The “race that stops a nation” is only four weeks away, and the anticipation in Australia is already at a fever pitch. On Tuesday 3rd of November, the country will watch as a plethora of horses compete to win a share of the £4,430,000 prize pot (AUD 8 million). While there are lots to like about the locals, notably The Bart Cummings winner, Persan, it’s the international horses that look set to light up the race. With the likes of Aiden O’Brien, Willie Mullins, and Charlie Fellowes all bringing their best to the event, the usually wide-open field appears to be more one-sided this time around.
The field has yet to be officially announced, but it’s fair to say that the ballot system the organisers use tends to favour the overseas horses. This is dependant on the prize money earned by each horse in the last two years as well as the number of wins and placings in lead-up events and the entries’ handicap weight. That means Irish Derby winner Santiago and runner-up Tiger Moth are slated to take to stalls, along with multiple Group One winner Anthony Van Dyck, and Master of Reality. The horse racing betting odds back this up as more than half of the top ten horses expected to put in quality performances are from outside of Australia and New Zealand. Russian Camelot, the leading Aussie hopeful, is a good price at 13/2, but even he is half-Irish.
One Eye on the Cup
In the past, it was easy to spot the local and foreign runners since the European and American horses had European and American jockeys. Equally, the Australian trainers opted for Australian and New Zealand mounts. Times have changed since, and the Melbourne Cup has become a more international affair, with the overseas contenders adopting a winning strategy.
Now, the likes of Charlie Appleby, winner in 2018 with Cross Counter, was ridden by Kerrin McEvoy (Aus). Another British trainer, Charlie Fellowes, admits that he spends yearling sales searching for stayers that are suited to the two-mile lung-buster. As a result, the non-Australian and New Zealand runners are up against teams who once prioritised other events, yet now rank this as highly as the Kentucky Derby, Ascot, or Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
History Against Australia
Unfortunately, the recent history of the Melbourne Cup doesn’t bode well for the Australian contingent. Although Vow And Declare won in 2019, and hopes of a victory are high thanks to Persan, the reality is that the last Aussie-bred horse to win in Victoria was in 2009. In the previous decade, only two horses from the continent have taken the cup home and helped maintain the nation’s love of the sport. With stats like that, it’s not hard to see why the bookies are backing the foreign thoroughbreds.
Vow And Declare proved that a horse bred and trained in Australia can prevail in the Melbourne Cup, but the figures seem to point to their overseas rivals for anyone looking for the potential winner.