Picking the winner of the Melbourne Cup is hard. If the field is full, 24 horses, each horse has a one-in-twenty-four chance, slightly better than four percent.
Picking the winning runner of any race is already tough compared to picking the winner of a footy game, or some other two-outcome event. Melbourne Cup winners have saluted at $101, not often, but often enough. Favourites do not oblige quite as often as in other high-grade races. Favourites win approximately 33 percent of all races and finish second about 53 percent of the time.
Therefore, an Each Way bet on a favourite is looking like a one-in-two chance.
Special Challenges to Melbourne Cup Betting
The difficulty is magnified in the Melbourne Cup by two primary factors.
First, many international horses compete in the Cup. It is possible to obtain form for these horses, but it is still difficult to account for the difference between racing in the northern hemisphere and racing in Australia.
Second, since staying races are limited in number compared to the sprints and middle distances, any form that can be found is limited, even when stayers competing in shorter trips are factored into the equation.
Punters Seek Any Edge
By any edge, we mean that punters turn to historical Melbourne Cup statistics to make selections. Here are some of the statistical data punters have at their disposal.
The barrier draw for the Melbourne Cup is obviously important, what with 24 horses all leaving at the same time.
There have been winners from the rail. Prince Of Penzance in 2015 comes to mind. The 24th barrier is essentially a kiss of death. No horse has won from there. The closest was the 2019 winner, Vow And Declare, which jumped from barrier 21.
The Melbourne Cup has been won from barrier five eight times. Eight times from 158 races is not a huge edge, but a favourite drawn fifth might be persuasive. It was 2013 when Fiorente won from five.
Nine Melbourne Cups ago, in 2010, Americain won from the 11th slot, which is second to the fifth, with seven victories.
Barrier 10 has supplied six wins, the last being Protectionist in 2014.
Barrier 14 is tied with 10, six wins, when Makybe Diva won her third Melbourne Cup in 2005.
Barrier 8 has supplied five winners, the last in 2008 by Viewed.
One possible conclusion to draw here is to look to the middle, if other factors tilt in the right direction as well…
Historically Bad Melbourne Cup Barriers
…but barrier 18, 7 and 15 have only accounted for three wins in the history of the Melbourne Cup.
Betting on Saddle Cloth Numbers
This might be slightly more desperate than barrier number, but it could combine with punter intuition, if nothing else, after prices, form and any other considerations are made.
It is doubtful the horse knows, much less cares, which number from 1 – 24 it is wearing, but the history of the Melbourne Cup is that horses wearing No. 4 and No. 12 have each won the Melbourne Cup 11 times.
No. 1 is next, with 10 wins, while saddlecloth numbers 5, 6, 8 and 11 have accounted for eight wins each.
Makybe Diva was the first wearing No. 1 to win, in 2005, since Rising Fast in 1954.
Betting on a Melbourne Cup Winning Jockey
The right jockey can make a significant difference. A jockey that wins gets the better mounts. The better mounts tend to win, so jockey and horse form combined can supply an edge.
Kerrin McEvoy has two Melbourne Cup wins over the past four races, with Almandin in 2016 and Cross Counter in 2018. He also won in 2000 on Brew.
Corey Brown has wins from 2009 with Shocking and Rekindling in 2017.
Either of these two lined up for the Melbourne Cup will be noticed, as they will have good horses beneath them.
Betting on a Previous Melbourne Cup Winning Trainer
This stat is a dead end. Bart Cummings trained horses won 12 Melbourne Cups, but he passed away in 2015.
Lee Freedman has five wins, the last being Makybe Diva in 2005.
If other factors align, making a selection based on a trainer’s having won at least one Melbourne Cup, combined with the right price, a middle barrier and the right saddlecloth might supply an edge, but a scant one, if one at all.
Betting on a Previous Melbourne Cup Winning Owner
This statistic would tend to sway punters in the direction of a Lloyd Williams horse. Williams has won the Melbourne Cup six times, so this is not a lot of cloth from which to cut a Melbourne Cup punt.
Dato Tan Chin Nam can claim four wins, so not much meat to gnaw on with that bone. He died in 2018.
Betting on the Melbourne Cup Based on Form
Two races have been solid form indicators for the Melbourne Cup in the past. The first is the Caulfield Cup. Eleven horses have won the Caulfield Cup, and then backed with a Melbourne Cup win.
The Group 1 MacKinnon Stakes (2000 m, WFA) aka the Emirates Stakes, four Melbourne Cup winners have won the LKS MacKinnon Stakes before winning the Melbourne Cup.
It has been 21 years since Rogan Josh won the Emirates, and then the Cup, but that form will not work for 2021, as the Emirates Stakes will be held soon after the Melbourne Cup.
The Cox Plate might supply some form, but only five times has the Cox Plate Winner won the Melbourne Cup.
The Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500 m, SW + P) might supply form. At least it is from the trip perspective, if not the conditions.
All of the above statistics indicate that punters are faced with quite a high degree of difficulty when it comes to plunging on the Race That Stops a Nation.
Statistics and percentages have an uncanny way of failing at the precise time they are most needed.
Picking a Melbourne Cup winner is as much luck and prayer as anything else.
It is not hard to find highly knowledgeable Thoroughbred punters who only bet on the Melbourne Cup for a lark, spending the bulk of their time looking at races with smaller fields and shorter trip.