Melbourne Cup: Betting with, and against, Incentivise

November 1st, 2021

As a 24-horse handicap, the 3200-metre (about two miles) Melbourne Cup (G1) normally has favorites starting between 4-1 and 7-1 mark. This year, however, #2 Incentivise dominates the market after winning nine in a row, the latest the Oct. 16 Caulfield Cup (G1) by 3 1/2 lengths.

Incentivise opened as a 13-10 favorite in Australia when the field was declared, which would have been the shortest odds in the race since Phar Lap was odds-on in 1930. By the morning of the race he’d moved out to a still-short 9-5.

Despite a re-handicap to 57kg (about 126 pounds), Incentivise appears capable of handling the weight. He’s won his four races past 2000m by a combined 32.3 lengths, with the Caulfield Cup the smallest of those margins. Certainly there’s good reason to take combination bets with Incentivise as a key.

If you want to take Incentivise on, however, there are plenty of options. It’s worth noting that of the 26 horses that have started at 9-4 or less in Melbourne Cup history, just three have won. Since Phar Lap’s 1930 victory, the record of these horses is 0-for-11.

Covid-19 restrictions and new rules for imports designed to stop the too-high death rate in the race in recent years mean the number of European-trained runners is just two, but that pair are from the top drawer.

#1 Twilight Payment surprised by winning at 26-1 last year but the veteran has continued in good form this year, finishing second to Sonnyboyliston in the 1 3/4-mile Irish St Leger (G1) Sept. 12. He should go well again.

The other raider is #3 Spanish Mission, who won the Yorkshire Cup (G2) May 14 and was just a head behind Stradivarius in the two-mile Lonsdale Cup (G2) Aug. 20. The Andrew Balding trainee had to pass a late fitness test to ensure a run but he has a big chance.

Two local trainers, Chris Waller and the Ciaron Maher-David Eustace partnership, account for a third of the field between them. Waller’s best chances look to be Hotham H. (G3) winner #23 Great House and his outstanding mare #4 Verry Ellegant, though his recent New Zealand import #8 Ocean Billy is a proven stayer worth including in exotics.

Maher and Eustace have three solid chances: Bart Cummings (G3) winner #16 Grand Promenade, Caulfield Cup third #12 Persan, and Moonee Valley Cup (G2) runner-up #22 Floating Artist. Don’t ignore their other runner #5 Explosive Jack, who will be better suited over 3200m at Flemington.

Others worth a look for multiples are last year’s fourth #6 The Chosen One, Herbert Power (G2) winner #7 Delphi, Bart Cummings runner-up #15 Pondus, useful mare #19 She’s Ideel, and Geelong Cup (G3) winner #21 Tralee Rose.

Perhaps the most intriguing runner is #24 Sir Lucan. Previously trained by Aidan O’Brien for the Coolmore team, he disappointed in the St Leger (G1) but may not have liked the softish ground and his previous form was sound.

Northern Hemisphere three-year-olds won the Cup in 2017 (Rekindling) and 2018 (Cross Counter) and a third, Tiger Moth, was second last year. Sir Lucan has reportedly trained well since arriving with Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, and if you’re taking on Incentivise, he is one to include.


50-cent trifecta key 2 with 1, 3, 16, 23, 24 with 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 24 ($30)


20-cent trifecta 1, 3, 16, 24 with 1, 2, 3, 16, 24 with 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 16, 21, 23, 24 ($28).