Melbourne Cup Tips+Preview

guest preview from Darran Pearce…


Below you can find a full race preview + tips from Darran Pearce (you can follow him on twitter HERE>>> ... worth it, even more so if you like your non-league football betting.. in addition to all things hunter chases) who got in touch a couple of days back and said ‘Hi mate, I am writing a Melbourne Cup preview and wondered if you wanted to put it up on your blog?’ – i didn’t take long to reply! Quality free content is always welcome in these parts.

So, that’s what follows. You can watch the race on ATR at 4am Tuesday morning.

with my thanks to Darran for sharing, it’s over to him…



Given I’m known for my expertise in hunter chases you might think it is a bit odd I am writing a preview for a flat race on the other side of the world. However I love the Melbourne Cup and have been staying up until after 4am for years now. I have always wanted to go and last year had the opportunity to do so and I really couldn’t recommend it enough. I also happen to be married to an Australian so whilst I was over there I decided to pay close attention to how racing worked over there just in case I end up living there at some stage and have followed Australian racing much more closely than before. Fortunately I have been following some of the right horses and have managed to make a few quid along the way. A few who follow me on Twitter might have read my Caulfield Cup preview where I put up the winner Boom Time (returned 50/1 in Australia and was 40/1 at the time I wrote the preview) so hopefully I can also find the winner of the race that really does stop a nation!

Hartnell – Was my main fancy in the race last year and he ran a really good race to finish 3rd. Given he won the Queens Vase at Royal Ascot over 2m as a 3yo it seems a bit strange he hasn’t looked like he really stays 2m in Australia. I have two bigger issues over his chances though. First of all he obviously has more weight than he did last year, but more importantly he just doesn’t seem to be in the same form this time around. His first run this prep was a good one when winning a Group 3 at Caulfield over 7f, but he was 2nd the next twice, behind Humidor and Bonneval, and then was a really disappointing 9th in the Caulfield Stakes. Last year was his best chance in my view and I would be surprised if he equals last year’s 3rd let alone beat it.

Almandin – Last year’s winner when just getting up late on to beat Heartbreak City in a tremendous finish. I liked the way the two of them pulled clear of the rest and if anything he has improved again this prep. He had his first start since then in August when 2nd at Moonee Valley over the Cox Plate trip and ran a great race to finish 2nd. He then went to Flemington and put in a huge performance to win the JRA Trophy over 2500m carrying a huge 61kg. He won by a very cosy 3L and that performance led me to believe he could do the double. On bare form he was a disappointing 4th in the Bart Cummings last time, but the jockey barely tried on him and to me it looked like he was there to have a prep run and they weren’t going to over ask him. I am more than happy to ignore that effort and on his other two runs this prep he has a massive chance.

Humidor – Has proven that on his day he is a top class horse. He landed the Australian Cup over 2000m here in March and landed the Makybe Diva over 1600m when beating Hartnell in September. Next up he was 3rd behind Winx in the Turnbull and was a bit disappointing really. He then finished 5th in the Caulfield Cup, but he showed his quirky side again when he hung in. He nearly broke a nations hearts when pushing Winx so close in the Cox Plate and that obviously was a new personal best effort. He got a fantastic ride though and he hung in again in the straight. Clearly on that run he has a fantastic chance, but I am going to oppose him. First of all he wouldn’t be an obvious one to want this trip. The fact he often hangs in concerns me and as much as I respect his trainer Darren Weir, there has to be a worry that to push Winx so close he will be feeling the effects of that effort after such a short space of time. So basically he has the form to win, but there are enough questions for me to not want to back him.

Tiberian – Has some decent form in France to his name, but it has to be a concern that in Group 1 company he has always been found wanting and for a horse near the top of the handicap that has to be a concern in this. I also prefer my European horses to have had a prep start and fair to say others appeal more.

Marmelo – A blind man could have spotted what a great prep race in ran in the Caulfield Cup for this. The way he ran in the Caulfield Cup was exactly the way I thought he would. The trip was always going to be on the sharp side and I expected him to fly home late and to finish close to the placed horses. Given the way the track was racing that day you can upgrade the performance as the rail was a big advantage all meeting. Prior to that he landed the Prix Kergorlay at Deauville and I thought that was a pleasing effort. Before his Caulfield Cup run he had been working really well at Werribee and everything seems good with him since although Hughie Morrison is worried about the bounce factor, but I don’t really see any reason why he won’t back up the Caulfield run. The draw in 16 is maybe a tad high, but otherwise his claims look rock solid.

Red Cardinal – Was a one time favourite for this, but as others have had impressive prep runs he has dropped down the betting as he hasn’t been seen since August. It was a pretty average effort at Deauville in the Prix Kergorlay behind Marmelo and he would have to improve on that. Has proven he can travel though when winning the Belmont Gold Cup in June and this has been the long term aim for the same connections who won the race with Protectionist. The problem for me though is whilst Protectionist had a run prior to the Melbourne Cup, they decided to miss Red Cardinal’s intended prep. It isn’t impossible to win from stall 24, but it makes life very tricky and it isn’t going to help his chances.

Johannes Vermeer – Ran a superb race to finish 2nd in the Caulfield Stakes on his first start in Oz and then was a good if slightly unlucky 3rd in the Caulfield Cup. He clearly has the class required to win this, but his stamina has to be a big question mark and it is enough to put me off.

Bondi Beach – Was 13th in this last year when trained by Aidan O’Brian and only had two starts since, but neither showed a great deal of promise and has plenty to find for me.

Max Dynamite – 2nd in 2015 when rather unlucky, although to be fair he wasn’t the only one and Frankie did pick up a ban for interference. Has only run 4 times since which includes the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and the Galway Hurdle. He won at Killarney in August which was a fair effort. I must admit he is one horse in the race who is hard to get a proper handle on, but given the 2015 renewal was a messy affair and suspect form wise my feeling is he will be hard pushed to get close to repeating that.

Ventura Storm – He finished 2nd in last year’s St Leger and went on to win a Group 1 in Italy. He was my main fancy for the Caulfield Cup after some promising efforts in Australia especially the 2nd to Winx in the Turnbull. He was in front Humidor on that occasion and although he obviously ran better in the Cox Plate, I still think the fact he finished in front of him is interesting. Now he was behind Humidor in the Caulfield Cup when only 13th, but he had a bruised foot after the race so you can forgive him that run. This course and distance looks perfect for him and with a good draw I think he has a good chance.

Wicklow Brave – Has certainly had an interesting 12 months since finishing 22nd in this last year when he was given an awful ride from an awful draw. Has got a better draw this time around and the Caulfield Cup wouldn’t have been the right test for him last time so he should be capable of better here. He isn’t for me, but a top 10 showing could be within his grasp.

Big Duke – I’m sure that anyone at Wetherby on May 24th 2016 would not have expected to see a runner in the following year’s Melbourne Cup, but that is exactly what has happened. That night he was known as Swashbuckling and he won a Class 4 handicap. He then went to Australia and has done nothing but improve since. He first came to my attention ahead of a BM78 at Moonee Valley in January as I had another horse on my tracker in the race. When looking at his form it was clear his run on Boxing Day at Caulfield was in the style of a progressive horse. He won that day and although he was a costly failure (for me) in the Hobart Cup he then went on to make amends in the Launceston Cup. He then won a Group 3 and a Group 2 at Randwick before finishing a good 3rd in the Sydney Cup. This prep he ran himself into form and landed the St Leger at Randwick last month on his 5th start this prep. I thought he couldn’t get beat in the Moonee Valley Gold Cup last time, but the way the race ran was totally against him as they went a crawl and he only finished 4th. I think this race should suit him perfectly and he has a lovely draw in 5. The problem is though is he actually going to be good enough? I’m not sure myself, but given I have been following all year I am going to have to chuck a few quid his way and given he is a solid horse he could easily sneak into the frame.

US Army Ranger – 2nd in last year’s Derby, but hasn’t really got near to that level of form since despite the odd good run. Sending him strikes me as a may as well give it a go because they have tried pretty much everything else with him. If he wins I wont be.

Boom Time – Was a big price winner of the Caulfield Cup and got a very good ride to do so. I do think it was a case of him being in the right place at the right time and the inside on the pace was certainly the place to be on the day. I am doubtful he was the best horse in the race and as much as I can understand why connections are coming here I would be surprised were he to do the big race double.

Gallante – An outsider for a good reason and hard to see him playing much of a part.

Libran – Won the Group 3 Kingston Town at Randwick in September, but been found wanting since and isn’t really on my radar here.

Nakeeta – The Ebor winner has been talked up as a chance in this, but I honestly think a lot of that is because Heartbreak City went so close last year after winning the Ebor. The problem is this year’s Ebor has worked out terribly from a form point of view and he has a poor draw in 19. I can fully understand why connections have gone for this as I would if I was them, but I don’t fancy his chances of winning.

Single Gaze – A very consistent type especially for a horse whose longest break since February has been 9 weeks and has run 14 times in that time. She ran really well to finish 2nd in the Caulfield Cup, but that was a bit of a surprise and it would be surprising if she was able to go close here given so many horses will be looking to peak for this contest.

Wall Of Fire – What a prep run Hugo Palmer’s charge had when finishing 2nd in the Herbert Power at Caulfield last month. The form of the race could hardly be stronger. The 4th was Caulfield Cup winner Boom Time and the winner was Caulfield Cup 4th Lord Fandango. In 3rd was a horse called Gallic Chieftain (a horse I have been following closely for a year and might be next year’s Melbourne Cup winner) who should have won the Geelong Cup last time but was a short head 2nd. Ironically Craig Williams was on top there and he rides Wall Of Fire so he certainly owes me one! He looks to have everything you need for this race and although some seem to be questioning his stamina I don’t really have those doubts. Stall 15 isn’t too bad and hopefully Williams can get him in a nice handy position not too wide. He looks to hold obvious claims.

Thomas Hobson – Has one of the best jockey’s in the world on top in Joao Moreia and of course he went so close to winning the race last year on Heartbreak City. That aside he actually has a pretty poor record when coming over to Australia to ride. I think he might be the pick of the Mullins trio and was impressive when winning the Ascot Stakes. The problem is that race is over 2m4f and I just wonder if this isn’t going to be enough of a stamina test for him. Unless something does something we don’t expect I am expecting this to be the usual steady tempo and I am not sure he will have the turn of foot needed to win this. Stall 21 isn’t a great help either.

Rekindling – Certainly an interesting contender on what he has done on his 3yo campaign this season which includes a Curragh Cup win over Wicklow Brave and last time he was 4th in the St Leger. My concern with him though is he has been on the go since April and October is the only month he hasn’t run but instead he has had a flight to Australia! I just wonder if this is coming too early in his career and he might be of more interest next year.

Amelie’s Star – Her trainer Darren Weir was fuming with the ride Craig Williams gave her in the Caulfield Cup and I am not surprised. Why he decided to go so hard so early I don’t know, but it gave her no chance of winning the race finishing in 11th. Had previously won the Bart Cummings but I think the form of that race is a bit suspect and she isn’t for me here.

Cismontane – Won the Lexus on Saturday to get into the race and does seem to be improving, but would be surprising if he gave Gai Waterhouse another winner in the race.



Summary – Given it is 8/1 the field and you can get 6 places with Skybet, Paddy Power and Betfair (Ladbrokes and Coral are both 5 places) I am happy to back 4 against the field. My number 1 pick has to be Wall Of Fire because I love the form of his prep race and he looks the ideal type for this and as I say above his jockey owes me one. Only 5 horses have won at least 2 Melbourne Cups which tells you how hard it is to achieve, but I really do think Almandin has a great chance of doing it. He has looked even better this season and his penultimate start was hugely impressive. Ignore his run last time as it was clearly a run just to keep him ticking over and he should go close. Marmelo has to be backed after the Caulfield Cup effort and the step up in trip is going to suit him perfectly. Of those at bigger odds Ventura Storm looks over priced. If you ignore his Caulfield Cup run he would be one of the market leaders for this and given he had an excuse that day I don’t see why he has been written off so much.


The first 4 bet is very popular in Australia so my attempt at getting up is the following:

  1. Wall Of Fire
  2. Almandin
  3. Marmelo
  4. Ventura Storm


Good luck,





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Do join in the conversation below, we're a friendly bunch.. all questions welcome, and do share your selections or thoughts

9 Responses

  1. WOW that is an outstanding piece of research and writing FANTASTIC!

    Coincidentally I have 2 long term members of my service who are Australians and both suggested Ventura Storm as the value of the race to me last week, and I have had a small nibble.

    I hope Darran’s work pays off, he is a top bloke P2P and his Non League Football knowledge is also second to none – so he deserves a 1-2-3-4 there, although I’ m hoping in reverse order!


  2. I’m a former shareholder in Ventura Storm and we didn’t think he quite stayed the trip in the St Leger so this still might be a bit too far.
    I went through the race y’day and thought Marmelo a bet to nothing at 8/1. Ran well last October after a 17 day break, finishing 2nd over 12f so the bounce does not need to be factored.

    1. Interesting to read your thoughts Chris given you used to own him. Unless they go a mad gallop, and I don’t think they will, I think he will be fine over the trip given the general style of racing in Oz. I also agree about the bounce factor with Marmelo, but felt it was worth adding into the preview given the trainer had mentioned it.

      Like you say Ben Almandin certainly has the age stat against him this year, but I feel he is a better horse and he hasn’t had a lot of racing. He has only had 15 starts so I think from that point of view the age stat can be ignored with him because he is unusual that he has had so few starts as an 8yo.

      Ian I will be happy with the first 4 in any order! When I was there last year I was watching morning TV and they had an interview with someone in Perth who had managed to land the first 4 bet without knowing. All he did was pick 4 numbers at random and he couldn’t even remember which horses he had picked, so when he logged back into his account he got a very nice surprise of around $250k. If anyone wants to do the first 4 bet you can with Bet365

  3. I’m a former shareholder in Ventura Storm and we didn’t think he quite stayed the trip in the St Leger so this still might be a bit too far.
    I went through the race y’day and thought Marmelo a bet to nothing at 8/1. Ran well last October after a 17 day break, finishing 2nd over 12f so the bounce does not need to be factored.

  4. Almandin is an 8yo and the last horse older than 7 to win was in 1938.
    Every winner for the last 25 years last start has been in a Grp 1 race or has won a Grp 2 or Grp 3 race. Wall of Fire fails this test.
    The other two fit the winners profile.

    1. That’s not very nice is it Martin? Darran clearly put a lot of work into the preview and it didn’t cost us a penny extra. Not like there are any guarantees with punting.

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