Yucatan is the favourite to win in the eyes of all our experts.
Yucatan is the favourite to win in the eyes of all our experts.

Three wise men: Experts analyse Melbourne Cup

RESPECTED racing writer Nathan Exelby spoke to three of the most noted form analysts in the country and canvassed their thoughts on each runner in this year's Melbourne Cup.

Gary Crispe runs Racing & Sports and compiles the Australian ratings for the world-renowned entity Timeform.

Daniel O'Sullivan is from The Ratings Bureau and also heads up BetSmart Racing. His Weight for Age Performance Ratings are a respected measurement of racehorse class.

Rob Waterhouse is a long-time bookmaker who is regarded as one of Australia's most astute form experts.

Saeed Bin Suroor with Best Solution. Picture: Andrew Henshaw
Saeed Bin Suroor with Best Solution. Picture: Andrew Henshaw

No.1 BEST SOLUTION

Ladbrokes odds: $13

Age: 5yo horse

Weight: 57.5kg

Trainer: Saeed Bin Suroor

Jockey: Pat Cosgrave

Barrier: 6

Gary Crispe: Tough stayer. Strong win in the Caulfield Cup and escaped a penalty, which gives him a good chance of completing the double.

Daniel O'Sullivan: His Caulfield Cup rating is right in the zone that we typically see as a final lead up for the Melbourne Cup winner. While history suggests that 57.5kg is too much weight to carry to win, everything else about his profile is ideal leading into the big one, which isn't often the case with these highly weighted horses. With the right barrier draw, he can run very well.

Rob Waterhouse: It's a large weight to carry and whilst I'm not dismissive of it, I would need good odds to be on it. I think it has the task ahead.

The Cliffsofmoher has a roll in the sand at Werribee. Picture: AAP
The Cliffsofmoher has a roll in the sand at Werribee. Picture: AAP

No.2 THE CLIFFSOFMOHER

Ladbrokes odds: $16

Age: 5yo horse

Weight: 56.5kg

Trainer: Aidan O'Brien

Jockey: Ryan Moore

Barrier: 9

Gary Crispe: English Derby placegetter at three. Has been consistent in good company in Europe. Two runs in Australia have been very good, running ratings just below his figures in Europe. His best form makes it wise not to dismiss him too easily.

Daniel O'Sullivan: Could make a case for him finishing a touch closer at Caulfield and that puts him on the fringe of the necessary qualifying mark. Has a similar profile to Johannes Vermeer, who went so close in this race last year, so not dismissing him, but not in his corner either.

Rob Waterhouse: I'm sure it has some chance. It's not the first one I want to be on, but I have nothing but respect for the trainer.

Magic Circle walks laps during a Werribee. Picture: Michael Dodge
Magic Circle walks laps during a Werribee. Picture: Michael Dodge

No.3 MAGIC CIRCLE

Ladbrokes odds: $8

Age: 7yo gelding

Weight: 56kg

Trainer: Ian Williams

Jockey: Corey Brown

Barrier: 17

Gary Crispe: Only had two runs for a new stable and they were both outstanding efforts. Last start he strolled home in a Group 3 at Sandown over the Cup distance, beating Red Verdon, who was a little unlucky at Caulfield. Has to overcome the first start hoodoo on Australian soil, but hard to dismiss him on those two wins this year. Has to be a big chance.

Daniel O'Sullivan: Different horse for the new stable. Based on some of the cross referencing we do for the internationals, those two wins earlier in the year put him in the right spot ratings wise to be a big chance here.

Rob Waterhouse: I would be delighted to see it win because the owner is going to appear on the stage in a loin cloth. But I have him as about a 50-1 chance. I think it's a long price hope.

Chestnut Coat during a Werribee trackwork. Picture: Getty Images
Chestnut Coat during a Werribee trackwork. Picture: Getty Images

No.4 CHESTNUT COAT

Ladbrokes odds: $41

Age: 5yo horse

Weight: 55.5kg

Trainer: Yoshito Yahagi

Jockey: Yuga Kawada

Barrier: 4

Gary Crispe: Failed to reproduce his Japanese form in the Caulfield Cup, but is much better than that. Has good form in Japan over 2400m-plus. Capable of getting into the placings at big odds.

Daniel O'Sullivan: Didn't have market support in the Caulfield Cup and he ran accordingly. Hard to have him.

Rob Waterhouse: He doesn't quite appeal to me.

Muntahaa in action at Werribee Racecourse. Picture: AAP
Muntahaa in action at Werribee Racecourse. Picture: AAP

No.5 MUNTAHAA

Ladbrokes odds: $11

Age: 6yo gelding

Weight: 55.5kg

Trainer: John Gosden

Jockey: Jim Crowley

Barrier: 13

Gary Crispe: Very impressive winner of the Ebor, perhaps one of the most impressive winners of that race in recent memory. Has strong ratings which give him a good chance for one of the hottest stables in Europe.

Daniel O'Sullivan: Rates right near the top of the internationals based on what he did last start in the Ebor. He showed a turn of foot and turned in an arrogant display to win handsomely. Looks to have peaked at exactly the right time.

Rob Waterhouse: I'm sure it has a chance. John Gosden is a great trainer, but I would be thinking in terms of a 20-1 or 25-1 chance.

No.6 SOUND CHECK

Ladbrokes odds: $34

Age: 6yo horse

Weight: 55.5kg

Trainer: Mike Moroney

Jockey: Jordan Childs

Barrier: 16

Gary Crispe: Disappointing at his only Australian run in the Caulfield Cup, but did run second to Cup winner Best Solution before that. That would give him a chance here.

Daniel O'Sullivan: Made no impression first-up in Australia and that's generally not the profile we look for in a Cup winner.

Rob Waterhouse: He would seem to me to be outclassed. I'm not sure his German form is good enough.

Who Shot Thebarman, ridden by Blake Shinn, wins Race 6 on Cox Plate Day at Moonee Valley. Picture: Michael Dodge
Who Shot Thebarman, ridden by Blake Shinn, wins Race 6 on Cox Plate Day at Moonee Valley. Picture: Michael Dodge

No.7 WHO SHOT THEBARMAN

Ladbrokes odds: $41

Age: 10yo gelding

Weight: 55.5kg

Trainer: Chris Waller

Jockey: Ben Melham

Barrier: 18

Gary Crispe: Having his fourth attempt at this race. Does have a third placing in the event to his credit, but at 10 years old, his best days are behind him.

Daniel O'Sullivan: Hard to have him as a winning chance, as he's had plenty of chances previously. But he's one of those horses we know will see out the 3200m, so there's a chance he will be running on at the end again without threatening the winner.

Rob Waterhouse: A light of other days.

Tye Angland riding Ace High wins the Victoria Derby at Flemington in 2017. Picture: Getty Images
Tye Angland riding Ace High wins the Victoria Derby at Flemington in 2017. Picture: Getty Images

No.8 ACE HIGH

Ladbrokes odds: $71

Age: 4yo horse

Weight: 55kg

Trainer: David Payne

Jockey: Tye Angland

Barrier: 22

Gary Crispe: Overlook his Caulfield Cup failure when he pulled up with issues. A Victoria Derby winner who is sure to give a good account of himself under these conditions.

Daniel O'Sullivan: He's better than what he showed in the Caulfield Cup, but on our figures, his very best ratings are still comfortably short of the required mark to win this race. Happy to risk him.

Rob Waterhouse: I don't think he's absolutely hopeless. He's an Australian horse and I think he has a good rough chance.

Marmelo gallops during a Werribee trackwork session. Picture: Michael Dodge
Marmelo gallops during a Werribee trackwork session. Picture: Michael Dodge

No.9 MARMELO

Ladbrokes odds: $16

Age: 6yo horse

Weight: 55kg

Trainer: Hughie Morrison

Jockey: Hugh Bowman

Barrier: 10

Gary Crispe: Started equal favourite last year, when disappointing. Form in Europe has been solid but no better than the form he brought here last year.

Daniel O'Sullivan: He was an eye-catcher in the Caulfield Cup last year but failed to back it up in the Melbourne Cup. Clearly the stable regard him as a superior horse when kept on the fresh side. Wouldn't surprise at all to see him run a race at odds.

Rob Waterhouse: I'm sure he's got a real chance. His form reads well and I think he will do better than he did last year.

Godolphin Australia’s head trainer James Cummings looks on as Godolphin stayer Avilius is paraded for the media. Picture: Getty Images
Godolphin Australia’s head trainer James Cummings looks on as Godolphin stayer Avilius is paraded for the media. Picture: Getty Images

No.10 AVILIUS

Ladbrokes odds: $13

Age: 5yo gelding

Weight: 54.5kg

Trainer: James Cummings

Jockey: Glyn Schofield

Barrier: 11

Gary Crispe: Has won four of five in Australia and did enough in the Cox Plate behind Winx to suggest he will be very hard to beat under these conditions. Has a dazzling turn of foot, which is sure to carry him a long way.

Daniel O'Sullivan: This is one of the fancied runners in the market I am very happy to oppose. He looks weighted right up to his best and is yet to produce a rating that matches some of the other horses high in betting. His last start run/rating doesn't fit the criteria we want to see for a Cup winner.

Rob Waterhouse: I think people will be dismissive of Avilius, but I think he's had a wonderful Lloyd Williams-type campaign. By that I mean he didn't race at all during the autumn and his lead-up was the Cox Plate, just as it was for Lloyd's winners Efficient and Green Moon. He's won four races on end in Australia and then put into the Cox Plate, a race in which he was poorly handicapped at the wrong distance. Now he's getting back to what is his right distance. I think he will be underestimated by the punters and is not without a chance.

Yucatan rolls in the sand during a Werribee trackwork session. Picture: Getty Images
Yucatan rolls in the sand during a Werribee trackwork session. Picture: Getty Images

No.11 YUCATAN

Ladbrokes odds: $6

Age: 5yo horse

Weight: 54.5kg

Trainer: Aidan O'Brien

Jockey: James McDonald

Barrier: 23

Gary Crispe: From the all-conquering O'Brien stable who put in a career-best performance winning the Herbert Power in most impressive fashion. He ran one of the highest ratings recorded in that race in the past 25 years. Has form against some of the best gallopers in Europe and looks the testing material.

Daniel O'Sullivan: Even taking his raw winning margin in the Herbert Power, he's right at the top of the chances in this. When we factor in he could have had another 4-5 lengths up his sleeve, then he's a dominant favourite for this race. If he backs it up, he looks the likely winner.

Rob Waterhouse: He could hardly have been more impressive winning the Herbert Power. He started $6.50 and if they ran that race again would be a $2.50 chance. It would be hard to find a stronger lead-up. I think he's entitled to be a clear favourite. It's a matter of fact the outside alleys have done poorly in the last 30 years, but I think it's more the outside alleys when horses are back and he will be up towards the lead. I don't see the barrier as being a disadvantage at all.

Jockey Glyn Schofield riding Auvray to win at Rosehill. Picture: AAP
Jockey Glyn Schofield riding Auvray to win at Rosehill. Picture: AAP

No.12 AUVRAY

Ladbrokes odds: $81

Age: 8yo gelding

Weight: 54kg

Trainer: Richard Freedman

Jockey: Tommy Berry

Barrier: 1

Gary Crispe: Not good enough.

Daniel O'Sullivan: Not in this company.

Rob Waterhouse: Has a rough chance. I'm not totally dismissive of him, but I'm thinking in terms of him being a 50-1 chance.

Jockey Hugh Bowman rides Finche in the Geelong Cup. Picture: AAP
Jockey Hugh Bowman rides Finche in the Geelong Cup. Picture: AAP

No.13 FINCHE

Ladbrokes odds: $26

Age: 5yo horse

Weight: 54kg

Trainer: Chris Waller

Jockey: Zac Purton

Barrier: 15

Gary Crispe: Formerly trained by Andre Fabre. Has good form lines in France and was doing his best work at the end of the race in the Geelong Cup, a proven formline for this race. Expect improvement and not without a chance at odds.

Daniel O'Sullivan: Rated nowhere near high enough in the Geelong Cup to be considered a winning chance. Needs massive improvement.

Rob Waterhouse: I would have thought he has the task ahead of him from Geelong, but having said that he's better handicapped than the horse who beat him there (Runaway) in this race, so I think he's a rough chance.

Red Cardinal is among Lees's hopes in the Newcastle Gold Cup. Picture: David Geraghty
Red Cardinal is among Lees's hopes in the Newcastle Gold Cup. Picture: David Geraghty

No.14 RED CARDINAL

Ladbrokes odds: $41

Age: 7yo gelding

Weight: 54kg

Trainer: Darren Weir

Jockey: Damien Oliver

Barrier: 5

Gary Crispe: Hasn't fired since coming to Australia 12 months ago. Would need to improve considerably.

Daniel O'Sullivan: Would take a Darren Weir miracle to pluck the necessary improvement out of the air.

Rob Waterhouse: You must never underestimate Darren Weir, he seems to get the horses to fire on Group 1 days, but I would mark him as very much an outsider.

Vengeur Masque ridden by Patrick Moloney wins the Geelong Cup in 2017. Picture: Michael Dodge
Vengeur Masque ridden by Patrick Moloney wins the Geelong Cup in 2017. Picture: Michael Dodge

No.15 VENGEUR MASQUE

Ladbrokes odds: $61

Age: 7yo gelding

Weight: 54kg

Trainer: Mike Moroney

Jockey: Patrick Moloney

Barrier: 2

Gary Crispe: Not good enough.

Daniel O'Sullivan: No.

Rob Waterhouse: I would say a very rough chance.

Jockey Mark Zahra rides Ventura Storm to victory in the Moonee Valley Gold Cup on Cox Plate Day. Picture: AAP
Jockey Mark Zahra rides Ventura Storm to victory in the Moonee Valley Gold Cup on Cox Plate Day. Picture: AAP

No.16 VENTURA STORM

Ladbrokes odds: $26

Age: 6yo gelding

Weight: 54kg

Trainer: D&B Hayes & T Dabernig

Jockey: Mark Zahra

Barrier: 7

Gary Crispe: Returned to the winning list for the first time in a long time in the Moonee Valley Cup. Ran well enough in the Caulfield Cup to suggest he is one of the chances for multiples.

Daniel O'Sullivan: Had the right run to win the Moonee Valley Cup in a very fast time rating. But it's not a run we are excited about. His adjusted rating for his 54kg here still leaves him well short of the likely winning mark.

Rob Waterhouse: Even though he won the Moonee Valley Cup I think that was his peak of this campaign. I would say he has a very rough chance at best.

Michael Walker riding A Prince of Arran before winning the Lexus Stakes during Derby Day at Flemington. Picture: AAP
Michael Walker riding A Prince of Arran before winning the Lexus Stakes during Derby Day at Flemington. Picture: AAP

No.17 A PRINCE OF ARRAN

Ladbrokes odds: $17

Age: 6yo gelding

Weight: 53kg

Trainer: Charlie Fellowes

Jockey: Michael Walker

Barrier: 20

Gary Crispe: Has very good staying form in the UK and Dubai and ran right up to those ratings in the Herbert Power and Lexus Stakes. His win in the Lexus was full of merit as no horse since the 1950s has carried more than 57kg to win the race. Rates similarly to the last Cup winner to complete the double in Shocking.

Daniel O'Sullivan: With 53kg here, his last two ratings in Australia give him the platform that is close enough if he can elevate to a new peak on the day as Melbourne Cup winners tend to do. Not sure he can, but can't be ruled out.

Rob Waterhouse: I think he has a great chance. He was impressive on Saturday, he will be a longish price and I most certainly won't be against him. He must fit in there. Of course, once upon a time they would all back up from Saturday. It's unfashionable now, but there has been nine in the past 30 years who have won on the back-up, so it's still not hopeless.

Nakeeta gallops during a Werribee trackwork session. Picture: Michael Dodge
Nakeeta gallops during a Werribee trackwork session. Picture: Michael Dodge

No.18 NAKEETA

Ladbrokes odds: $81

Age: 8yo gelding

Weight: 53kg

Trainer: Iain Jardine

Jockey: Regan Bayliss

Barrier: 3

Gary Crispe: One of the poorer credentialled internationals.

Daniel O'Sullivan: Wasn't disgraced in this race last year, but his Moonee Valley lead-up last week was not encouraging.

Rob Waterhouse: Very rough at best.

Jockey Blake Shinn (left) riding Sir Charles Road to win the Schweppes Chairman’s Quality, during The Championships at Royal Randwick. Picture: AAP
Jockey Blake Shinn (left) riding Sir Charles Road to win the Schweppes Chairman’s Quality, during The Championships at Royal Randwick. Picture: AAP

No.19 SIR CHARLES ROAD

Ladbrokes odds: $101

Age: 5yo gelding

Weight: 53kg

Trainer: Lance O'Sullivan & Andrew Scott

Jockey: Dwayne Dunn

Barrier: 14

Gary Crispe: This looks too tough.

Daniel O'Sullivan: Not up to this.

Rob Waterhouse: Very rough at best.

No.20 ZACADA

Ladbrokes odds: $126

Age: 6yo gelding

Weight: 53kg

Trainer: Murray Baker & Andrew Forsman

Jockey: Damian Lane

Barrier: 24

Gary Crispe: Kiwi who doesn't look good enough.

Daniel O'Sullivan: Outclassed.

Rob Waterhouse: No chance.

Strapper Alana Pearson Runaway. Picture: Ian Currie
Strapper Alana Pearson Runaway. Picture: Ian Currie

No.21 RUNAWAY

Ladbrokes odds: $34

Age: 4yo rig

Weight: 52kg

Trainer: Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott

Jockey: Stephen Baster

Barrier: 12

Gary Crispe: VRC St Leger winner from the powerful Waterhouse/Bott stable. Comes into this race in career best form and is likely to be in proceedings for a fair way.

Daniel O'Sullivan: Will have admirers being co-trained by Gai Waterhouse but he's not classy enough to trouble these.

Rob Waterhouse: Clearly I hope he wins for Gai but I just see it as being too big a rise in class. The only thing is if you had to find a system for betting on Melbourne Cups, backing last-start winners into the race is a sensationally good system. There have been 130 last-start winners contest the race in the past 30 years and 15 have won and you've won 29 per cent on SP. So there's no better system than backing last-start winners and at least he's a last- start winner.

Craig Williams rides Youngstar during trackwork at Flemington. Picture: AAP
Craig Williams rides Youngstar during trackwork at Flemington. Picture: AAP

No.22 YOUNGSTAR

Ladbrokes odds: $16

Age: 4yo mare

Weight: 51.5kg

Trainer: Chris Waller

Jockey: Craig Williams

Barrier: 8

Gary Crispe: Had no luck in the Caulfield Cup. Her previous run was second to champion Winx in the Turnbull Stakes. That formline alone keeps her under consideration for this race.

Daniel O'Sullivan: She produced a clear new career peak when second to Winx in the Turnbull Stakes, but wasn't able to back that up in the Caulfield Cup. Admittedly, she didn't enjoy the best of luck, but still needs to take a big step off that to win here.

Rob Waterhouse: A rough chance.

Cross Counter gallops during a Werribee trackwork. Picture: Michael Dodge
Cross Counter gallops during a Werribee trackwork. Picture: Michael Dodge

No.23 CROSS COUNTER

Ladbrokes odds: $9.50

Age: 4yo gelding

Weight: 51kg

Trainer: Charlie Appleby

Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy

Barrier: 19

Gary Crispe: Very promising European three-year-old who brings excellent form to this race and a higher rating than last year's three-year-old winner Rekindling. Had a minor setback but if fully recovered, he will take a power of beating.

Daniel O'Sullivan: His collateral formlines put him right up with some of the best three-year-olds to race in Europe this year, so he's clearly well placed getting in here with 51kg. The negative is how much the injury setback he had at Werribee, where he missed a number of days work, has had on him. Market intelligence might provide the answer to that. If it hasn't hurt him, he's a huge threat.

Rob Waterhouse: His form reads well. I would have thought if he's fancied, he has a strong chance.

Rostropovich gallops during a Werribee trackwork session. Picture: Michael Dodge
Rostropovich gallops during a Werribee trackwork session. Picture: Michael Dodge

No.24 ROSTROPOVICH

Ladbrokes odds: $26

Age: 4yo horse

Weight: 51kg

Trainer: Aidan O'Brien

Jockey: Wayne Lordan

Barrier: 21

Gary Crispe: Irish Derby placegetter who made his debut in Australia behind Winx in the Cox Plate at his first start for 42 days. A strong winner at Leopardstown before coming to Australia and could easily make a bold showing.

Daniel O'Sullivan: Not on what we saw in the Cox Plate.

Rob Waterhouse: He's the stablemate of Yucatan and The Cliffsofmoher. You would have to say his Cox Plate run was not good enough, but I actually think his form in Europe is superior to the other two of Aidan O'Brien's horses. I think he's got a really strong chance.

Yucatan is the favourite to win in the eyes of all our experts.
Yucatan is the favourite to win in the eyes of all our experts.

THE VERDICT

Gary Crispe:

IT'S a very strong race this year but Yucatan's Timeform rating from the Herbert Power puts him in the race with a strong chance, given he ran the same figure in that race as Protectionist did when fourth in that race before winning the 2014 Melbourne Cup. He looks sure to get 3200m to my eye. Cross Counter is probably the highest rated Northern Hemisphere three-year-old to contest the race and that age group is building a nice record through Mahler (third in 2007) and Rekindling. Magic Circle is the unknown quantity in the race. Since being transferred to this stable, the opposition has had no answer to him.

Daniel O'Sullivan:

THERE looks six main hopes, seemingly being a case of Yucatan and Best Solution bringing clearly the best Australian lead-up runs, versus four horses first-up off the plane, those being Muntahaa, Magic Circle, Marmelo and query runner Cross Counter. Seeing is believing and if we stretch Yucatan's winning margin to what it would realistically have been had he not been eased down in the Herbert Power, then he's right in the zone of the average winning margin for this race. He's trained by a wizard in Aidan O'Brien, so there's no reason to suggest he won't hold that form, or go even better here.

Rob Waterhouse:

YUCATAN is entitled to be the clear favourite. I don't dismiss the bottom weight Rostropovich. He is three-and-a-half and that's the same as the horse who won last year (Rekindling). I think A Prince Of Arran has a very good chance and Avilius is likely to be underestimated.