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Melbourne Cup 2021: Five-minute betting guide to this year’s race

No time to do the Melbourne Cup form?

Check out our five-minute guide with likes, dislikes and verdict on every runner.


Last year’s Cup winner is back to tackle the great race for the third time.

Trainer: Joseph O’Brien

Jockey: J McNeil

Barrier: 2

Likes: Incredibly consistent horse who has missed a place just once in his past 10 starts. Distance, class and ability to travel, this old stayer ticks all three boxes. Lead-up form at least as good, and arguably better, than it was coming into last year’s race.

Dislikes: He’ll want to be in better form as must carry 2.5kg more than he did in 2020

VERDICT: He’s up in weight and he’s getting old (story of my life) but the class is still there and this field is not as good as last year’s. Place chance.


The hottest of hot favourites, Incentivise is on track to break a 20-year Melbourne Cup/Caulfield Cup drought.

Trainer: Peter Moody

Jockey: B Prebble

Barrier: 16

Likes: The hype built around this horse after he won the G1 Makybe Diva, kept building after he cruised through the G1 Turnbull and then exploded after he crushed his opponents in the G1 Caulfield Cup.

Dislikes: I have to find one and it is weight. It’s the nature of a handicap that a horse that has won three Group Ones on the trot coming in will carry a big weight and that’s what Incentivise must do here.

VERDICT: He’s never run past 2,500m, is being asked to carry plenty of weight and the odds are crazy low so I would not bet on him to win, but you must take Incentivise in your multiples and there’s an argument to take him as a stand out (ie as your only horse to win).


Star UK stayer who was Cup favourite before Incentivise began his superb run of form.

Trainer: Andrew Balding

Jockey: C Williams

Barrier: 14

Likes: He can stay all day. Finished just 0.2 lengths behind superstar Stradivarius (at the same weight) at his last start in a G2 over 3,200m and beat Stradivarius the race before in a G1 over 4,000m.

Dislikes: Was originally slated for the Cups double, but had a delayed departure to Australia due to having muscle spasms. Questions over how he will handle the big field as the biggest field he has raced in previously is 13 horses and often races with half that number around him. Had an injury setback just days before the Cup and while he has been declared fit that’s hardly ideal.

VERDICT: Certainly brings a touch of Euro staying class to a less than stellar field. The injury knock has me a little worried but still respecting and rate a place hope.


A grand mare of Australian racing, Very Elleegant is one runner you would never query on class with nine Group One wins already to her name.

Trainer: Chris Waller

Jockey: J McDonald

Barrier: 19

Likes: She can stay as she showed in last year’s Cup when there were 20 in front of her at the turn for home and she kept finding and finding to finish a game seventh. JMac on board is always a plus.

Dislikes: But is she travelling as well as last year? In 2020 Verry Elleegant came into the Cup off the back of wins in the Turnbull and Caulfield Cups. This year she finished fourth (3.5 lengths off the winner) in the Turnbull and third in (a pretty weak) Cox Plate. Also, despite the brave 2020 MC effort I feel 2,400 metres is more her go. Barrier is not good.

VERDICT: The class is unquestionable, but the form feels below her best and the barrier hurts. Not top four but won’t disgrace herself.


Star three-year-old who won the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) in April and G1 South Australian Derby (2,500m) in May.

Trainer: Ciaron Maher and David Eustace

Jockey: J Allen

Barrier: 4

Likes: The Australian Derby field has been franked with Montefilia (2.1 lengths fourth in that race) going on to win the G1 Metropolitan (and finish fourth in the Caulfield Cup) and Young Werther (0.1 lengths second) finishing just half a length off Incentivise in the G1 Turnbull. Speaking of the Turnbull, Explosive Jack had to carry 58kg in the race and he finished very very well.

Dislikes: The Caulfield Cup run (17th of 18 runners) was a dud. He got well back and made no ground over the final 400m in fact was almost two seconds slower than Incentivise over the final 600m.

VERDICT: Gets a 3.5kg pull in the weights to Cup favourite Incentivise when compared to the Turnbull and as a horse who gets back in races he’ll enjoy the wide open Flemington more than he did the tight Caulfield circuit. I’m giving some hope to run a place despite the Caulfield flop.

6. THE CHOSEN ONE (54kg)

Is it a case of the third time being a charm for this tough Kiwi six-year-old who finished fourth in the 2020 Cup?

Trainer: Murray Baker & Andrew Forsman

Jockey: D Lane

Barrier: 5

Likes: You can cross off ‘distance’ as a concern as while he hasn’t won over the two miles he was just 2.3 lengths off the winner in last year’s Cup and has placed over two miles in the G1 Sydney Cup. Finished nicely in the G2 Herbert Power on 9 October, beaten by Delphi when conceding 2kg and gets a 1.5kg swing on him here.

Dislikes: Hasn’t won for over a year and despite 16 chances at Group 1 level he’s never won and placed four times. Was unimpressive in the Caulfield Cup this year (14th of 18) never in the race.

VERDICT: Was travelling better last year and still didn’t run a place. Far from the worst but one I think I’ll risk when it comes to putting a bet on.

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7. DELPHI (53.5kg)

Former UK based horse who was transferred to the Freedman stable in June this year.

Trainer: A & S Freedman

Jockey: D Oliver

Barrier: 3

Likes: Displayed some fine form before coming to Australia winning four on the trot culminating in the G3 Irish St Leger Trial (2,800m) where he beat two time Cups contender Master Of Reality. Has worked through the grades in Australia with his best win being the G2 Herbert Power (2,400m) two starts back.

Dislikes: Followed up the Herbert Power run with a flat Caulfield Cup effort in which he led the field 800m from home and then faded away.

VERDICT: A capable stayer with some good form lines, if he had finished off strongly in the Caulfield Cup, Delphi would be much closer in the betting. I’m prepared to keep in multiples despite CC flop and rate him far better than the 50/1 currently being quoted.

8. OCEAN BILLY (53.3kg)

A Kiwi hope and Auckland Cup (G1 3,200m) winner, Ocean Billy is one of the roughies in the race.

Trainer: Chris Waller

Jockey: D Thornton

Barrier: 13

Likes: The Auckland Cup win franks his staying ability and then he was not disgraced at first run in Australia when ninth of 18 in the Caulfield Cup.

Dislikes: Only one horse, Jezabeel in 1998, has completed the Auckland Cup/Melbourne Cup double so it’s clearly not a great formline. Not in with a featherweight and others better treated by the handicapper.

VERDICT: Appears to be outclassed here.

9. SELINO (53.5kg)

Former UK horse and a true stayer whose best win in Australia was the Sydney Cup (G1 3,200m) in April.

Trainer: Chis Waller

Jockey: R Stewart

Barrier: 24

Likes: One of the only horses in the race whose chances would improve if it were even longer, Selino may only have three wins from 20 starts but they came at 2,800, 3,200 and 3,328 metres. His fourth in the G3 Bart Cummings (two starts back) was the best of this preparation.

Dislikes: There’s a few. Has been 80/1 or worse for each run this prep and while the bookies don’t always get it right they aren’t often that wrong. He’s finished a combined 35 lengths off the winner in his four runs this Spring. Not exactly lightweight at 53.5kg, the Sydney/Melbourne Cup double is a very rare feat with the great Makybe Diva the last to do it back in 2004 and then throw in barrier 24.

VERDICT: With his love for distance was always going to be working through the gears so I was not totally put off by the big defeats early in this prep and he was never in my top eight; a midfield finish seemed possible – then he drew the carpark and slipped further down my rankings. Pass.


The 2020 Victoria Derby (G1, 2,500m) winner who was guaranteed a start when he won that race.

Trainer: Denis Pagan

Jockey: (a) L King

Barrier: 22

Likes: Really there’s only the Derby win and nothing else.

Dislikes: Has lost by a combined 65 lengths in the four starts since his Derby win finishing dead last in the Turnbull Stakes and 12th of 13 and 19 lengths off the winner in the G3 Geelong Cup.

VERDICT: Efficient is the last horse to win the Melbourne Cup the year after a Derby win – and you need to go back to Phar Lap to find another. Johnny is not going to be the next, certainly not from barrier 22.

11. KNIGHTS ORDER (53kg)

Former UK stayer who has been with Waterhouse/Bott since July 2020 and had his best win in the G2 Brisbane Cup (3,200m) in June of this year.

Trainer: G Waterhouse & A Bott

Jockey: D Stackhouse

Barrier: 9

Likes: The Brisbane Cup win was a dominant one and his acceleration over the final furlongs indicated a real comfort at the distance, though there are some question marks more on those below.

Dislikes: The Brisbane Cup field was also a soft one and he enjoyed a soft run where he was left alone up front the entire trip – that won’t happen here. Trounced at last three starts (G3 Bart Cummings, G3 Geelong Cup and G3 Hotham) when up against Cup rivals.

VERDICT: May lead for a period but expect he’ll tail off quickly when the whips get cracking. Hard pass

12. PERSAN (53kg)

Was rather impressive in last year’s Cup, hugging the rail and finishing strongly to hold on for fifth place when paying 40/1.

Trainer: Ciaron Maher and David Eustace

Jockey: L Currie

Barrier: 11

Likes: His strong finish in last year’s Cup indicates the trip isn’t a problem, and while he is asked to carry 2kg more this year than last it’s still not a big impost. Third in the Caulfield Cup is a strong formline into the Cup and he showed guts in the finish of that race.

Dislikes: Does not win too often, nine starts at Group level for just one win and two placings.

VERDICT: Gets a 1.5kg pull on Incentivise from the Caulfield Cup and while I’m not sure that’s enough to make Persan a real winning chance I do think it’s enough for you to consider him a genuine place player in trifectas and first four exotics.

13. CARIF (52.5kg)

He may not be the ‘sexiest’ horse in the field, but Carif does have winning form over 3,200m which gives him some appeal.

Trainer: P & P Snowden

Jockey: B Mc Dougall

Barrier: 8

Likes: The 3,200m win was the Sandown Cup in November last year where he held off the impressive Realm Of Flowers (a horse who would have been well in the betting here if not for illness). Carif then ran second to Knights Order in this year’s G2 Brisbane Cup (3,200m) and gets a 4kg swing in the weights on that race.

Dislikes: Has been pretty plain this prep well beaten in easier grades in Sydney.

VERDICT: Not sure he can match it with the best here, but is better than the $126 currently being quoted and I’m not totally disregarding a horse yet to miss a place in two goes at the two miles.

14. MASTER OF WINE (52.5kg)

Six year-old who can produce an out of the box run at times but feels past his best.

Trainer: Michael & Wayne & John Hawkes

Jockey: F Kersley

Barrier: 6

Likes: Chased home well in the G3 Bart Cummings two starts back to finish third when he went out at 50/1.

Dislikes: Has not won since March 2020 and has just two places (both third) from his 14 starts since that win.

VERDICT: An optimist would point to the Bart run (where his final 400m sectionals were superb) and say he’s building, a pessimist would suggest that was his one good run for the prep. Pass.

15. PONDUS (52.5kg)

Former UK horse having his second trip to Australia (where now based), after just failing to make the Cup field in 2020.

Trainer: Robert Hickmott

Jockey: Ms R King

Barrier: 1

Likes: UK form before coming out was solid. Had more time to acclimatise than the true UK raiders having arrived in Australia in July. His form here has been good, running fifth in the Bart Cummings than just a length off the winner fourth in the G2 MV Gold Cup. Is well weighted too, getting a 1.5kg pull here compared to Grand Promenade and Tralee Rose in the Gold Cup.

Dislikes: Seems a great horse to own but not to bet on – at least not to be to win – with just three wins from 19 starts and only one place from four combined starts at Group One and Two level.

VERDICT: I’m not sure he’s a winning chance but definitely a place hope I will be including in my multiples.


Serious lightweight chance who booked his Cup ticket with a win in the (G3) Bart Cummings and gets the services of one of Australia’s best hoops.

Trainer: Ciaron Maher and David Eustace

Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy

Barrier: 21

Likes: Very consistent (19 starts 8 wins-6 places), has won out to 2,500 and placed at 2,800 on this track. Kerrin McEvoy taking the ride in the Cup after the Bart win is another big vote of confidence.

Dislikes: Class the obvious query with just the one Group run (G3 at that) to his name. Barrier draw did him no favours.

VERDICT: Another I’m not quite sure is a winning chance but which I will have to run a place in my trifecta.

17. MIAMI BOUND (52kg)

Solid staying mare who is back for another shot at the Cup after finishing midfield in 2020.

Trainer: Danny O’Brien

Jockey: P Moloney

Barrier: 17

Likes: Ticks class box (best win the G1 Oaks in 2020) and distance with a third place over the two miles in this year’s Sydney Cup.

Dislikes: Cup lead-up form has not been as good this year as it was last. In 2020 Miami Bound went into the Cup off the back of a dominant win in the MV Gold Cup but she was well beaten 4.5 lengths fifth in this year’s edition.

VERDICT: A pass for me.


Formerly based in France where his best win was a G2 over 2,500m in August 2020.

Trainer: Ben & JD Hayes

Jockey: H Coffey

Barrier: 23

Likes: Closed well in the Caulfield Cup at last start where he turned at the rear of the field and ran the fifth best final 400m.

Dislikes: Has finished a combined 23 lengths off the winner in his two Cup warm-up runs (Bart Cummings and Caulfield Cup).

VERDICT: Don’t think he’s got the class to threaten here and the wide barrier not a help either.

19. SHE’S IDEEL (52kg)

A winner at G3 level this prep (G3 Kingston Town Stakes 2,000m), She’s Ideel also finished just outside the money when fourth in the Sydney Cup in April this year.

Trainer: Bjorn Baker

Jockey: C Newitt

Barrier: 20

Likes: The Kingston Town win was as comfortable as they come and the fourth in the Sydney Cup over the same class/distance as here – albeit an inferior field – makes some case for the Baker trained mare.

Dislikes: The two runs since the Kingston Town have been lacklustre with midfield finishes in The Metropolitan and Caulfield Cup. And the weight swing from Sydney Cup to here is not favourable as she carried 50kg in Sydney (or 6kg less than The Chosen One in that race) yet must carry 52kg here (just 2 kg less than The Chosen One).


20. FUTURE SCORE (51.5kg)

The 2020 Cranborne Cup winner who finished third in the G3 Hotham and G2 Zipping Classic in that preparation.

Trainer: Matt Cumani

Jockey: D Yendall

Barrier: 15

Likes: Looked like he might crack the Cup field last year and would have but for some bad luck in the Hotham.

Dislikes: Has been plugging away this prep and was swamped last start in the Moonee Valley Cup in a run which gives me little confidence he’ll be competitive against this field.


21. TRALEE ROSE (51kg)

Geelong Cup winner and a stayer on the rise, Tralee Rose is a decent lightweight chance with some form around quality horses.

Trainer: Symon Wilde

Jockey: D Holland

Barrier: 12

Likes: Finished a solid second in the G3 Bart Cummings and then went one better to lock in a Cup run with victory in the G3 Geelong Cup. Has had one run over 3,200m a solid staying performance in the G2 Adelaide Cup in March.

Dislikes: Like many at this weight point it is class, the mare has never won above G3 level.

VERDICT: The light weight goes a long way to making up for the class query and the recent form is impressive. The Geelong Cup/Melbourne Cup double was completed by Dunaden (2011) and Americain (2010) and while I don’t think Tralee Rose is quite their class she’s carrying 3.5kg less than those horses did in the year they won. Genuine hope.


Former UK galloper who had form around Spanish Mission there before coming to Australia earlier this year and has been working through the grades since.

Trainer: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace

Jockey: (a) T Nugent

Barrier: 12

Likes: Motored home recording the best final 200m split of the Moonee Valley Gold Cup at his last start. Gets in with no weight and a 1kg weight swing on fellow lightweight hope Pondus when compared to the Gold Cup.

Dislikes: Has never won beyond 2,400m (and that was back in July 2019).

VERDICT: Not sure he can win, but with no weight a good barrier and canny trainers I think he’s some chance a place.

23. GREAT HOUSE (50kg)

Formerly based in Ireland, Great House arrived in Australia in October 2020 and has been working through the grades before guaranteeing himself a Cup berth with an impressive win in the G3 Hotham on Derby Day.

Trainer: Chris Waller

Jockey: M Dee

Barrier: 7

Likes: Just kept working to win the Hotham in a very nice Cups trial. Could have given up in the Caulfield Cup, but didn’t, which suggests he can get further than the 2,400m of that race. Gets in with a feather weight.

Dislikes: Best win(s) are at G3 level (Hotham and Newcastle Cup) so there’s an obvious class gap to those higher in the weights.

VERDICT: Prior to the Hotham I was prepared to risk him but after that run and with a nice barrier I’m throwing him in for a place in my trifecta.

24. SIR LUCAN (50kg)

The kind of lightly raced three-year old whose Cup hopes would have been laughed off only a few years ago but history has shown that prep can be a definite threat.

Trainer: Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott

Jockey: Glen Boss

Barrier: 18

Likes: Carried solid weights and finished not far off the winner in his second last (4th in a Group 2 2,400m) and third last (2nd in a Group 3 2,400m) runs before coming to Australia. Is carrying anything but a solid weight here with just 50kg.

Dislikes: Was an underwhelming 14 lengths 8th (of 10) in the G1 St Leger at his last start before boarding the plane for Melbourne. Has never won beyond Listed level and from four first-up starts has just one place. If you’re the superstitious type – barrier 18 has never provided the winner in the Cup.

VERDICT: This year might be a warm up for next but cannot dismiss with just 50kg and Boss on his back. Place hope.



1. Incentivise (2)

2. Tralee Rose (21)

3. Spanish Mission (3)

4. Grand Promenade (16)


Favourites don’t have a great winning strike rate in the Cup – though they have a solid one when it comes to running a place.

If you want to ensure against a boilover then boxing (runners may come in first, second or third) the following is a six horse box which equals 120 combinations so $50 gets you 41.7 % of the dividend.

Box trifecta: Incentivise (2), Spanish Mission (3), Verry Elleegant (4), Persan (12), Grand Promenade (16), Tralee Rose (21),


If you are confident that Incentivise will win then stand him out in a trifecta or first four then stack plenty around him as the Cup almost always throws up a value runner in one of the minor places.

To win: Incentivise (2)

Second: Twilight Payment (1), Spanish Mission (3), Verry Elleegant (4), Explosive Jack (5), Delphi (7), Persian (12), Carif (13), Pondus (15), Grand Promenade (16), Tralee Rose (21), Floating Artist (22), Great House (23), Sir Lucan (24)

Third: Twilight Payment (1), Spanish Mission (3), Verry Elleegant (4), Explosive Jack (5), Delphi (7), Persian (12), Carif (13), Pondus (15), Grand Promenade (16), Tralee Rose (21), Floating Artist (22), Great House (23), Sir Lucan

That’s 156 combinations which seems excessive but a $50 outlay gets you if some value runners fill the minors you’ll have a very handy collect with 30% of the dividend.

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