trainers are not all equal and Bart Cummings had made this race his own with an amazing 12 wins. He now trains in conjunction with grandson James and he will try his hardest to make sure his grandson carries on the family tradition. Look to Peter Moody to train a winner over the next decade – he has done his apprenticeship with the best trainers Australia has ever had.
Overseas horses have had good success at winning or placing in the Melbourne Cup. It costs a lot of time and money to get a horse through quarantine to race here, so overseas trainers only bring their best. Many European horses are used to tiny fields and can be put off by the tight racing in the big field and the roar of the Flemington crowds. If they run well in the Geelong Cup they normally go well on the first Tuesday in November.
You want an in-form horse with a light-weight with an in-form jockey and successful trainer. If that sounds like too much work then just put your lucky numbers in a boxed trifecta. If they come up you will win big!