Its 10,496 miles from London to Melbourne, or in new money 16,891 kilometres. And don’t let anyone tell you that the race that stops a nation early on Tuesday morning (GMT) is run over two miles because it’s 3,218 metres.
Now we’ve got that straight, it’s worth an absolute fortune to the winner and that’s the main reason why European trainers are still bursting a sinew to land this prize.
Ireland and Germany have conquered this staying event in the past, but a 100/1 supposed “no hoper” Prinze of Penzance showed last year how difficult it is to come home in front.
But the main transition in winner finding seems to have come in the past 15 years. It always seemed to favour a thorough stayer, but the last few renewals have been moderately run, which means those horses with a finishing kick have prevailed. Enter the 10/12f specialists.
Hartnell heads the market at the moment and he had an impossible task behind Winx in the Cox Plate and the extra yardage will suit. But my gripe with him is five runs in two months; not ideal. Only two runners have won from his box draw (12) in 155 renewals, but to my eyes it’s a fair enough plot to start from.
With the max 24 runners there is defintely a little more value outside the favourite.
Second fav Jameka (drawn 3) looks more like a colt than a filly such is her powerful make-up and her win in the Caulfield Cup was a brilliant display. Will she stay two miles at top pace? She may not have to and she holds a number of these on that last success. In the negative, she will have to come from way back, such is her running style.
I love Aidan O’Brien’s Bondi Beach (5) as an individual, but they’ve obviously had problems with him this season and at 8/1 now shot which means we have a betting offering of 12/1 bar those three!
There is no argument that an outside pitch is a huge disadvantage so the likes of Heartbreak City (23), Excess Knowledge (21) and the well fancied pair Wicklow Brave (24) (Ruby Walsh gives his verdict here) and lightweight Alamandin (17) will do well to get involved. It’s not that they can’t win, but it makes their job a whole lot harder.
I fancy we will see a huge run from Godolphin’s Secret Number (10) as long as the ground isn’t rattling fast. Boxed up in 10 and with a good racing weight on his back he galloped with great relish on his comeback win in an Ayr Listed race and has reportedly settled in superbly down under.
A 47-day break should hopefully have seen him recover from those exertions and as a six-year-old he remains unexposed with only 13 career runs.
It is worth remembering he was beaten less than two lengths by Telescope in the Great Voltigeur as a three-year-old and ran a superb race on the undercard here last year when second in the Queen’s Cup. I’ve nabbed a slice of the 40/1 each-way.
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The Robert Hickmott trained Gallante (2) has claims and could be a dark horse at 66/1. He has suddenly burst into life this back-end winning the Sydney Cup in great style and his stall slot will allow him to go forward in his natural front-running style.
For a third play in the race I am going to hit lower in the betting having already gone for two outsiders and pin-point a split stake on the Godolphin charges Qewy (15) and Oceanographer (11); first and third in the Geelong with the latter sneaking in by the back door in the Lexus.
Trainer Charlie Appleby has stated he thinks Qewy should be the shorter of the two in the betting, but Oceanographer has looked primed for this two miles although backing up a win after only three days is a tough ask.
Qewy should get a nice tow through Michael Bell’s Big Orange (7) and I find it hard to see the Godolphin runner out of the frame. Bell’s runner was fifth last year and will give his all under top weight, but has an enormous task conceding kilos all round.
Of the others, Almoonqith (19) was disappointing in this race last year. He went on to win the Listed Sandown Cup, but needs to improve to play a part. I loved the way he came home in the Caulfield Cup when fifth and should reverse placings with Exospheric (unlikely stayer).
It’s still an 18-hour flight Down Under, but it will seem a lot shorter on the way back for the Europeans if they can bag some – or all – of that Aussie booty.