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How to pick a winner for the Melbourne Cup?


The $7,750,000 Melbourne Cup is Group 1 handicap at Flemington Racecourse on the first Tuesday of November and is the race “that stops a nation”.

Run over 3200m around the expansive circuit of Flemington riders have a straight run of approximately 1100m passing the Grandstands for the first time before sweeping out of the straight and needing to have their mounts relaxed to enable them to run out a strong two miles.

The first Melbourne Cup was run on a Thursday 7th November 1861 with prizemoney of 710 sovereigns to the winner. A crowd of 4000 witnessed the running of the first Cup with 17 starters facing the starter for the two mile trip. Etienne de Mestre was one of Sydneys most distinguished Owner/Trainer of his time and he bought to Melbourne a 5yo Bay Horse named Archer and with him the leading Sydney rider of his time John Cutts. After being stabled at the site of the Botanical Hotel in South Yarra he went into the Melbourne Cup at nice odds of 6/1 and was dominant throughout winning by 6 lengths. The same team returned the following year as 2/1 favourite and again was victorious.

The Melbourne Cup moved to what would become its traditional date of the first Tuesday in November in 1875 when Wollomai was successful. The only time the race has moved from that date is three years during World War II (1942,43,44) when the race was run on a Saturday.

There has been five multiple winners of the Melbourne Cup starting with Archer (1861-62) followed by Peter Pan (1932, 1934), Rain Lover (1968-69), Think Big (1974-75) before the mighty mare Makybe Diva became the first horse to win three Melbourne Cups (2003-04-05).

Bart Cummings became known as the “Cups King” and holds the record with 12 Melbourne Cup wins (including training the quinella 5 times). Of the modern day trainers Lee Freedman is the most successful with 5 winners.

Damien Oliver and Glen Boss are the most successful modern day riders with 3 wins a piece. That leaves them one win behind the most wins held by a jockey with Bobby Lewis (1902,1915,1919 & 1927) and Harry White (1974,1975,1978 & 1979) holding the record with 4 wins.

Michelle Payne created history on Prince Of Penzance (2015) when she became the first female rider to win a Melbourne Cup. The first female to ride in a Melbourne Cup was in 1987 when New Zealand rider Maree Lyndon rode Argonaut Style.

The only winner that started odds on favorite was in 1930 when Phar Lap saluted at 8/11. Of the long shots there has been four winners who have started at 100/1. The Pearl (1871), Wotan (1936), Old Rowley (1940 and Prince Of Penzance (2015).

The traditional lead up for runners into the Melbourne Cup has been the Caulfield Cup. There has been 11 horses to complete the double but no winner since Ethereal (2001).

Irish trainer Joseph O’Brien made it two Melbourne Cups in a row when Jye McNeil steered the Team Williams owned Twilight Payment home to win in 2020.

Last year was an historic first time win for Premier trainer Chris Waller and star Kiwi rider James McDonald.



There is only one trainer that stands out in Melbourne Cup history and that is Bart Cummings with 12 wins in Australia’s greatest race.

Chris Waller has won most big races in Australia but the Melbourne Cup had alluded him until last season when his brave mare Verry Elleegant saluted.


Bobby Lewis hangs onto the riding record with 5 winners in the great race. Harry White is next with 4 level with Damien Oliver who has been striving to equal Bobby Lewis in recent years.

Is this the year Olly cements himself in Melbourne Cup record books.


Prior to the 1990’s the Caulfield Cup was clearly the best lead-up race for the Melbourne Cup but since Delta Blues finished 3rd in the Caulfield Cup in 2006 only Vow And Declare has had last outing in a Caulfield Cup.

Three of the last four starts have had their lead-up races in Great Britain and that has been the best guide to this race for the last decade.

With the restriction on imports this year could see a return to the traditional lead-up guides.


Big field of 24 always proves a difficult task for riders who have drawn wide to find a position down the long Flemington straight for the first time.

The first corner of a Melbourne Cup can be a vital stage of the race as you do not want to be stuck wide without cover working hard early in a grueling two mile race.

The barrier is not as essential as finding a position. Craig Williams proved that with a masterful display from barrier 21 on Vow And Declare back in 2019.


Going out of the straight for the first time in a Melbourne Cup can make or break chances. Essential to find some cover and get your mount to relax so they will run out the trip.

Jye McNeil proved you could can control this race from the front and still have enough in the tank to steal the race from the corner.

It is not so much the position horses race but as long as they are comfortable and have something left for the drive to the line last 200m.


Recent form is a good guide to the Cup. Only Green Moon who put in an uncharacteristic run in the Cox Plate when 7th in 2012 has performed poorly in recent times before going on to win.

Since 2012 all winners have finished in top 4 of their lead up races so when studying the form look for runners that have strong form leading in.


All important when assessing winning chances. The handicapper releases weights well before the Spring begins and some horse can hit form after handicaps are released and that is often the key to finding the winner of the great race.

Study the horses who have been racing well in weight-for-age races and drop significantly when they come back to handicap conditions.

This is a vital component to finding the winner.


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