Betting on the Melbourne Cup is arguably getting harder as the years progress.
A ever-growing slew of international runners make their way down under for the race that stops a nation each year, which further muddies the waters as to which lead-in races are your best options heading into the big one.
In years gone by it was the Caufield Cup and the Cox Plate that were the best indicators of a strong cup performance, but as racing trends change so to do the form races leading into the Melbourne Cup.
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Important Melbourne Cup lead-in races
The five ballot-exempt races are the main events that punters should keep an eye on first and foremost, as the winner will gain direct access into the Cup without having to sweat on the order of entry.
Those five races are:
Traditionalists will point to the time-honoured Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate as being the best kick-off points for the Melbourne Cup, but history suggests that may no longer be the case.
The Cox Plate: in particular is more of a stand-alone event rather than a double-chasing race prior to the Melbourne Cup. In the period between 2010 and 2018, So You Think is the only horse to have won Cox Plate and gone on to compete in the Melbourne Cup of that year.
Having said that, the race has been used as a quality tune-up race for the eventual winner.
Fiorente finished third in the Cox Plate before going on to win the Melbourne Cup in 2013, while Green Moon only managed a seventh-placed finish before going on to claim the Cup in 2012.
Odds on favourite Winx took out a fourth-straight Cox Plate, but is not competing in the 2018 Melbourne Cup
The Caulfield Cup: This winner in most cases goes on to race in the Melbourne Cup, but given only 11 horses in the history of both races have claimed the Caulfield/Melbourne Cup double, the past suggests it is extremely hard to win both races in any given year.
In what would loom as a shock to many, in the period between 2010 and 2017, only one horse (Shocking in 2010) has raced in the Caulfield Cup and gone on to win the Melbourne Cup.
The 2018 Caulfield Cup was won by Best Solution
The Bart Cummings: has only been a direct entry race since 2015, but it has been a successful form race heading into the cup. Giving horses the most amount of time from the ballot-exempt race into the Melbourne Cup, the Bart Cummings 2016 winner Almandin went on to win the cup that year, while 2014 winner Who Shot Thebarman went on to finish third in the Cup of that year.
Avilius is the Bart Cummings’ representative in the 2018 Melbourne Cup this year. The Godolphin runner survived a photo-finish and a protest but quickly surged to the top of the Cup market following the official result.
We wouldn’t be surprised to see a turn around in form with only 51kg and an in-form Dean Yendall on her back.
The Lexus Stakes: The winner of this race has a short turnaround of only a few days before heading the Melbourne Cup, which invariably means the horse will need to produce an out of the ordinary effort to salute in the big one. Since 2017, Sign Off (fourth in 2014) has been the best performing winner out of the race, while the last horse to do the Lexus Stakes/Melbourne Cup double was Shocking in 2009.
British import A Price Of Arran took out the Lexus Handicap to win the last Melbourne Cup ballot exemption
Andrew Ramsden Stakes Added in 2018 to the ballot exemption in an effort to help boost the hopes of the Australian contingent of Cup contenders, the Andrew Ramsden Stakes in May will now grant a galloper direct entry into the race that stops a nation.
Sin To Win won the 2018 Andrew Ramsden Stakes
Other notable Melbourne Cup lead-in races
The Geelong Cup: Since Media Puzzle’s win in 2002 and subsequent Melbourne Cup success, a win in the Geelong Cup has become a strong form-line for the race that stops a nation. Irish invader Bauer won in Geelong before narrowly missing out in 2008, while Americain in 2010 and Dunaden just a year later went on to do the double.
The 2018 Geelong Cup was won by Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Runaway
The Turnbull Stakes: This is another race that produces Melbourne Cup contenders. Green Moon did the Turnbull Stakes/Melbourne Cup double in 2012, as did Makybe Diva in 2005.
Hartnell went on to claim third in the cup after winning the 2016 Turnbull Stakes, while Preferment (2015) and Lucia Valentina (2014) went into the race as key market elects, but failed to perform.
2018 Turnbull Stakes winner Winx became the third horse in seven years to win the race and not go on to compete in that year’s Melbourne Cup.
What international races indicate Melbourne Cup success
Given there is perennially a number of international raiders at the head of the betting markets for the Melbourne Cup, it stands to reason that punters must look at overseas events if they are to properly gauge how the foreigners rate coming into the race.
The Ebor Handicap: Held in York and is one of Europe’s richest staying handicaps and has produced a number of notable Melbourne Cup contenders.
In an incredible anomaly, the race has gone on to produce a number of second-placed horses in the Melbourne Cup. Gives The Slip took out the Ebor before finishing second to Ethereal in the 2001 Cup, Hugs Dancer was outdone by Efficient in 2007 after winning the York feature, while Heartbreak City took the race out in 2016 before finishing second to Almandin in 2016.
The Prix de Kergolay: Race in France and is becoming one of the must-follow races from Europe. Both Americain in 2010 and Protectionist in 2014 took out the group two crown and went on to claim the Melbourne Cup.
In 2017 British galloper Marmelo firmed into favouritism after taking out the Prix de Kergolay.
The Irish St.Leger: Has been viewed as one of the UK’s best lead-in races for the race that stops a nation. Vintage Crop won the race then came over and took out the cup in 1993, Vinnie Roe took the race out in 2004 and eventually ran second to Makybe Diva in the big one.
Other notable winners that have come across after taking the race out are Septimus in 2008 and Wicklow Brave in 2016.