Despite most of us not watching any horse racing during the year, everyone becomes an expert at Spring Carnival time. We share Melbourne Cup tips as though we’re giving the gift of a huge financial windfall. We study the form guide in the newspaper, pretending to know what we’re looking at, before confidently predicting who will win the most unpredictable horse race in the world.
The Melbourne Cup contains the best staying horses in the world, making it incredibly difficult to pick the winner. But there are ways to increase your chances. It takes a little research and patience, but if you’re serious about turning your bet into a profit, it’s definitely worth your while.
To help you beat the bookies and pick a winner, here are our 10 Melbourne Cup tips to choose a winning horse.
1. Can they run the distance?
At 3,200m, the Melbourne Cup is a brutal race. It’s a long time to be running at a fast pace for any horse. Those who haven’t won a race at anywhere near this distance are going to struggle. Check out their recent history, and if they haven’t won at 2,800m or above, chances are they’re not going to do well.
But there is a caveat to this advice. If you find a horse that has been flying home in recent races at around the 2,400m distance, they may be worth a punt as well.
Remember, if you can’t find any evidence that a horse will come home strongly at 3,200m, it’s probably not going to be a Melbourne Cup winner.
2.Is the horse fit enough?
It doesn’t matter how good you are, when it comes to sport at the highest level, if you’re not fit enough you just won’t win. It’s no different for thoroughbreds. At that level it only takes a tiny difference in fitness levels from otherwise similar horses to make all the difference.
This is where it gets tricky for the international horses. Imagine if you flew to England, got off the plane and went straight to a running track and took part in a 1,500m race. Chances are you wouldn’t do too well. Now imagine arriving a few weeks earlier. You could run in some lead-up races and get acclimatised to the environment. That way you’ll have a much better chance of winning.
When assessing the international horses, ask yourself:
- How long have they been in the country?
- How well have they performed in their lead-up races?
International or imported horses that have won the Melbourne Cup include Media Puzzle (2003), Delta Blues (2006), Americain (2010), Dunaden (2011), Green Moon (2012), Fiorente (2013) and Protectionist (2014). They all had experience of racing in Australia before running in the Melbourne Cup.
You can apply the same logic for the local horses as well. How many races have they been in leading into the Melbourne Cup? What were the distances in those races? How strongly did they finish?
3. How good were the other horses in their lead-up races?
Winning a race is fantastic and can be a great guide for the Melbourne Cup, but it can also be misleading. If the other horses in the race were no good, then winning by five lengths doesn’t really count. If you’ve narrowed your options down, take a look at who they raced against in their lead-up races. This will give you a better guide on their form than where they placed.
To understand the quality of the other horses, the form guide will be your best friend. After every horse’s name will be a dollar amount in brackets. This is how much career prize money they have won.
The bigger the race, the more prize money is on offer, and the better calibre of horse will be competing. So it stands to reason the more money a horse has won, the better it is. Compare how much prize money your horse has won against the other horses in its lead-up races. If there’s a big difference, it should make you think twice about backing it in the Melbourne Cup.
4. Some lead-up races are better than others
Given there has been over 150 Melbourne Cups, history gives us a good understanding of what it takes to win it. Lead-up races can provide a valuable insight into a horse’s form.
Recent history suggests horses that have performed well in the Caulfield Cup and Turnbull Stakes do well in the Melbourne Cup. From the past 21 Melbourne Cup winners, nine have run in the Caulfield Cup, and eight of those have finished in the top six. Meanwhile, six of the past 13 Melbourne Cup winners have taken part in the Turnbull Stakes.
5. It’s all about the form
For any elite athlete, getting to the big day in form is all that matters. Look at the Western Bulldogs, this year’s AFL premier. They finished the regular season in seventh position, but they hit the finals at full steam and were unstoppable throughout.
Thoroughbred horses are just the same as their elite level human counterparts. From the last 21 Melbourne Cup winners, 11 of them have won their lead-up event, and four have finished in the places. If the horse you’re thinking of backing hasn’t done well in it’s lead-up event, it might be time to pick a different horse!
It’s not just the horses that need to be in form. Since 2000 only two jockeys have won the Melbourne Cup more than once – Damien Oliver and Glen Boss. So winning experience in the big race doesn’t count for much. But winning form in the lead-up races counts for a lot. Look for jockeys who have multiple wins and places in the prestigious lead-up races. These include the Turnbull Stakes, Caulfield Cup, Geelong Cup, Cox Plate, Lexus Stakes and Mackinnon Stakes.
6. How much weight can the horse carry?
The handicapper has a massive say in what chance any horse in the race has of winning. Lighter loads provide a huge advantage for any horse and jockey over the course of 3,200m.
Imagine if you ran a 1,500m race against an opponent, but you had to wear a 15kg weight vest while they only had to carry 5kg. Chances are you would struggle to win no matter what form you were in. It’s exactly the same for thoroughbred horses.
Only one horse has carried more than 56.5kg in the past 21 years to win the Melbourne Cup. The legendary Makybe Diva won in 2005 with 58kg on her back, her third straight Melbourne Cup victory.
Nine winners from the past 18 years have carried 53.5kg or less. Logically that would suggest just as many have won carrying more than 53.5kg. But when you consider most horses carry more than 53.5kg into a Melbourne Cup race, chances are the winner will carry less.
For example, Prince of Penzance won the 2015 Melbourne Cup carrying 53kg. Of the 24 horses in the race, 13 carried more than 53.5kg. It may only be a small margin, but it could be the difference between picking the winner or a horse that finishes near the tail of the field. Historically, horses carrying 52.5kg and 53kg have won the Melbourne Cup the most with eight wins.
There is one way to see if your horse has been treated well by the handicapper. Most horses compete in a weight-for-age race in the lead-up to the Melbourne Cup. Compare its Melbourne Cup weight with the weight it carried in this race. If it’s less, it’s a good sign, but if it’s more you might want to steer clear.
7. Is your horse too old?
The Melbourne Cup is open to any horse three-years-old or over, but if it’s getting too long in the tooth, it doesn’t stand much of a chance. The overwhelming majority of Melbourne Cup winners are either four or five years old, with a combined tally of 91 wins. Horses in this age bracket have won eight of the last nine Melbourne Cups. Six-year-olds have won it 29 times, including Prince of Penzance last year, while three-year-olds have won 23 times. Seven-year-olds have won it 10 times.
The last time a three-year-old won was Skipton in 1941, while the last eight-year-old to win was Catalogue in 1938. Only two eight-year-olds have ever won.
Why do younger horses win? Because they have less wins to their name, and the handicapper takes this into account when assigning weight. And much like footballers reaching peak physical condition in their mid to late-20’s, horses are at their best when they are 4-5 years old.
8. Sadly, you are better off choosing an International horse
In recent times Australian horses have run poorly in the Melbourne Cup. While Prince of Penzance did the country proud in 2015, the previous five winners were international or imported horses. Most horse races in Australia are between 1,000-2,000m, with the longest race on any given race day nudging 2,400m. There are only a couple of 3,200m races in each state every year, so local trainers have started to import horses from overseas instead.
Also, it costs a lot of money to bring international horses to Australia. Flights, quarantine, stable hire and all sorts of other costs means overseas trainers only bring their best.
9. Sorry ladies, but the boys dominate
Over the 150 plus year history of the Melbourne Cup, male horses have won the race on all but 16 occasions. But mares have made a comeback in recent years, winning five of the last 12 Cups. Makybe Diva is the most famous mare to have won the race, winning three times in a row from 2003-2005.
Wins by horse type in Melbourne Cup’s history:
- Stallion – 65 wins
- Gelding – 50 wins
- Colts – 21 wins
- Mares – 13 wins
- Fillies – 3 wins
10. ‘Hail Mary’ Melbourne Cup tips
If you can’t be bothered going through the process outlined above, you might just want to go for colours, barriers and numbers instead!
- Colour – Black is the most successful colour on Melbourne Cup Day, with 17 winning jockeys having it as their main silks colour. Navy and Royal Blue are next on the list with 14 wins apiece.
- Barrier – The reality is the barrier draw has very little influence on the result. But if you’re into lucky numbers, barriers five, 10, 11 and 14 have produced eight Melbourne Cup winners.
- Number – Numbers play even less of a role in the outcome than the barrier draw. Jockeys wearing the number four or 12 have had 11 wins in race history; number one has had nine wins; number eight has had eight wins, and number 11 has had seven wins.
Which Melbourne Cup tips will you use?
Mathematicians have been using historical trends to predict the outcome of virtually everything since the dawn of time. When it comes to sporting events, human error always plays a part in the outcome. But humans are creatures of habit, and while surprises are always exciting and possible, horses are given odds for a reason. Bookies take into account a multitude of factors, and come up with what they think are reasonable odds for each horse in the race.
But you can turn the tables on the bookies by using the Melbourne Cup tips above to pick your horse. To summarise, a great way to choose your horse would be to pick only those who:
- Are foreign or imported
- Ran in the Caulfield Cup or Turnbull Stakes
- Won (or placed) their lead-up event
- Have a jockey with good form in big lead-up events
- Are four or five years old
- Have a weight handicap of 53.5kg or less
- Have performed at the distance (or close to it) in the last six months
- Have experience in Australian conditions (either through previous experience or lead-up events)
If that all seems like too much hard work, you could just write the names of all the horses on pieces of paper, put them in a hat and draw one at random. Or join the office sweepstakes!
Place you bet at the ‘Party in Pink’ Melbourne Cup Finale
Now that you’ve scientifically narrowed down the field to your chosen horse or horses, celebrate ‘The Race That Stops The Nation’ at MàZi Restaurant at Lantern Club. It’s the next best thing to actually being at the track! Put on your most glamorous outfit and join us for champagne, gourmet food and the excitement of the big race on our big screen TV’s.
To make a booking, call MàZi Restaurant on (02) 8037 8200 or visit our online booking request form. But hurry, tickets sell fast and we don’t want you to miss out.
Good luck on the big day and we’ll see you there!
© Lantern Club, Roselands