Foxsports.com.au is this year thrilled to have dual Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Corey Brown join us for his expert guide on the big race.
Currently out with a back injury, the former Sydney jockeys’ premiership winner claimed the race that stops the nation in 2009 aboard Shocking – from way out in gate 21 – and in 2017 on Irish stayer Rekindling, jumping from the inside this time in gate four.
Here are fascinating insights on what it’s like to ride in – and win – the nation’s greatest race, and his thoughts on this year’s edition.
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MEGA CUP FORM GUIDE: EVERY RUNNER ANALYSED AND FULL PREDICTED FIRST FOUR
BARRIER DRAW WRAP: FAVOURITE DRIFTS AFTER NIGHTMARE
CUP ULTIMATE GUIDE: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
CUP WEATHER: LATEST FORECAST AND HOW IT IMPACTS YOUR TIP
DUMMIES’ GUIDE: DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE CUP? HERE YOU GO
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INSIDE WORD: WHAT KEY INSIDERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THEIR HORSE BEFORE THE MELBOURNE CUP
1. ANTHONY VAN DYCK Weight: 58.5kg. Barrier: (3). Approx win/place odds: $8 / $2.75. Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Jockey: Hugh Bowman.
Straight off, I think this bloke’s the winner. His second in the Caulfield Cup was great. If he’d got to eyeball the winner, Verry Elleegant, in the last 100m it would’ve been a big fight, but I think he ran out of puff, fitness-wise. He’ll improve for that run, he’s drawn a great barrier, great jockey, and he’ll get the perfect run. The distance isn’t a worry, even though he hasn’t gone past 2400m before. The European horses stay much better than our horses, and even if they might not have won over 3200m, they’ll just keep on going much better than our Australian horses. I’d much rather be on a European horse stepping up from 2400m to 3200m for the first time than an Australian horse. They’re different horses. They’re bred to stay, but they’re also educated differently. Australian horses travel really strongly throughout a race; they’re keen to go. The Europeans will just bowl along on a loose rein, and then when the jockey pushes the button they switch on and hit the bridle. This horse showed his class in winning the English Derby, and he’s right in this. The other thing – and this goes for all the European horses – they’re getting a big benefit from the fact there’s no crowd. Quite often they can get very stirred up by the big atmosphere on Cup Day, and can lose their race before it’s run. That won’t be the case for the Covid Cup.
2. AVILIUS 57kg (10) $34 / $9. T: James Cummings. J: John Allen.
Drawn OK, it maps OK for him, but I think he might just be over the hill a little bit and on his way out. He’s had his chances. He runs well in all races, but I don’t think he’s going well enough to be in the finish of this race. He’s not going as well as two years ago, or even a year ago. His Caulfield Cup sixth was good, but he’d have to improve five or six lengths to be competitive here. He’s a seven-year-old, and you really need to be a top class horse at the top of your game to win this race nowadays. The younger horses that come out from Europe are just top quality horses. If you’re an Australian horse, you have to be right at the peak of your powers to win this.
3. VOW AND DECLARE 57kg (4) $51 / $14. T: Danny O’Brien. J: Jamie Mott.
I think this year he’s weighted out of it. Last year he had only 52kg, Craig Williams gave him a great ride. He’s drawn well but I don’t think he’s going as well as last year. I just don’t think with the weight and his form he’ll figure in the finish. Weight can catch up to you if you win a Cup. I won on Shocking with 51kg. The following year he had 57kg and came 18th. I reckon this bloke will finish top 10, but this is a big weight to carry over two miles. Again, for an Australian stayer, he was at the peak of his game 12 months ago. He’s not now.
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4. MASTER OF REALITY 56kg (11) $26 / $7. T: Joseph O’Brien. J: Ben Melham
OK, I’ve only had one ride for Joseph O’Brien, so you wouldn’t say I know him all that well. Mind you, I did win a Melbourne Cup with it, on Rekindling. I do know he wouldn’t bring this horse out here unless he knew it was in good form. Ben Melham deserves a Melbourne Cup, after I beat him by a neck on Rekindling when he rode Johannes Vermeer. The horse’s form is great, but I’m not sure he’ll stay like a top two-mile horse. He had a tough run last year, sitting in the death seat, so it wasn’t a surprise that he was compounding at the end, veered in and caused interference, which ended up with him being relegated from second to fourth on protest. So he ran well all things considered, but I just think the quality of this year’s Cup is better than last year’s.
5. SIR DRAGONET 55.5kg (14) $8/ $2.50. T: Ciaron Maher & Dave Eustace. J: Glen Boss
The trainers are on fire, and he’s drawn OK. You can get better than barrier 14, but the speed map for the race – where you expect most horses to settle – looks good for him. If he runs as well as his Cox Plate win, he’ll be top four or five for sure. He goes up 1200m from that, but European horses like him – although he’s trained in Australia now – they’re used to doing things like that; running first-up over 2400m, jumping up 1200m – they do things like that all the time. He won the Cox Plate with ease, so he’s fit enough and he’ll run well. But the other big thing is Bossy. He’s just a freak in big races. I’m a keen watcher of jockeys’ styles, and watching the decisions they make in races, and you get to know them well because you’re riding against them every day. And to be honest, although I know he always does his best, I probably wouldn’t have Bossy in my top six or seven on a day-to-day basis. But the moment he gets in a big race, he just goes to another level. He’s a freak with it. He just seems to rise to the occasion and put his horses in the best spots in big races. So this horse is a definite chance.
6. TWILIGHT PAYMENT 55.5kg (12) $35 / $9. T: Joseph O’Brien. J: Jye McNeil
Again, I love the trainer, but I especially love the rider. Jye’s only 25, but he came fourth in the Melbourne jockeys’ premiership last season and he’s an absolute superstar. Not saying he’ll win the Cup this year, but I’ll bet he does before his career is over. That said, I think the horse will run well. He’s in decent form, he’ll probably end up top 10, but I don’t think he’ll be near the finish. He led last year and did it tough, but weakened right out of it, and he’s an eight-year-old now.
7. VERRY ELLEEGANT 55.5kg (15) $13 / $3.50. T: Chris Waller. J: Mark Zahra
Caulfield Cup winner – yes, great. I can’t disregard her, but there’s a few issues for me. She won well over the 2400m of the Caulfield Cup, and she’s won over that distance a lot, but I think this is too far for her. She travelled way too strong between the 1600-1000m at Caulfield. Although the pace was slow, she’s better suited over shorter than 3200m. She’s a really aggressive animal. She races fiercely. If she’d had a run in the Cox Plate after the Caulfield Cup, then maybe, but the fact it’s two-and-a-bit weeks between runs, she’ll be really revved up and rearing to go. She’s got loads of ability, but I think it’ll be too far. She’ll be too aggressive, and I can’t see her dropping her head and giving Mark a good, peaceful ride. Gate 15 is probably the worst thing for her. Mark’s gonna have to either dig her up or try to wrestle with her to go back. Either way it doesn’t suit the type of horse she is in a two mile race. Plus 55.5kg is a lot for a five-year-old mare around two miles of Flemington.
8. MUSTAJEER 55kg (2) $71 / $18. T: Kris Lees. J: Michael Rodd
I’d love to see Michael Rodd win it again, and to see Kris Lees win it for the first time. But he’s an old horse, he’s been in fair form, but only fair. He was a decent eighth in the Caulfield Cup, but he’d have to lift a fair bit to feature here.
9. STRATUM ALBION 55kg (9)$41 / $9. T: Willie Mullins. J: Jordan Childs
Again, they wouldn’t bring it over here if they thought it was going ordinary. And I’m glad to see Jordie Childs get a ride after he rode Surprise Baby last year and got the drag. His form looks good. He finished second at York in a Group 2 last start over this trip. But still, when you compare him to a few other horses in this race, especially the Europeans, it’s pretty hard to have him.
10. DASHING WILLOUGHBY 54.5kg (19) $101 / $25. T: Andrew Balding. J: Michael Walker
Cuzzy Bro! Mickey Walker. I always love seeing our favourite Kiwi do well. Hughie Bowman’s my best mate but I love Mickey and he’s a great rider. But the horse… He’d have to improve a real lot. He ran awful in the Caulfield Cup, leading and then fading out to run last. Drawn badly as well.
11. FINCHE 54.5 (6) $15 / $4. T: Chris Waller. J: James McDonald
I wouldn’t say he’s a non-winner. That said, he doesn’t win often. But I love this horse and I think he’ll run big again. Both his Melbourne Cup runs – seventh last year and fourth the year before – have been great. He’s a really big boy. When you’re next to him behind the barriers you see he’s a big unit, and so you can see he needs the long stretches of Flemington to run well. Plus, when you look at his last start when fifth in the Caulfield Cup, on a smaller track, it was one of the best in the race. He was the first horse caught three-wide, so he raced there without cover from any horse in front of him, which is hard to do. This time, he’s drawn a perfect barrier. J-Mac is a gun rider and he’ll sum it all up before they get to the post the first time. He’d like a free-flowing race, because he’s too big to be going slowly, getting tangled up with other horses and having to change course. But still, he should get the perfect run from that barrier. I wouldn’t say he’s improved since last year but he’s going as well as he was then. I think top four or five for sure.
12. PRINCE OF ARRAN 54.5kg (1) $10 / $3.50. T: Charlie Fellowes. J: Jamie Kah
Jamie Kah is sweeping everything before her this season, and I’m sure she’ll be happy to be on this horse and trying to follow Michelle Payne to become the second female rider to win the race. And there’s some omens there: Michelle jumped from barrier one on Prince Of Penzance. Jamie jumps from barrier one on Prince Of Arran. He’s such a competitor. I’m not saying he’s a champion but he’s just so tough, and doesn’t know how to run a bad race. He finished third in this race two years ago, second last year, and both runs were huge. He’s so honest – he’s like Red Cadeaux, who ran second in this race three times. Still, I don’t want to bag a folk hero, but I can’t see him winning. It’s just age. He’s eight now, and he’s probably just that little bit over the hill. He was on top of the hill last year, but he’s probably started on the downward side now, and a horse needs to be at its optimum level to win this. Still a top half a dozen chance.
13. SURPRISE BABY 54.5kg (7) $9 / $3. T: Paul Preusker. J: Craig Williams
Love it. Absolutely love it. When they hit the post last year, and I thought I’d be coming back to riding (my back has since determined otherwise), I considered ringing the trainer and trying to get the ride for this year. As it is, I reckon Craig Williams – even though he won the race on Vow And Declare – would’ve been on the blower to Paul Preusker that night to try to secure the ride for this year. It ran fifth but should’ve won the race, without a doubt. I’m not potting Jordy Childs, because he’s a tremendous rider, but starting from gate 20, he took it back as you’d expect, but the problem was he just got too far back. Craig is very savvy with the form, and so he’s presumably gone hard to get the ride this year. Form-wise, I’m not gonna say he’s been running great, but he’s been running good. The trainer will know where he’s at and what he needs, and I’d say there’s a lot of improvement in him. And anyway, you can forget about his last start when he was ninth in the 2000m Turnbull Stakes, because he had nowhere to go behind horses. I don’t like unlucky number 13, but I think this horse is top two or three for sure. I finished third to him in last year’s Adelaide Cup on Naval Warfare, and I just said from that day this horse is very special. You know he’ll get the trip, which is a huge start in a race like this, and with a great alley Craig will put him exactly where he wants him.
14. KING OF LEOGRANCE 53.5kg (18) $51 / $9. T: Danny O’Brien. J: Damian Lane
He’s been going well. Won the Adelaide Cup over this trip last March, was second in the 2800m Andrew Ramsden at Flemington behind Oceanex in May, then last start was third in the Geelong Cup. He’s drawn awkwardly, it probably doesn’t map super well for him as regards where he’s going to be in the run, but he’ll get the trip. The Geelong Cup is normally a good form race, although perhaps this year’s wasn’t as strong as previous years, but he’s a top 10 chance.
15. RUSSIAN CAMELOT 53.5kg (16) $14 / $4. T: Danny O’Brien. J: Damien Oliver
This horse is so exciting. He’s got a ton of ability and can stay, but the only question is whether he’s the finished article yet. He’s gone second-first-second-third in four Group 1s this prep, the latest being in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, so he clearly belongs at the top level. But as good as those runs have been, it does seem like we’re making excuses for him a bit. The thing is, he’s inexperienced and still learning, and he does too much wrong – at the moment – to be a really good horse. And he does it inconsistently. He throws his head around one day, he goes left one day, he goes right the next. If the penny ever drops and he gets his head together, he can be a great horse. But as it is, Damien Oliver might have his hands full. If he’d drawn a gate inside of about 11, he’d be a much better chance. But he needs to get cover, and needs to settle well and travel well. His connections probably haven’t worked out his favoured racing pattern yet. The other problem is, neither has the horse! If he gets his stuff together, he’ll run well. Olly’s got to caress him right before the race – get him nice and calm before the start. At least he should race better around Flemington than Moonee Valley. I’d still put him in the top half dozen, because he’s got such ability.
16. STEEL PRINCE 53.5kg (21) $41 / $9. T: Anthony & Sam Freedman. J: William Pike
I like this horse. He’s not flamboyant, he’s just good and tradesman-like – he’s one of these grinding, reliable stayers who gets the job done, like he did in winning the Geelong Cup last start. Gate 21 looks bad, but I won a Cup from there on Shocking. But still, wide gates in Melbourne Cups aren’t easy. Obviously everyone wants to draw soft. Sometimes, if you’re wide, you’ve got horses you really don’t want to bustle to get into a spot, because once you rev them up you just can’t settle them back down again, and in a two-mile race that will kill you. Verry Elleegant seems that way to me, for example. I was caught wide on Shocking. In fact, I was the only person to travel three-deep the whole way, and I could feel the trainer Mark Kavanagh’s hands around my neck at about the 1800m. I pushed and shoved as much as I could to get a spot, but you get to the point, probably around the 1800m, where you’ve just got to stop working the horse and accept your position. But I was really fortunate because the race that year was run so slowly. On my inside everyone was yelling and clipping heels through the race, but I was allowed to just bowl along and let my horse flow, right down till about the 1200m mark, when things quickened up. Willie Pike’s a top rider of course, and should be able to avoid revving this bloke too much. All that said, while the horse’s form has been good, I just think this year’s Cup might be a bit strong for him.
17. THE CHOSEN ONE 53.5kg (5) $41 / $10. T: Murray Baker & Andrew Forsman. J: Daniel Stackhouse
I think this one might surprise a few people. He ran very well in the Caulfield Cup to hang on for third, leading until getting collared in the straight, but he fought on very strongly. Daniel’s a good jockey in great form. He’s drawn soft, he’ll get a perfect run from there, and I think he’ll run well. He ran second over this trip in the Sydney Cup this year. OK, that wasn’t half as strong a race as this, but the trainers, especially Murray Baker, he’s a freak with stayers. If he’s got the horse he’ll put it in the right race. I’d say top six for me. He fought on strongly in the Caulfield Cup. He’s a one-paced type, rather than a horse who’ll go bang with a big sprint at the finish, but I think he’ll run well.
18. ASHRUN 53kg (24) $18 / $4. T: Andreas Wohler. J: Declan Bates
He did a Shocking in winning the Hotham on Saturday. He only just got there in the last couple of strides but he ran very well. He just flopped out of the barriers and was a few lengths behind at the tail on settling. He had to rebuild from there, so the win was probably better than it looked. He was fourth in the Geelong Cup before that, and his European form looks OK. The trainer’s won this before with Protectionist and clearly knows what he’s doing. There is the quick back-up from Saturday to consider. It suited Shocking, but a lot of horses can’t do it. But European stayers being so tough, he should be tough enough. The way these Europeans are trained – they get miles and miles into their legs before they race each preparation, whereas we tend to get our horses fitter through racing. So while the Europeans generally have longer gaps between races, looking up and finding he’s in his second race in four days shouldn’t be too onerous for him. He’ll run well. The big trouble of course is his awful barrier. I expect he’ll go back. I’d have him around the border of the top 10.
19. WARNING 53kg (8) $41 / $11. T: Anthony & Sam Freedman. J: Luke Currie
Can he emulate Efficient in winning the VRC Derby one year and the Cup the next? I’m not too sure. He’s been running OK without running great: a sixth in the Turnbull Stakes over 2000m, but then 12th in the Caulfield Cup. When he won the Derby last year, I thought he’d go on and be – not a champion, but better than what he’s done. There’s lots of theories about winning the Derby, because a lot of its winners don’t kick on: Does it burn out a young horse? Were they just the early bloomers and then the other three-year-olds caught up with their physical development? I think one thing that’s true is that you don’t have to be a great stayer to win that 2500m race, running against other early season three-year-olds who mightn’t be up for the trip. I won it on what turned out to be a 1600m horse in Monaco Consul in 2009. It’s more how tough they are, rather than if they’re a true stayer. So then a year later you tend to find out if they are genuine stayers. The jury’s still out on Warning, but I think he’s levelled out a bit, and he’ll have to improve a lot on his Caulfield Cup. As a jockey, I also don’t like Luke Currie getting down to ride at 53kg. He’d have had to waste – lose weight – pretty hard to get there. I think Luke at his best is 54.5kg or above. Getting down to 53 for an energy-sapping two-mile trip, is a tough proposition.
20. ETAH JAMES 52.5kg (22) $126 / $25. T: Ciaron Maher & Dave Eustace. Billy Egan
While she won the Sydney Cup last autumn, she’s an eight-year-old mare and her more recent form has been ordinary. Great for the owners to have a horse in the Melbourne Cup. It’s part of what racing’s all about. I wish them well but I don’t think she’ll trouble the scorers, even though Billy Egan’s a great rider.
21. TIGER MOTH 52.5kg (23) $8 / $2.50. T: Aidan O’Brien. J: Kerrin McEvoy
This is an interesting runner. Great trainer, great jockey, who’s won three of these before. This horse is a bit of an unknown quantity in that he’s only had four starts, and hasn’t raced here yet. A few years ago you wouldn’t dream of a horse like that running in a Melbourne Cup, but this is now the profile of the Europeans that seems to work well, if you look at Rekindling and Cross Counter. This horse ran second in the Irish Derby then bolted in in a Group 3. Both were 2400m races, and again you don’t mind the step up in distance, especially with his light weight. He’s also drawn badly, but again the light weight helps you manoeuvre your horse to get a spot. If Macca gets any sort of luck from the barrier, he can win his fourth Cup. Good horse, unbelievable trainer, awful barrier. It is very hard being drawn out there, but he’s a great rider and if he gets a bit of luck I wouldn’t be surprised by any means if he wins.
22. OCEANEX 51.5kg (17) $71 / $18. T: Mick Price & Michael Kent Jnr. J: Dean Yendall
This mare has a nice light weight, but just a fair barrier. Her form’s OK, with a last-start third in the 2500m Moonee Valley Cup. That can be a bit of a form race for this. Prince Of Penzance ran second in it and then won the Cup in 2015. But still, that race wasn’t strong this year and while I hate potting horses, she’ll need to improve a lot to figure here.
23. MIAMI BOUND 51kg (13)$34 / $9. T: Danny O’Brien. J: Daniel Moor
She won the Moonee Valley Cup, and won the 2500m VRC Oaks last spring. She’s lightly weighted, drawn OK. I think she’s a bit of a sneaky runner and I’ve put her in my top 10. Like I say, I do like looking at the Moonee Valley Cup as a form reference for this, but I reckon – four-year-old mare, stepping up into a tough race like this. I think she’ll finish midfield or so.
24. PERSAN 51kg (20) $41 / $9. T: Ciaron Maher & Dave Eustance. J: Michael Dee.
He’s an honest horse and he’s got a fantastic record since switching to this training team. Won last time out, in The Bart Cummings over 2500m at Flemington, where he races well. However, most of his recent form has been achieved at levels lower than this. Has a nice light weight which could help him finish top 10. And Michael Dee’s a very good rider but he’ll have his work cut out from that barrier. Top 10 maybe.
1. Anthony Van Dyck
2. Surprise Baby
3. Russian Camelot
4. Tiger Moth