Novices guide to the three big spring races
With Spring Carnival knocking on the door we go through some of the key races, potential runners and betting strategies that could help to make sure you find the right runner to back during the big races.
Spring Carnival is the biggest betting opportunity for most punters and provides horse racing fans a great opportunity to see Australia's best racing talent in action. With over hundreds of millions of dollars up for grabs between September and November horses travel from all over the globe to take part in the racing festival.
What are the biggest races of The Spring Racing Carnival
In recent years there have been a barrage of new races introduced to the Spring Carnival Racing Calendar including the Golden Eagle, The Invitation and of course the mega rich slot race, The Everest.
However there are three races that can never be overtaken in terms of prestige and they of course are The W.S. Cox Plate, The Caulfield Cup and the race that stops a nation The Melbourne Cup.
Each of these races has over 100 years of history and are races that attract the best talent with Jockeys, trainers and connections all trying to win these three time honored classics.
We take a look at the big three of spring, does history tell us anything and who are the ones to look out for in 2022.
The W.S Cox Plate - Overview, Key Contenders, Early Betting
The Cox Plate last year saw its centenary running with Irish raider State of Rest winning the 100th edition of the race for trainer Joseph O’Brien.
What does history tell us?
The W.S. Cox plate is a 2040m contest which is run in October of each year under weight for age conditions. In the most recent times two out of the three last editions of the race have been won by foreign horses with Japanese horse Lys Gracieux winning the race before State of Rest won last year.
With $5m in prize money up for grabs the race does attract a lot of Northern Hemisphere horses travelling down under in an attempt to snare the racing riches.
Before these two however it was dominated by one of the greatest ever horses, Winx. During this time Winx would be running round at prices as short as $1.23 , having won 20 odd races on the bounce whilst racking up Cox Plate after Cox Plate in a four year period of utter domination.
We’re a long way from seeing another four-peat but nowadays the markets are far more open for the Cox Plate with State of Rest winning in 2021 as a $7.50 chance with the second and third place horses, Anamoe and Verry Elleegant finishing second and third as $3.60 equal favourites.
What's the best betting approach?
In 2022 there is a strong chance we will see two very short price favourites leading the field. Last years runner up Anamoe for the Godolphin stable has begun his spring campaign in excellent form, impressively winner the Group One Winx Stakes in convincing style at the end of August.
The other runner is that of last years short price favourite Zaaki. Zaaki was scratched from the 2021 Cox Plate field due to an irregular heartbeat which meant that he and trainer Annabel Neasham had to withdraw from the race on the morning of the Weight for Age Group One.
This year Zaaki looks back to his best demolishing the Tramway Stakes at Group Two level and will be more than likely to head to Victoria on a similar trail that he followed the previous year before that infamous raceday scratching.
With these two currently the standouts in the market and looking more than likely to be tightening in price with each performance it’s important to note that there are other options away from the win bet.
Back when Winx was dominating fields between 2016 and 2019 Hartnell was right behind the champion mare dominating the rest of the pack. On five separate occasions Hartnell finished second to Winx, each time delivering a Quinella of over $2.00.
We’re a long way out from having a final field but don’t forget to play the exotics. A quinella of two short price favourites makes more sense than to have a pick ‘em in a two horse race especially when they have performed at weight for age level so consistently.
If one doesn’t make the run in 2022 however we could be looking at Winx like odds once again should the form lines continue to hold.
The Caulfield Cup - Overview, Key Contenders, Early Betting
The first big race of these big three during Spring is the Caulfield Cup over 2400m which takes place the week before the Cox Plate each year in October. Despite it coming before the Cox Plate we look at the Caulfield Cup before the Melbourne Cup as the race acts as a lead in for contenders looking to conquer the Flemington 3200m race on the first Tuesday of November.
What does Caulfield Cup history tell us?
Well in recent years its certainly been a mixed bag with four out of the last 8 runners to win the Caulfield Cup coming from international trainers. Incentivise was the most recent winning of the $5m contest who was trained by Peter Moody so there isn’t really a bias for or against the internationals.
So can we keep an eye out for any trainers and the answer is perhaps. Obviously the ones who have a stable in form would be key to watch for but also the great Bart Cummings has a strong affiliation having won the race more than anyone at a whopping 7 times.
Currently Duais holds favourtism for the Caulfield Cup with Bart’s grandson Edward, trainer of the mare. Having won the Australian Cup and the Tancred Stakes in the same season like the great Makybe Diva, could we be about to see a new generation of the Cups King arrive?
Could we look to the jockey's to give us a potential clue as to who could win. In recent times the NSW Everest has looked to overshadow the time honoured Caulfield Cup with it’s glamorous riches however many Jockeys have been convinced to cross state lines believing they have a chance to win with their runner.
What’s the betting approach?
The Caulfield Cup in recent years has been a very open race with a number of runners being live chances. That is all bar Incentivise last year who was crunched into favourtism as a short priced favourite after a strong run in the Turnbull Stakes as well as two convincing distance wins during the Winter Carnival in Brisbane.
With the final field still months away from being locked in there looks to be a number of live chances with Duais carrying the hopes for the Edward Cummings stable, Numerian looking to take out a first Caulfield Cup for trainer Annabel Neasham as well as Spanish Mission looking to put his best foot forward after a third place finish in the Melbourne Cup in 2021.
The early play would be to back eachway at the price and look for value in the places. It’s sure to be a big field which makes the three place payout difficult but finding a runner that will jump around $10 on the day could be the play.
With the amount of interest on the day the tote pools are always fuller than on normal racedays and sometimes right for the picking. A selection of 5 runners in a boxed trifecta would only cost $12 for a 20% share and presents better value that chasing one winner.
On the big race days quinellas, trifectas and first fours always offer better prices due to the amount of interest there is in the race day itself.
Often the winner of the Caulfield Cup will shorten in price for the Melbourne Cup given the distance of the race and calibre of the field. In 2019 for example, while Mer De Glace won the Caulfield Cup it was Danny O’Brien trained Vow and Declare that caught the eye on the road to the Melbourne Cup.
The Melbourne Cup - Overview, Key Contenders, Early Betting
On the first Tuesday of November every year the Melbourne Cup takes place and has done for the past 161 years dating back to 161 when a horse by the name of Archer won the very first edition of the race.
Nowadays owners and trainers bring there horses from all over the globe to compete in the race that stops a nation but how do we find a winner and where can we understand who has the best chance in the 3200m contest.
What does Melbourne Cup history tell us?
Well there’s definitely a bit to look at. One of my favourite quotes when it comes up to raceday is “A horse has never won from stall 11”. I’m sorry but the horse doesn’t care which slot its coming out of it just wants to go.
For a time you could almost bank on a Bart Cummings runner winning the race with him racking up a massive 13 victories in the Melbourne Cup it might have been the best strategy for a while. More recently young international trainer Joey O’Brien might be the one to watch having won twice in the last 6 years.
There was also a time where you could just back the same horse each year for a win when the Melbourne Cup was locked up by the Makybe Diva winning the race three times in a row between 2003 and 2005 but I doubt we’ll see that level of talent in the Melbourne Cup for another generation.
More recently there has been a speight of light weight juveniles coming from the Northern Hemisphere to hit and run on the race. The names of Rekindling and Cross Counter who both won the race were ridden under 53kgs as well as Tiger Moth who entered the race under a low weight to finish in the placing.
The internationals have admittedly done well in recent years but with formlines from all over the place what are the best plays betting wise when i comes to the Melbourne Cup?
Melbourne Cup Betting Strategy
Given the gravitas of the Melbourne Cup it’s the richest betting race in Australia. It quite literally stops the nation with many states having half or full days of work to watch it and in turn place a wager on it.
With so many horses in the field though and so many betting options what can be the best play?
At the moment Deauville Legend, a French runner, is the favourite for the race that stops a nation but even the most hardened punter would have issue stacking his recent Group form up against that of the likes of Duais who carries second favouritism.
We’ve mentioned in both betting strategies for the Cox Plate and the Caulfield Cup however Exotics have to be looked at. In the year when Rekindling won the Melbourne Cup his Quinella with Jonas Van Overmere who finished second paid over $70. In the year Protectionist defeated Red Cadaux the Quinella paid over $150 so a 4 or 5 horse boxed quinella is well worth a look
The other markets that are well worth a look are the Top Ten and Top Five finishes markets. Horses that are well outside the betting with smaller stables are always on the hunt for the biggest return so look for value in the smaller stables finishing in the higher positions. In a race where 22 runners fill three places punters will always be better off looking for place value as well as an each way gamble.
However you play all three races, make sure to gamble responsibly and enjoy an action packed Spring Racing Carnival.