Don’t ask me who is going to win the 2011 Melbourne Cup. I haven’t a clue, but will try and assess which horses have the form and quality to make a go of it.
The Melbourne Cup, as we all know here in Australia, is the premier staying race of the year, and is known colloquially as the race that stops the nation. Just about everyone has a bet on it and watches the event on television.
Unusually, this year’s cup field is made up of predominantly overseas bred horses, with very few local or New Zealand bred stayers, which reflects negatively on the local breeding industry. Some trainers/owners, like Bart Cummings and Lloyd Williams continue to seek out locally bred stayers, but have in recent times elected to import stayers from Europe.
Bart Cummings has two runners in the Cup this year, New Zealand bred Precedence (by Zabeel) and Illo an import from Germany. Of the two Bart has nominated Illo as his best runner. Illo finished third behind Americain in the Moonee Valley Cup, as opposed to Precedence who has been uncompetitive this Spring and would have to show a complete reversal of form to win the Melbourne Cup.
The Gai Waterhouse trained Tullamore is probably the best credentialed of the locally bred runners, having run third in the Caulfield Cup and second in the Moonee Valley Cup. His sire is Savabeel, a son of the great Zabeel and the most likely to take over his mantle as a top sire of stayers.
Americain is the top pick, and is also top weight, but that shouldn’t be too much of a burden for him. His win in the Moonee Valley Cup was excellent and showed he was back to his best. His greatest threat comes from fellow French horse Dunaden who won the Geelong Cup in fine fashion, like Americain did last year.
Others worthy of consideration are Glass Harmonium if he can run the distance and doesn’t misbehave in the barriers, Jukebox Jury, whose overseas form is first rate, but is having his first start in Australia, Unusual Suspect, another black horse has some wraps on him after his Caulfield Cup run, Mourayan who has lately been in good form, winning the Bart Cummings Stakes in early October on a slow track, and running second to Glass Harmonium in the Mackinnon Stakes is a top chance, and throw in At First Sight, another Lloyd Williams import, who has been consistently placed in the build up races.
There are only two mares in the race, Shamrocker and Older Than Time. It would be nice if one or other of them won the Cup, completing a female trifecta of the big three Spring races, following the hoof prints of Southern Speed and Pinker Pinker into racing glory.
Shamrocker, after a glorious three year old career where she beat the boys in the Australian Guineas and the AJC Derby in the Autumn, has been disappointing this spring as a four year old mare. However, all along she has been set for the Melbourne Cup and is not without a chance, especially with her light weight. Older Than Time ran second in the Sydney Cup, so she can certainly run the distance. Her breeding is through another son of Zabeel, Don Eduardo, so on that factor, despite her form, she has a slight chance.
The weather in Melbourne at present is cool and overcast. Tomorrow promises to be much the same with a few showers.
However the race pans out it will be as always fascinating to watch.
Good luck in picking the winner, or maybe you can pray for guidance from your favourite saint. It is the Feast of All Saints tomorrow.