The Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup are races synonymous with Australian racing and winning both in the same year has been achieved 11 times, but we question whether the Cups double will ever be won again.
On the eve of the 2023 Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, we look at what horses have achieved the Cups double, what horses could achieve the double this year and why the best staying thoroughbreds are finding it tough to win both races.
Caulfield Cup/Melbourne Cup double winners
The 11 winners of the Cups double include some of Australia’s finest staying thoroughbreds.
Rivette and Rising Fast were two early winners of the double and have since been rewarded for their efforts. Galilee and Gurner’s Lane added their names later in the century and the four recent winners all captured the hearts of racing fans across the world.
Let’s Elope (1991), Doriemus (1995), Might And Power (1997) and Ethereal (2001) were the last four winners of the double.
Why hasn’t any thoroughbred achieved the double since the New Zealand-trained Ethereal won in 2001? What made these aforementioned horses any different to the horses competing in Australia at the moment?
There are plenty of reasons why we think the Caulfield Cup/Melbourne Cup double will never be achieved again.
They don’t make them like they used to
The old saying, “They don’t them like they used to” can be applied here.
Australian and New Zealand stayers used to dominate the Cups because they were trained especially for both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cup, but that’s not the case in 2023.
Horses are typically either set for either the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate or the Melbourne Cup. Trainers are preferring the option of running in other races as preparation for the Melbourne Cup and the Caulfield feature just doesn’t play into that mindset.
The horses are simply too brilliant now to compete in both. By brilliant we mean that the modern day staying thoroughbred is better suited to running a strong 1600m-2000m race, instead of being a true two-miler.
The lack of staying fitness under their belts makes it tough to complete the double and most trainers aren’t even bothering in trying to win both.
The likes of Ethereal, Let’s Elope and Gurner’s Lane were polished stayers which could run further if they had to. They were stayers competing in a staying contest, but in 2023 we have milers being stretched out to the staying distances.
The notion that you need to stay to win a Melbourne Cup has been thrown out the window by these modern day thoroughbreds which are able to sprint better than most stayers. There was no chance of Winx competing in Australia’s greatest race, but the mere thought was enough to make purists squirm.
The international invasion
The impact of the international invasion is both positive and negative for staying racing in Australia.
The positive is that we see better horses competing in the Cups, but the negative is that some of Australia’s true staying types don’t make the field because the internationals have won a group three over the hurdles in Ireland.
The qualification process for these European horses needs fixing, because Australian punters might not see the next potential staying star in the major races.
European trainers are also reluctant to run in both Cup races as races such as the Geelong Cup and the Caulfield Stakes are more commonly used now, due to the timing of the races.
We tend to favour the Australasian runners for the Caulfield Cup, but beating the Melbourne Cup Internationals is very tough.
More money, more options
With the amount of money available in Australia, the Caulfield Cup might not be as appealing as it used to be.
So what makes the Caulfield Cup special?
We’re struggling to find a reason why trainers would take the Caulfield Cup-Melbourne Cup route seeing that no horse has completed the double in 16 years.
There is more money in running in easier options to prepare for the Melbourne Cup. Why hold a staying feature only one week before the main event?
It doesn’t make much sense from Racing Victoria and punters are seeing the same horses compete in consecutive weeks. The Melbourne Cup has so much appeal because we don’t see some of the runners before they come over for the race – there is some intrigue there.
2023 Cups double candidates? There is only one – Without A Fight
Without A Fight won the 2023 Caulfield Cup.
Can Without A Fight defy history and become the first horse since Ethereal in 2001 to complete the Caulfield Cup/Melbourne Cup double?
We think he can.
The Anthony & Sam Freedman-trained runner arrived in time to claim West Wind Blows in the shadows of the winning post to etch his name into Caulfield Cup folklore. He was only second-up in the Caulfield Cup and in the Melbourne Cup can go to another level with another run under his belt. His third-up record is bombproof, winning twice and placing in three goes.
This is obviously his hardest test in terms of being a winning chance in a big race, considering he finished 13th, beaten 21.15 lengths in this race last year. Firmer going is more his go and since being under the care of Anthony & Sam Freedman, he is a different galloper.
From barrier 16, Mark Zahra will go back towards the rear of the field, but if he can gain a tow into the race, we have no doubt he will stay the trip and finish over the top of his rivals once again.
For a full breakdown on every 2023 Melbourne Cup horses chances in the race that stops the nation, see our full feature race guides: