2020 Melbourne Cup: Stats That Matter

Make no mistake about it, this is one of the more notoriously difficult thoroughbred races to correctly tip in the world; a large field, ever-changing conditions, a combination of northern and southern hemisphere horses, and a lot of prize money on the line - the Melbourne Cup truly is a race that stops the nation. 

The Melbourne Cup is run over 3200m - it is a battle of sheer endurance for the horse, but mental stamina for the jockey. Unlike other races, the two miles gives both horse and hoop the opportunity to find a rhythm, settle, and even change tactics as the race pans out. You’re never quite out of it in these types of staying races, and history says that’s right on the money. 

While the race itself was first run in 1861, it didn’t become a recognised Group 1 race until 1979 - that’s almost a century later. The Cup oozes prestige and credibility, but it’s no longer the race it once was. Instead, European and Japanese raiders have flocked to Flemington in a bid to etch their name into history, leaving little room for the local horse to fledge itself on Australia’s biggest racing stage.

With that said, last year was a brilliant success story. Arguably Australia’s most charismatic and loved jockeys, Craig Williams, rode his very first Melbourne Cup winner on Aussie horse Vow and Declare for local trainer Danny O’Brien - making it a brilliant Aussie story given the race has been so often claimed by the internationals in recent years.

Can another local do it again, or will it be a raider?

Spring Carnival horse racing: How to use the Cheat Sheet

HOW TO PICK A WINNER

First up, its best to be sceptical around falling for common traps like betting favouritism, top-weights, bias against international runners and horses who have previously experienced defeat in this race. Which all seems pretty straightforward……..

But what about Rekindling and Cross Counter? The pair both won the Cup in 2017 and 2018 respectively as three-year-olds who indeed hadn’t previously raced in Australia. But I’d consider them more four-year-olds at the time given the difference in northern and southern hemisphere racing seasons - the NH horses have six months extra racing on the SH horses. 

RACE PRO: 2020 Melbourne Cup

Of the horses to jump on Tuesday who hasn’t raced in Australia, those are Stratum Albion and Tiger Moth, the latter in fact boasts a very distinct profile to 2017 winner, Rekindling. 

“WEIGHT” A SECOND

As for the toppy, it’s interesting to note that Makybe Diva is the only galloper to win in the No.1 saddlecloth since Rising Fast in 1954, and not since Americain in 2011 has a top-weighted horse even finished in the first four.

That means treating one of the big fancies in Anthony Van Dyck with some trepidation. While the Aidan O’Brien Northern Hemisphere hope was good enough to finish second at the Caulfield Cup, he will be carrying 58.5kgs while he’s never before raced beyond 2400m. 

And as for the beaten brigade, I mentioned earlier to be cautious of runners who’ve previously experienced a loss in the cup. Since 1990, only two horses - Brew and Fiorente - actually won the Melbourne Cup having previously been beaten. Brew finished 10th in 1999 before being first past the post twelve months later, while in 2011, Fiorente galloped to second-placed before returning in 2012 to go one better.

The odds tell me that while star jockey Jamie Kah will take the reins of the impressive Prince Of Arran, its unclear whether it’s capable of a Fiorente-like return from second to first in as many years. I’ll however happily be proven wrong if it means another female jock holding up the Melbourne Cup later on Tuesday afternoon. #yeahthegirls

It also means that along with Prince Of Arran it might be best to be cautious with runners such as Master Of Reality, Finche, The Chosen One, Twilight Payment and Mustajeer.

WHAT ABOUT THE FAVOURITES? 

To be a favourite in the Melbourne Cup is to bestow the honour of the poison chalice. Horsemen are creatures of habit, they understand media street comes with the gig, but they prefer to stay out of it where possible. To be a favourite in the Melbourne Cup - where the entire nation becomes obsessed with horse racing for the week - it becomes a bit of a distraction for the jockey and the stable - not exactly the horse!

But my point is, Fiorente in 2012 and Makybe Divia (2004 and 2005) have actually won as favourites. Nobody else has since 1990. 

On that fact alone, current favourite Tiger Moth is a runner who will have to overcome some pretty dominant trends. The Irish horse might however be an exception to the rule owing to its pedigree. While the Aidan O’Brien-trained raider has had just four career starts, and whilst raw, he commands respect. By Galileo, Tiger Moth’s first venture outside of the Emerald Isle will interesting, but he should have no issues staying the distance. 

…AND THE LONG SHOTS? 

It's never the worst idea to put in a little insurance around horses with long odds. In fact, it just happened to be my birthday on Cup Day in 2015 when Michelle Payne famously piloted Prince of Penzance to victory having opened at $151. Despite all the attention bestowed upon the favourites, the Melbourne Cup does have a knack of throwing up some terrific long-shot stories.

In saying that, on the day of the race, only two horses in the last twenty years have won who’ve been at odds great than $20. Viewed ($41) and Prince Of Penzance ($101). 

With that in mind, it could be a good idea to treat long-shot runners such as Persan, Steel Prince, Miami Bound, Stratum Albion, King of Leogrance, Oceanexand Etah James with kid gloves ahead of the big race. They’re all beyond the $20 mark and have understandable queries regarding their Melbourne Cup bonafides.

THE CUPS DOUBLE 

Verry Ellegant will become the 101st horse to attempt the Caulfield Cup/Melbourne Cup double when she jumps on Tuesday afternoon. This is a feat which has not been achieved since Ethereal saluted in 2001. 

Some used to think that the Caulfield Cup was a solid form guide to the Melbourne Cup, but it’s proven the opposite in recent times. In fact, only Viewed and Johannes Vermeer have managed to place in the Melbourne Cup off the back of their Caulfield Cup runs. 

With that bit of history in mind, it might be prudent to treat the brilliant Verry Ellegant carefully. Others entering the Melbourne Cup carrying the now suspicious Caulfield Cup form include Avilius, Vow and Declare, Mustajeer, Dashing Willoughby, Finche, Prince of Arran, The Chosen One and Warning.

LET’S TALK ABOUT WEIGHT AGAIN

For reference, the last five winners have each carried 52kg, 51kg, 51.5kg, 52kg and 53kg respectively. With that as a guide, $9.5 fancy and Cox Plate conqueror Sir Dragonet enters with some doubts.  

An interesting runner who fits the weight criteria despite its $21 price is Ashrun. Carrying just 53kgs, the 4yo stallion came from last to claim victory in Saturday’s Lexus Stakes carrying 61kg no less. He has run the 3000m before, while his form at the distance is strong having previously won the Prix de Reux (2500m). He’ll run out the 3200m with ease while the drop-down to 53kgs is tantalising should you be looking for a point of difference in the race. 

One more to keep an eye on is Russian Camelot. While he didn’t take on the Caulfield Cup, he had a super Cox Plate, was right on speed and placed behind two well-regarded internationals. A natural stayer who’ll jump from barrier 16, he'll enjoy the services of having the legendary Damien Oliver on board. The youngster's is well worth your attention, and possibly hard-earned investment. He’ll be taking just 53.5 kgs into the race which is a drop from what he lugged around in the Cox Plate. 

IN CLOSING

It doesn’t get much better than this. 24 horses, cruising around Royal Flemington over the the famous 3200m course in one of the world’s most prestigious staying events. Stick with Stats Insider throughout the day for all their insights into betting markets and where some value might be uncovered. But most importantly, enjoy the day!

Melbourne Cup: Race 7, Flemington

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Paige Cardona

Paige Cardona is a widely-acclaimed sportswriter who has formerly held journalism and content roles with Fox Sports Australia, Fox Footy, and Racing Victoria. Paige specialises in AFL, Thoroughbred Racing, Football and American Sports and has established a large following from her character-driven, emotionally-engaging storytelling that captures a wide audience. You can follow her on twitter @paigecardona. 

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