Ever heard of a trio of horses named Newminster, Tom Kirk and Blue Ribbon? If you have, you are probably a keen punter and horse racing historian, as they were the first three winners of the superb Caulfield Cup, which initially took place on the track that bears its name way back in 1879. To complete the story, the last three winners, from 2016 backwards, were Jameka, Mongolian Khan and Admire Rakti.
Apart from some Second World War years, when it was raced at Flemington, Caulfield has been the place to be in mid-October, as the 2,400m (or the old mile-and-a-half if you prefer) turf race gets the attention of people across Australia, and far beyond. The actual day itself is the third and final day of the Melbourne Racing Club’s famous Spring Carnival meeting.
The Caulfield Cup is recognised as the world’s richest race of its type; not surprising with a prize money pot of a cool three million dollars. Incidentally, 1906 winner Poseidon was the first to complete an amazing double by also winning the legendary Melbourne Cup in the same year. Less than a dozen horses have managed this stellar feat, including The Trump (not that one), Even Stevens in 1962, Might and Power (1997); and the last was Ethereal, a while ago now, back in 2001.
The Caulfield Cup is a designated MRC Group 1 Thoroughbred race. It is presently raced under handicap conditions, but Melbourne Racing Club is in the process of converting it to a WFA (weight for age) conditions race. Only 18 horses, aged three and above, start the race, but there are also four emergencies.
Under the current handicap conditions, each participating horse is allocated a specific weight to carry. The amount depends on a variety of factors such as any recent wins by that horse or the prize money it has already accumulated. A horse’s performance in the Caulfield Cup is one of the possible qualification criteria to be able to then take part in the Melbourne Cup itself, held just over two weeks after this race.
How experts, and other punters, assess the Caulfield Cup field and form guide, odds and tips
Key factors for an ‘expert’ tipster to consider would include the performance of each horse in its lead-up races. They would also then carefully assess the state of the track on Caulfield Cup race day itself. It’s known that many horses are likely to perform more successfully on certain types of track. For example, if a track were to be rated as a Good 3, an entrant with no proof of success on what is a dry track would often be discounted by the experts providing Caulfield Cup tips.
Another key consideration for many is the barrier draw, as it is often felt it has a large influence on how a horse might run, particularly when its individual running style is matched to its barrier position. Incidentally, Barrier 1 has failed to house a winner for three decades or so.
Occasional punters have, however, been known to have slightly more quirky or personal ways of making the choice of which entrants to back with their hard-earned dollars! Whether you accept tips, carefully study the Caulfield Cup form guide, or go your own way, a punt or two certainly adds to the excitement of what is already a wonderfully Australian occasion.
Caulfield Cup Field and Odds
If it’s mid-October, and it’s also the last of the three days of the Melbourne Racing Club’s Spring Carnival, then it’s Caulfield Cup day. One of Australia’s stellar sporting moments, its field is limited to just 18 starters, plus a quartet of emergencies. Horses entering need to be three years or older, and entry is finally decided by a ballot system. It’s useful to know that automatic entry is awarded to the horses who were victorious in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes and also the Listed Mornington Cup.
If you are curious to know why such a system is used, it’s because the aim is always to provide a more level field, and to offer a chance for Caulfield Cup glory to some of the lesser performed horses. Other key factors bearing consideration for ballot eligibility will include any placings gained in the lead-up races, plus both the race wins and prize money any horse has gained.
Which brings us on to one of the vital considerations for those owning, training or riding a horse in the Caulfield Cup. It’s the barrier draw - this is a time when even the calmest of connections can be seen to be slightly grey around the gills! However, it has to be said that any idea that there is a ‘golden barrier’ is wide of the mark. Winners have been spread across the draw (apart from Barrier 1, on the rails, which has been a no-no for around thirty years). Those involved simply hope for a position that best matches the horse’s likely running style and behaviour.
Much excitement is generated among punters about the Caulfield Cup odds. Although the final odds don’t appear until just a few days before the event takes place, lucrative futures odds are provided some months in advance of the actual hooves hitting the turf. Odds will be amended and updated with every new round of either race nominations or actual acceptances. These are likely to be calculated with care given to whether any horse has a good chance of actually making it into the Caulfield Cup field. Then consideration can be given to how each is likely to perform in the actual race itself.
What other factors might interest both tipsters and punters? Well, one major consideration is likely to be how each entrant has performed in several specific lead-up races. These include The Metropolitan, Spring Champion Stakes, the Cranbourne Cup, Yalumba Stakes, and the Craven Plate.
Some final points of interest. A few horses have multiple victories. These include Rising Fast who won the Caulfield Cup twice in a row in the fifties, as did Poseidon in 1906-7. Ming Dynasty achieved this twice in four runnings in 1977 and 1980, and Whittier achieved the same in the twenties. Just a couple were won on a protest, and there was a dead heat in 1909.
What will 2017 bring? Who knows – but it’s surely worth a punt before you find out! With a wide range of bookmakers and odds and a terrific selection of different bets, there’s no shortage of ways to take a fun gamble on the Caulfield Cup!