As we write this first article titled ‘Melbourne Cup 2019 Watch’, there are 8 months to go until the big race is on our doorstep once again.
Melbourne Cup Lead Up Races
Owners and trainers on both sides of the Tasman will be plotting and planning on how to bring their horses into contention, by winning significant qualifying races and boosting their benchmark ratings at the same time, or in some cases, win direct qualification races.
The latter race is really the last chance saloon for many horses on the fringe of trying desperately to get into the race at the eleventh hour, so we really won’t focus on that race so much, because by that stage, most of the priority contenders will have already booked their spot
There maybe other qualifying races in the picture. RV and RNSW seem to chop and change their schedule so much now it’s hard to keep up.
Lack Of Aussies
One thing we should address before diving into an assessment of the Cup so early on is this: the most notable issue concerning Australasian bred horses is their lack of representation and overall class in recent years, when compared to the European raiders.
It seems unthinkable in the modern age, where previously both Australian and New Zealand bred gallopers dominated the race, particularly up until the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
“A champion becomes a legend.”
Relive Makybe Diva’s history-making third Melbourne Cup success. pic.twitter.com/ZbVsrCr4yS
— Racing.com (@Racing) October 30, 2016
Australia in particular has focused more on short term returns with sprinting stock, that also sees them taken off the racetrack at an early age for stud duty.
Stayers it would seem, are a longer term investment, and many owners are too impatient to hang around and wait for an ROI. The one exception in recent times being Who Shot The Barman who only recently retired at the age of 9, but was a grand old stayer on both sides of the Tasman.
So back to the plotting and planning of getting a horse ready months out from the big race.
Winning The Melbourne Cup in 2019
The big trick is to put your horse into contention without drawing the magnifying glass of the VRC Handicapper.
This can happen during the course of the Spring with only a few weeks out from the race, probably less so during the preceding Autumn.
The Caulfield Cup seems to be the main lead-in race where the winner may incur a weight penalty.
Other races over distance in the Spring (like the Metropolitan Handicap and Group 2 Herbert Power Handicap) are others but if recent history is anything to go by, those races seem not to draw the same attention from the Handicapper, though Yucatan certainly caused an uproar when he won the Herbert Power last year in such dominant fashion.
Knockout perf by Aidan O’Brien’s YUCATAN IRE (new name) in 1m4f G2 Herbert Power Stakes at Caufield. 4yo GALILEO colt glided from back 1200m out & asserted 6-length lead at bend. Rider James McDonald eased him on line to keep Melbourne Cup… https://t.co/5hNOknaBim
— Susan Trevelyan-Syke (@racingint) October 19, 2018
Overall though, it depends on who wins it and what their benchmark rating is, and whether or not they have enough ‘credits’ in the bank to make the field.
The winners of other races from earlier in the year such as the Sydney Cup, Auckland Cup (both 3200m), the ATC Oaks and ATC Derby, NZ Derby, the Queensland Oaks and Queensland Derby, plus the Australasian Oaks and South Australian Derby will have weight calculations factored into their nominations along with benchmark ratings if they get to that stage.
It is the usual rite of passage for previous year’s three-year-olds to migrate into becoming mature staying types.
So too with Japanese and European races such as the Tenno Sho, Ebor Handicap and others; the VRC Handicapper will assess a horses overall rating if they are nominated, especially when it gets to the second ballot stage for the Cup.
So you can be assured that much interest will fall on VRC Handicapper Greg Carpenter when he makes his ‘weight call’ closer to the time.
Where to from here?
The Australian Cup which is on next weekend, plus the Ranvet and Tancred Stakes up at Rosehill in a few weeks time may also be of interest with horses possibly nominating for the big Cups races later in the year, but being so far out on the time line, anything can happen to a horse’s prospects, especially injury.
In past years, we’ve seen Northern Hemisphere three-year-olds get the benefit of a weight differential that when compared to Australasian horses leaves them better off in comparable weights. This has caused debate and opinion from the local racing community mostly.
The last two winners Cross Counter and Rekindling were two instances of this weight advantage.
— 7HorseRacing 🐎 (@7horseracing) November 10, 2018
When you compare a local horse like Ace High who won the VRC Derby and was placed in the ATC Derby, he was 4 to 5 kgs worse off in the weights than his European counterparts when he lined up in last years Cup. He carried 55kg, which was a significant imposte and an unfair one by our reckoning.
Sometimes mares can get a weight relief too, though we haven’t really seen a lightweight mare win since Ethereal back in 2001 and when Makybe Diva won her first cup in 2003.
So mares are an exception to the rule and last year, Youngstar (as a four-year-old mare) was rated quite well in the Cup because she was very lightly weighted and eventually finished just in behind the front finishing horses.
In our next report, we’re going to take a look at some of the possible contenders, taking into account recent nominations for the 3200 Auckland Cup and Sydney Cup, and who is possibly lining up in other notable distance races such as the Australian Cup, and also the Ranvet and Tancred Stakes.
There is also ownership movement of horses between Europe and Australia/New Zealand, so we’ll look at that too.
Some were anticipated late last year while some have occurred in recent weeks, making the overall picture very interesting.
We’ll also check in and find out what the latest is on the British Equine Influenza situation, and whether or not that will have any impact for horses travelling out of Europe as we reported a few weeks ago.
More to come in KRUZEY’s 2019 Melbourne Cup Watch Report.