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Melbourne Cup preview

 Nov 4 2013

Have you ever tried to buy a mobile phone plan, or health insurance? It's enough to do your head in. It's a labyrinthine maze of options and variables. Now say hello to the 2013 Melbourne Cup!

If you thought mobile plans and health insurance were hard work, picking the winner of this year's Cup is a dart-board experience. However, one factor will influence the result more than the rest in the myriad of variables. It's not weight, it's not distance, and it's not barrier draw. Pace will determine the winner. Who will lead the race and how fast will they go? Answer these questions and you could make a big buck.

It's the question that every jockey and trainer with a runner tomorrow is trying to answer. There have even been unfair suggestions that team-tactics could play a role in determining the pace of the race. And here's the kicker – it's a question that cannot be answered until after you've had your bet! Big help eh?

Melbourne Cup barrier draws make interesting media-fodder, but their importance is overstated, until after the starting gates fly. History says you can win from any barrier (except gate 18 – by some quirk of fate it's still a maiden), and the plus or minus of a particular gate is exposed by the pace of the race. Slow pace can be a nightmare for horses drawn wide, and fast pace can render inside draws terrifying as waves of attackers force you further and further back in the ruck.

The weight difference between the top-weighted horse and the bottom-weight in the Cup has halved over the years, and now weight is less of a factor. With the influence of the "northern raiders" coming down from Europe, and the number of Australian based former-Europeans in the Cup, most of the runners are now 3200m-capable, so distance is less important than it once was.

With the track likely to be perfect, and history reset in 1993 when Vintage Crop came from Ireland and turned the Cup on its head, our trusty, old adages for picking the winner have diluted.

There are still a few rules of thumb that I stick to. I have a long-held view that horses win the Melbourne Cup at their first try. If they fail once, I never tip them again in the Cup. Although it's not infallible, it has served me well. The other stat I like is the fact that of the 80 foreign based horses to run in the Cup since 1993, only Vintage Crop has won without racing in Australia before the great Tuesday. I like to see them run here first.

Adding all my rules and factors, taking a guess at the pace, and with a healthy study of my tea-leaves, I have come up with Dandino ($11) as my top pick. His run in the Caulfield Cup was excellent, and his for since joining Marco Botti's yard is fantastic. I think Sea Moon ($15) is the best for Team Williams. I like his prep, and he is a very classy horse. I'm putting Hawkespur ($15) in to fly the Aussie flag – his run in the Caulfield Cup was top-class and he was unlucky not to be in the photo.

If you're taking a first-four, which is a great option capable of paying a fortune, I'd add Fiorente ($7) and Simenon ($17). You could add another dozen horses and still miss it. This year's Cup is a brute. Good luck, and it's your shout if you get the first four!

By Richard Freedman

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