My take on the Melbourne Cup....

Last Updated: 31.10.2016

Monday, 31st October 2016

Good afternoon, contrarians,

On the menu today….

  • A new departure….
  • My take on the Melbourne Cup….

A new departure….

A new departure for this column today in that were are targeting a race we haven’t shot at before – the Melbourne Cup which will be run at Flemington (in Australia – if that’s not a statement of the bleeding obvious) in the early hours of tomorrow morning….

A field of 24 runners goes to post over a fast-paced and stamina-sapping 2 mile trip. There’s a big British contingent taking part – as has become the norm.

A British horse has never managed to win the race. But we have gone close. Luca Cumani’s Bauer was beaten a nose in 2008 and the Ed Dunlop trained Red Cadeaux finished 2nd in 3 of his five cracks at the race. And there have been other notable runs – not least from Big Orange who was 5th last year from a wide draw and who goes again this time round.

Before we get into that race a brief word on the weekend action from which we drew a blank….

I can’t complain about Noche De Reyes and his run in the Byrne Group Handicap Chase over 2 miles at Ascot on Saturday. He produced another solid effort and found just one too good on the day. But I have to concede that he was well beaten by the winner – Colin Tizzard’s Quite By Chance who had 6 lengths on him at the post.

In the Sodexo Gold Cup Hadrian’s Approach simply wasn’t fit enough to prove competitive first time up. Fair enough. But I am not shaken in my view that Nicky Henderson’s 9-year-old is generously treated by the handicapper on a mark of just 141.

Whether or not he can scale the heights back to his career-high mark of 153 remains to be seen. But he’s 5lb below his last winning mark and I see him capitalizing on that at some point. Saturday wasn’t the right day to be on him. That much is clear now. But he’s weighted to provide recompense going forward. He’s entered in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on 26th November.

We move on. To tomorrow morning’s Melbourne Cup….

My take on the Melbourne Cup….

The 2-mile trip is a real test of stamina – exacerbated by the frenetic pace at which the race is traditionally run. Horse have to be fit and ready to fire and looking at the stats it is noticeable that all of the last 11 winners of the race had run at some point in the last 28 days – they all turned up with their racing edge recently sharpened.

Quite a few fancied types in the market for tomorrow’s contest fail to tick that specific box – Bondi Beach, Wicklow Brave, Heartbreak City and Big Orange, for example.

Being drawn too wide is another disadvantage to bear in mind. Horses have run well from wide draws – Shocking won the race from stall 21 in 2009 – but those out wide travel further and sometimes find it difficult to get the cover they want.  

Weight too has played its part over the last decade and the results suggest it is an advantage to be carrying one of the lower loads. 8 of the last 10 winners were shouldering 8-09 or less.

The one that appeals to me as an each-way bet at the prices is Carlie Appleby’s QEWY at a general 25s.

He never quite managed to fulfil his potentials over hurdles. But having moved to Appleby’s care from that of John Ferguson in May, his performances over trips on the flat suggest that this might be his niche.

He ran a cracker in the Ascot Stakes over the 2 mile trip in June – coming out of the clouds with a rattling late run to finish 2nd. He ran another good race in the Summer Stakes at Goodwood. And in his prep run for this race – in the Geelong Cup – he ground it out from start to finish, repelling all challengers in what was a very gutsy performance. 

The 12f trip that day was probably on the sharp side for him and lacking the requisite gears he had to make it a test of stamina. Tomorrow’s trip is much more up his street. He stays all day and if he’s in touching distance 3 furlongs out, you can expect him to be passing horses late on.

That run proved he’s plenty fit and will have served to additionally sharpen his edge – American in 2010 and Dunaden in 2011 both won the Geelong Cup directly en route to winning this race. He gets into the race on a featherweight and he also has the services of top Australian jockey Craig Williams in the saddle.

The market’s attention is on other horses but, at the price, Qewy could be under-estimated and makes for a nice each-way play.

The Contrarian Bet Box….

To recap on where my contrarian money will be going….

In the Melbourne Cup (4.00 Flemington)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – QEWY each-way (25s generally)

That is my take on where the value lies – but you will no doubt have your own ideas and that’s exactly as it should be.


That’s all from me for today. I’ll be back tomorrow.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd