It’s race day and just like last year I will be putting out a late review with a few tips as to how I believe the Melbourne Cup will play out. The raging hot favourite for the 2021 Melbourne Cup is Incentivise. The locally bred and trained 5 year old has taken all before him in the spring of 2021 (including the winter) but can he go to the well one more time?
There is a hint of predictability about this year’s race, due in part to the lack of depth and the shear class of the favourite Incentivise and the presence of last year’s immovable object Twilight Payment. Twilight Payment led all the way in the 2020 Melbourne Cup and he ran the fastest race time in decades. He is tough and he likes to drain the anaerobic abilities of his opponents. Incentivise is a similar animal. The two both like to race near the lead or to lead.
Incentivise has to navigate a wide barrier (16) to get near the lead. On his side is the fact he has something like 800m down the Flemington straight before the first turn. He should be able to get across and those inside him may be damaging their own chances by making it difficult for him. But Twilight Payment is inside him. Last year’s champion is in barrier two.
Now considering that the main doubts anybody has about Incentivise winning is around his ability to run 3200m as effectively as he runs 2400m. Many experts say that Incentivise may not be genetically suited to a 2 mile race but he beat the best we have over 2400m by 5 lengths, so it doesn’t really matter. To give what I’m saying more tangibility think of Usain Bolt (the world’s best 100m runner) running over 400m against strong 400m runners but not the world’s best 400m runners. He would probably beat them. Incentivise will beat good dour two milers, can he beat one of the world’s top 20?
Now let’s get back to the race tactics. Twilight Payment’s Jye Mcneil will be 100% aware of his horse’s strengths. That’s why it seems inevitable to me that he will increase the tempo of the race as early as the 1200m or 1400m similar to last year.
Whether he leads out of the first turn or not, Twilight Payment will look to slowly and gradually grind Incentivise into the ground. There are a handful of question marks around Twilight Payment though. He is a year older (8yrs 6 mths) and is being forced to carry 2.5kg more.
If Incentivise and Twilight Payment engage in a personal war out front, there is the possibility that they mutilate their own chances on a day when the thermometer is expected to hit 30 degrees celsius. Similar weather to the 2020 Melbourne Cup by the way. Does this open the race up to an upset? If anybody could capitalise on this, it may be Tralee Rose who has shown herself to be a real dour stayer with her recent 2nd in the G3 2500m Bart Cummings and a win in the G3 2400m Geelong Cup. She has a handy barrier that should allow her to take a convenient position about 3 pairs from the lead.
Other runners to look out for, Grand Promenade who has not run a bad race and will also race close to the lead. Working against him is the very inconvenient 21 barrier. Persan should also get a really handy run with his 11 barrier and will settle about 2-3 pairs back. He is proven over the two miles with a 5th place in last year’s race. Obviously there is Verry Elleegant the 6 year old mare who is also very consistent. Once again she faces the inconvenience of a wide barrier, nineteen. Spanish Mission is another one whose class cannot be ignored and we should see him grinding home late as he is a proven two miler at the top level. Lacks gate speed, so it will take a great ride by one of Australia’s best jockeys Craig Williams. The last ones that I’ll mention are Floating Artist who should get a cosy run, and then making ground late will be Selino and Ocean Billy (his 3200m Auckland Cup win was on good ground similar to today), they have both proven themselves over two miles.
Lew Dub’s Tips:
1st – Twilight Payment
Minor Placegetters – Tralee Rose, Incentivise, Persan, Floating Artist, Spanish Mission, Verry Elleegant, Grand Promenade, Ocean Billy and Selino.
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