Back to Expert Comment

Andrew Hawkins delivers Sky Racing's horse-by-horse preview of the 2019 Melbourne Cup.

 Nov 4 2019

The Melbourne Cup is here once again and, as always, the race is on to find the winner before the 24-horse field bursts from the gates at 3pm on the first Tuesday in November.

As Sky Racing’s international presenter, I have been in a fortunate position to have seen the imports and visitors racing all year long while covering the action from abroad, and all roads have led to the Flemington 3200m over the past 12 months.

Before we look at each of the horses individually, here are five general talking points worth keeping in mind when it comes to finding the winner on Tuesday.

SPEED MAP

It’s always difficult to figure out where these horses will end up settling first time past the post, and yet it is such a crucial factor in trying to determine who wins the Melbourne Cup each year. It’s even more difficult this year with trainer Aidan O’Brien holding such a key through Magic Wand, Hunting Horn and Il Paradiso. A very rudimentary speed map suggests those that should enjoy the best trip around are Prince Of Arran, Constantinople, Raymond Tusk, Mer De Glace, Mustajeer and Cross Counter. Of course, as the Caulfield Cup demonstrated, it can also be a curse to be tucked away and most of those listed will want clear galloping room so it could be quite the interesting affair tactically.

WEIGHTS

The Melbourne Cup is still a handicap, but the evolution of the race has seen the weights become far more compressed. Over the last two decades, those down in the weights have been asked to carry more while those up in the weights aren't given the imposts they once were. The prospect of carrying topweight is not the negative it once was. This is crucial.

FIRST-UP IN AUSTRALIA

Since Vintage Crop won the Melbourne Cup at his first run in Australia in 1993, it had been seen as an advantage to have a run down under first before tackling the Cup. This was touted as gospel, even though the statistics showed that more internationals had finished in the placings without a lead-up run in Australia than by stepping out for the first time. After Cross Counter and Marmelo ran 1-2 fresh off the plane last year, coming 12 months after Rekindling won first time out in Melbourne, maybe that "truth" may finally be put to bed.

EUROPEAN THREE-YEAR-OLDS

The last two winners of the Melbourne Cup, Rekindling and Cross Counter, have won as European three-year-olds. That has resulted in handicapper Greg Carpenter taking a new approach with the two European youngsters in this year's race, Constantinople and Il Paradiso, with both receiving a higher weight than they would have done in previous years. That said, European three-year-olds have tackled the race without success before - Mahler (3rd, 2007), Alessandro Volta (20th, 2008), Tres Blue (22nd, 2013) and Bondi Beach (16th, 2015) all ran before Rekindling and Cross Counter. The European three-year-olds have generally been weak this season and it may pay to avoid falling into the hype about either Constantinople or Il Paradiso simply because of their age. 

WEATHER

The track continued to deteriorate throughout Derby Day, going from a Soft 5 for the opener to end as a Soft 7, bordering on a Heavy 8. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the track will get enough respite to improve markedly. Many of these visitors have made the trip searching for a firm surface, so there might be a few disappointed connections should the track not improve. That said, generally, a European "soft" is deeper than an Australian "soft" and so they should be treated differently. If it is genuinely soft or heavy, the likes of Southern France, Mustajeer, Twilight Payment, Sound and Il Paradiso probably deserve greater respect.

With that being said, here’s a look at each of the 24 runners in this year’s Lexus Melbourne Cup:

1. CROSS COUNTER (5)

Jockey: James Doyle

Trainer: Charlie Appleby

Weight: 57.5kg

Why He Can Win: Horses don't win the Melbourne Cup in the manner in which he did last year - it was outstanding. Should be suited by a return to Australian conditions, with a more favourable race shape likely to fall his way here. Even with more weight to carry, he does look fairly handicapped when compared to others in the field on the balance of his form. In fact, he almost looks a forgotten contender.

Predicted Finishing Position: 4th

2. MER DE GLACE (2)

Jockey: Damian Lane

Trainer: Hisashi Shimizu

Weight: 56kg

Why He Can Win: On his Japanese racing style, he always looked a horse that would be better suited to Flemington than around the sometimes awkward bends at Caulfield. He was the beneficiary of a good Damian Lane ride to get him around Caulfield, but Flemington should be much more to his liking. He travels so well through his races before unleashing a terrific turn of foot, a real asset for a Melbourne Cup. He should be unleashing late with a powerful burst.

Predicted Finishing Position: 1st

3. MASTER OF REALITY (1)

Jockey: Frankie Dettori

Trainer: Joseph O’Brien

Weight: 55.5kg

Why He Can Win: Owner Lloyd Williams wants to win the Melbourne Cup more than any other race and his horses are primed for this event. Joseph O'Brien is proving a gun trainer at such a young age - so much so that he may even surpass the feats of his legendary father in time - and Frankie Dettori is riding as well as ever at the age of 48, having what he has labelled "my best year ever". The trip is no concern.

Predicted Finishing Position: 20th

4. MIRAGE DANCER (13)

Jockey: Ben Melham

Trainer: Trent Busuttin & Natalie Young

Weight: 55.5kg

Why He Can Win: He's incredibly consistent and usually puts his best foot forward. Like a lot of the Frankels, he just keeps galloping all day long and - if those physical issues stay away - then he is unlikely to lay down. Trainers Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young haven't had too many imports through their yard, but they have proven among the better handlers of stayers down under.

Predicted Finishing Position: 19th

5. SOUTHERN FRANCE (14)

Jockey: Mark Zahra

Trainer: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace

Weight: 55.5kg

Why He Can Win: On his day, he looks to have all the talent in the world. He has a similar profile to other horses that have made the trip in the past, most notably Red Cadeaux before his first trip. Reports from Werribee suggest that he has been working a treat in recent days.

Predicted Finishing Position: 12th

6. HUNTING HORN (11)

Jockey: Seamie Heffernan

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Weight: 55kg

Why He Can Win: His victory at Royal Ascot last year showed that he had a touch of class, even if it has all gone wrong since. He's well-travelled and nothing much upsets him these days. The Moonee Valley Cup form has already been franked with Downdraft winning the Hotham. Wasn't beaten too far in races like the Eclipse, the King George and the Irish Champion Stakes, despite being given no hope. Well-weighted on 55kg, it seems.

Predicted Finishing Position: 13th

7. LATROBE (22)

Jockey: James McDonald

Trainer: Joseph O’Brien

Weight: 55kg

Why He Can Win: As with the other Lloyd Williams-owned gallopers, he deserves respect on that basis alone. The booking of James McDonald is a big tick in itself, as there are few better riders in the southern hemisphere and it is only a matter of time before he adds a Melbourne Cup. His Mackinnon effort shows that he has enough of a liking for Flemington.

Predicted Finishing Position: 18th

8. MUSTAJEER (6)

Jockey: Damien Oliver

Trainer: Kris Lees

Weight: 55kg

Why He Can Win: Few men know what it takes to win the Melbourne Cup quite like Damien Oliver, who is a three-time winner with Doriemus (1995), Media Puzzle (2002) and Fiorente (2013). The Ebor was worth a million pounds for the first time this year and it attracted probably the best field it has in quite some time. He looks to have had the proper grounding for a Melbourne Cup and his new owners Australian Bloodstock, particularly their principals Luke Murrell and Jamie Lovett, have proven time and time again they have an eye for the right horse for Australian conditions. His Caulfield Cup run was exactly what you would have hoped to see. Perfectly drawn here too.

Predicted Finishing Position: 8th

9. ROSTROPOVICH (12)

Jockey: Dwayne Dunn

Trainer: David & Ben Hayes & Tom Dabernig

Weight: 55kg

Why He Can Win: Ran fifth last year when still looking far from the finished product. The Lindsay Park team will finally have a better handle of him having now had him all year and David Hayes is a master at having these horses peak on Cup day.

Predicted Finishing Position: 22nd

10. TWILIGHT PAYMENT (19)

Jockey: Pat Cosgrave

Trainer: Joseph O’Brien

Weight: 55kg

Why He Can Win: Joseph O'Brien has already proven capable of winning a Melbourne Cup with Rekindling in 2017. His consistency over a number of seasons reads well in the form book. He has form tied through so many of the principals here, as well as some of the better stayers in Europe in recent years.

Predicted Finishing Position: 23rd

11. FINCHE (4)

Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy

Trainer: Chris Waller

Weight: 54kg

Why He Can Win: If you'd asked for one horse last year that was likely to be back in 12 months to tackle this race, it was Finche. He's looked one of the better Melbourne Cup hopes for a year. Clearly loves Flemington, having had two starts at the track for a fourth in last year's Cup and his second in the Turnbull. Kerrin McEvoy has made the Cup his own in recent years, winning it in 2016 with Almandin and last year on Cross Counter to go with his win on Brew in 2000. Trainer Chris Waller is arguably the country's leading trainer of stayers and has been having a charmed run of late.

Predicted Finishing Position: 7th

12. PRINCE OF ARRAN (8)

Jockey: Michael Walker

Trainer: Charlie Fellowes

Weight: 54kg

Why He Can Win: Take any horse to a new environment and there is a chance that something will click. That said, there is nothing quite like Prince Of Arran and his affinity for Australia. For whatever reason, he simply loves it down here. He doesn't have to do the quick back-up this year like he did last year and Geelong Cup winners have done well in this race in recent years. If anything, he is probably the one horse who is best handicapped in here.

Predicted Finishing Position: 5th

13. RAYMOND TUSK (3)

Jockey: Jamie Spencer

Trainer: Richard Hannon

Weight: 54kg

Why He Can Win: Although he only has a short, sharp turn of foot, it can be lethal if unleashed at the right time. His form reads well, even without winning this year, while the Ebor effort for mine pointed to a big effort in the Melbourne Cup. Looks set to be suited by Australian conditions.

Predicted Finishing Position: 2nd

14. DOWNDRAFT (15)

Jockey: John Allen

Trainer: Joseph O’Brien

Weight: 53.5kg

Why He Can Win: Even if it wasn't the strongest Hotham, to win with 59kg in the manner that he did was outstanding. No horse has carried 59kg to win the Hotham since 1957. Since the turn of the century, those that have carried a big weight (56.5kg or more) in the Hotham and backed up in the Melbourne Cup have a great record: Prince Of Arran (3rd), Excess Knowledge (7th), Signoff (4th), Kelinni (4th), Maybe Better (3rd) and Brew (1st). Drops 5.5kg and looks right on song. Peaking at the right time and he's had the handicap grounding in the UK and Ireland that often bodes well for a race like the Cup.

Predicted Finishing Position: 3rd

15. MAGIC WAND (24)

Jockey: Ryan Moore

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Weight: 53.5kg

Why She Can Win: She brings a hint of class and you'd rarely see a mare of her calibre sneak in with 53.5kg, particularly not in this day and age. She does have tactical speed and she does look as though she could be suited to Australian conditions if given the chance to adapt. Her trainer Aidan O'Brien is one of the world's best, while jockey Ryan Moore has already won a Melbourne Cup with Protectionist in 2014.

Predicted Finishing Position: 14th

16. NEUFBOSC (23)

Jockey: Luke Nolen

Trainer: David & Ben Hayes & Tom Dabernig

Weight: 53.5kg

Why He Can Win: Could improve up to 3200m. Should appreciate a more positive ride here. David Hayes knows what it takes to prepare a Melbourne Cup winner, having scored with Jeune in 1994.

Predicted Finishing Position: 24th

17. SOUND (10)

Jockey: James Winks

Trainer: Michael Moroney

Weight: 53.5kg

Why He Can Win: His form this spring is better than it looks on paper. He's coming into form at the right time and should be peaking third-up here to 3200m. No issues with the trip at all. Trainer Mike Moroney won a Melbourne Cup with Brew in 2000.

Predicted Finishing Position: 21st

18. SURPRISE BABY (20)

Jockey: Jordan Childs

Trainer: Paul Preusker

Weight: 53.5kg

Why He Can Win: The Bart Cummings in recent years has been a good form reference for this race and he was one of the more impressive winners in recent times. It's so rare for an Australian horse to enter with his sort of profile and still look to have upside, too. Looks set to peak here.

Predicted Finishing Position: 6th

19. CONSTANTINOPLE (7)

Jockey: Joao Moreira

Trainer: David & Ben Hayes & Tom Dabernig

Weight: 52.5kg

Why He Can Win: For years, the easiest way to find the Melbourne Cup winner was to look for the "flashing light" run in the Caulfield Cup. While plenty of horses were luckless, he was the one that stood out. With a clear passage, it's possible - if not likely - he would have troubled Mer De Glace and so that form must be respected. Obviously, David Hayes has won a Melbourne Cup before with an import - Jeune in 1994 - while Hong Kong-based Brazilian Joao Moreira, the "Magic Man", is rightfully considered one of the world's premier riders. Gets the perfect draw here.

Predicted Finishing Position: 15th

20. IL PARADISO (17)

Jockey: Wayne Lordan

Trainer:  Aidan O’Brien

Weight: 52.5kg

Why He Can Win: He still has upside and he looks rather unexposed. His trainer Aidan O'Brien is a master, winning so many of the world's great races, and it looks only a matter of time before he adds a Melbourne Cup to his resume.

Predicted Finishing Position: 17th

21. STEEL PRINCE (16)

Jockey: Brett Prebble

Trainer: Anthony Freedman

Weight: 52.5kg

Why He Can Win: Having secured his berth in this race in May, the stable has been able to give him a quiet preparation leading into the Cup. He's clearly going to be peaking here and he has showed his liking for Flemington. Anthony Freedman may not officially have a Melbourne Cup to his name, but with his brothers, he was intimately involved in the Cup wins of Tawrrific (1989), Subzero (1992), Doriemus (1995) and Makybe Diva (2004, 2005). Jockey Brett Prebble knows what it takes too, having won aboard Green Moon in 2012. Gets in well at the weights.

Predicted Finishing Position: 10th

22. THE CHOSEN ONE (18)

Jockey: Tim Clark

Trainer: Murray Baker & Andrew Forsman

Weight: 52kg

Why He Can Win: Murray Baker hasn't had a Melbourne Cup winner, but he did finish second with The Phantom in 1990 and he is known as an astute handler of stayers. He's had a very traditional preparation and looks to be one of the closest adherents to the Bart Cummings philosophy of 10,000 metres and a race on the Saturday before.

Predicted Finishing Position: 16th

23. VOW AND DECLARE (21)

Jockey: Craig Williams

Trainer: Danny O’Brien

Weight: 52kg

Why He Can Win: Has had an unorthodox preparation for an Australian galloper but has also been the one that has been the most eye-catching through the traditional lead-ups. Yet to race at 3200m but his win at 3000m earlier this year gives hope that he should see it out. Craig Williams remains one of the best riders yet to win a Melbourne Cup.

Predicted Finishing Position: 9th

24. YOUNGSTAR (9)

Jockey: Tommy Berry

Trainer: Chris Waller

Weight: 52kg

Why She Can Win: Chris Waller is as good a trainer of stayers as you will find in Australia and he has given Youngstar a fairly traditional campaign. She's been building up well and should be peaking here. She showed last year that she wasn't far off being a contender in this spot.

Predicted Finishing Position: 11th

SELECTIONS

2. MER DE GLACE

13. RAYMOND TUSK

14. DOWNDRAFT

1. CROSS COUNTER



Andrew Hawkins

 Email to friend   

       

Send to friend

Andrew Hawkins delivers Sky Racing's horse-by-horse preview of the 2019 Melbourne Cup.

Your Name *
Your Email *
Friend's Name *
Friend's Email *

Racing Search

Live Racing

International Racing

Upcoming International Racing on Sky

Saturday 23rd

HAYDOCK PARK
G1 - The Betfair Steeple Chase (class 1)

Sunday 24th

TOKYO
G1 - Japan Cup

Saturday 30th

TURFFONTEIN (D/E)
G1 - Sansui Summer Cup

NEWCASTLE
G1 - The Fighting Fifth Hurdle Race (class 1)

Sunday 1st

FAIRYHOUSE
G1 - Bar One Royal Bond Nov Hdle

View Sky International

Form Guide

Sports

Connect