Melbourne Cup Preview
The big race is not as big this year but it's here and for so many reasons other than the race itself - we should celebrate it as if its the best race we'll ever see.
Melbourne, Victoria and most of the world has done things tougher than any point in the past century - and hopefully the next - so the great race will stop the nation for all the right reasons come 3pm sharp on Tuesday afternoon.
The imports are not here en masse. Europeans owned the podium in the 2020 edition, with Twilight Payment winning the $7,750,000 race thanks to a bold and perfectly-timed Jye McNeil ride.
Northern Hemisphere three-year-old Tiger Moth ran a dashing race in 2nd, whilst Cup warrior Prince of Arran scored another placing in the big one.
Persan was the first Aussie home in fifth, with Kiwi The Chosen One in fourth.
This year, COVID and a raft of strict new rules see only a few international raiders arrive for a crack at our great staying test.
Ten foreigners competed last year, with just five competing in the 2021 Cup, with Pondus and Twilight Payment returning for Team Williams.
I'm a huge advocate for the internationalisation of the race.
How can we claim our spring carnival is among the best in the world if world-class horses do not travel to compete? Sure, Incentivise may well prove to world-class, but after him Verry Elleegant is about the only horse who can make such a claim of being as good as any in world racing.
The hoops that Racing Victoria have placed in front of these travellers will need to be reconsidered with so much noise coming back from across the globe about the excessiveness of the restrictions.
Anyhow, onto Tuesday's big one.
24 horses enter but just one emerges as a household name in Aussie homes. Once-a-year punters will arrive in their thousands and thousands to get involved in the party of the Melbourne Cup - especially after what Melbournians have endured across 2020 and for most of 2021.
I'm breaking the horses down into contenders, knockouts and little hopers. Hopefully a no-hoper can prove me wrong (again) and we can see yet another rags to riches Melbourne Cup fairytale.
CONTENDERS 1 TWILIGHT PAYMENT - The reigning champion returns for another tilt and whilst he surprised so many with his dashing front-running display last year, it seems many have again dismissed his chances of going back-to-back.
The weight rises but so has his European form and in a race where the class is beneath what he beat last year, I give him an almighty chance of upending them again and going back-to-back.
2 INCENTIVISE - His three Group 1 victories this spring have been stunning for various reasons. Least of all the Caulfield Cup where he demolished them. Them being a modest bunch which is why I am lukewarm, perhaps even stone cold, on taking $2.50 about him winning this race.
Trainer Peter Moody expressed all along his target was the 2400m Caulfield Cup. He also said he pulled up 'jaded' from the run - his words, not mine - so that's enough for me to steer clear.
He can win, of course, and he may well blow them away but I'd rather be any other horse each way and get a better return for a drum than him to win.
3 SPANISH MISSION - Has overcome a skin ailment to take his place. The American bred and owned stallion has quality form throughout the Northern Hemisphere.
His form behind Stradivarius looks strong and the globe-trotting looks up to this on his best.
16 GRAND PROMENADE - Taking a chance on one here. Ciaron Maher and Dave Eustace are humming at 2000m+ at the moment. Ran 2nd for Harry Coffey over 2800m in the Ramsden but has never touched the 3200m but I doubt that will be what beats him.
4 VERRY ELLEEGANT - No one doubts the class and courage of this mare but I felt last year was her best chance at winning the Cup - even though it's considerably weaker this year. Her Cox Plate run was strong, but it's been a solid campaign for this girl. 6 THE CHOSEN ONE - Whenever you've run so well in a Cup before, you deserve a level of respect but this Kiwi was average in the Caulfield Cup, which was a race that set him up so well for last year's run. He can bob back up but I'd prefer others.
12 PERSAN - A dashing and slashing run into fifth last year and the goal was this race ever since he crossed the line as the first Aussie home. He's going well and is from the right training barn but I wonder whether he's a length off being able to win a Cup. 15 PONDUS - His Bendigo Cup 2nd was immense and he's been an exciting prospect ever since. His form has been mixed this time in but we know these silks are as famous in the Cup as any so he deserves respect and it will not be a surprise to see him in the mix at the clock tower. 21 TRALEE ROSE - Not for me, but I'll respect those who are throwing her into the mix as the next surprise knockout chance. A dogged Geelong Cup win has her in winning form for trainer Symon Wilde. 22 FLOATING ARTIST - Snuck into the race but does not sneak in without a few smart cookies liking this 6YO gelding.
23 GREAT HOUSE - Won his way in with an impressive Hotham win on Stakes Day for Chris Waller. An imported horse with a nice frame and unless the Hotham effort took its toll, could be somewhere in the mix at the end of two miles. 24 SIR LUCAN - Glen Boss jumps on for Gai Waterhouse. Both know a thing or three about winning the Cup. His form can be tied in nicely in Europe but some will also tell you he's miles off what's won a Melbourne Cup in years gone by.
LITTLE HOPE 5 EXPLOSIVE JACK - Has his Derby three-peat worn him down? His Caulfield Cup run was too poor to be winning this next up. 7 DELPHI - Promised with a nice Herbert Power win before being heavily backed in the Caulfield Cup, racing on speed but dropping sharply out a long way from home. Would be some turnaround. 8 OCEAN BILLY - Auckland Cup winner which snuck him into the race but his form is well down on what's required to win a Cup. Proven at two miles. 9 SELINO - Will enjoy the firm Flemington surface but will likely be well held. 10 JOHNNY GET ANGRY - A famous Derby win but not much to write home about since. 11 KNIGHTS ORDER - Won a two-mile event in Brisbane to sneak in but he's miles off them. 13 CARIF - 2nd in the Brisbane Cup and a winner of the 3200m Sandown Cup but not a chance here. 14 MASTER OF WINE - With 52.5kg and back to Headquarters he's some chance of an upset top six run. 17 MIAMI BOUND - The Oaks winner enjoy softer ground, which will not occur here and her form has been mixed - to say the least.
18 PORT GUILLAUME - A great story with Harry Coffey getting a maiden Cup ride but his form has been well down on what's required. His European form is darn good - which must not be forgotten. I'll be cheering for another magical Melbourne Cup moment. 19 SHE'S IDEEL - Her form is better than 100/1 but, again, would still be stunning to see the Bjorn Baker mare factoring in the final furlongs. 20 FUTURE SCORE - A great effort for Matt Cumani, a former European trainer now based in Ballarat but you'd imagine the class will be beyond Future Score's abilities.
1 TWILIGHT PAYMENT $11
2 INCENTIVISE $2.50 3 SPANISH MISSION $10
4 PORT GUILLAUME $126