Watch the Melbourne Cup at 11 PM ET on TwinSpires.com
Although the sun is forecast to be shining bright, heavy rains in recent days will leave the Flemington course soft for the 2019 Melbourne Cup (G1), the world-famous two-mile handicap which carries a purse of A$6 million. Run Tuesday afternoon local time, the Melbourne Cup post time for American viewers is Monday evening at 11 p.m. (EST). You can watch and wager at TwinSpires.com.
As is my annual custom, I’ll be spreading my action plays among several in the Win pool. You can review my 2016, 2017, and 2018 selections at the noted links. We cashed on Almandin in 2016 and came close with Max Dynamite (3rd) in 2017 and Marmelo (2nd) last year.
Attracted by the purse and prestige, European-based runners continue to make up an increasing proportion of the 24 Cup entries. It’s safe to say #13 RAYMOND TUSK is not the classiest of them, but the High Chaparral colt endured a hard-luck trip in the Ebor Handicap at York when last seen in August. Lacking a clear passage when attempting to make up ground through most of the straight, the traffic blunted any burst he might have provided and he settled for fourth, two lengths behind the winning #8 MUSTAJEER in that 1 3/4-mile heat.
A smoother trip is no guarantee in this field of two dozen, but his long-windedness could have him up close in the latter stages as others’ stamina begins to evaporate.
#1 CROSS COUNTER won the race last year as a Northern Hemisphere 3-year-old while toting a feathery 112 pounds. Repeating is hard (the mare Makybe Diva won three in a row earlier this century, the only horse to do so since the mid-1970s). It’ll be even harder for Cross Counter as he’ll be required to tote 15 pounds more than last year, but there’s still plenty to like about him in this spot.
His form since last year’s Cup hasn’t been as stellar, but hardly bad. After a season-opening win in Dubai, he ran creditably twice against Stardivarius. Last time, in the Irish St Leger (G1), he ran fourth behind a loose-on-the-lead three-year-old filly getting 11 pounds from the older males. Runner-up Kew Gardens subsequently beat Stradivarius at Ascot.
By virtue of the heavier impost, Cross Counter figures to be a higher price than the 9-1 Australian odds on offer last year. I wouldn’t put a title defense past him, though, given the brilliance he displayed 12 months ago.
More of an each-way play is #24 YOUNGSTAR, on whom I invested some in last year’s renewal. She finished a fine sixth, and has shown gradually improving form this spring. I certainly get the critiques that she looked a much stronger threat going into the 2018 renewal. Multiple wins on soft ground and assured stamina are her strong suits.