The Melbourne Cup and Godolphin

The Melbourne Cup and Godolphin

From J A McGrath

So, as the dust settles on an epic latest running of the G1 Emirates Melbourne Cup, one outstanding question remains — what type of horse is ideally suited to the rigours of Australia’s iconic two-mile handicap?

Consider the first four home this year — their diverse profiles are fascinating.

German-bred winner Almandin had run only 11 times previously, yet had finished second, beaten three lengths, to a French champion in Solow, in a small race over 2,000m at Longchamp in 2014.

The same year, Almandin had beaten Protectionist, a subsequent Melbourne Cup winner, when winning a G2, over 2,200m at Baden Baden. His new owner, Australian Lloyd Williams, brought him to Melbourne, but the Monsun gelding suffered a tendon injury and did not run for two years.

Coming into Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup, he had not had a public outing since winning the G3 Bart Cummings Stakes at Flemington on Oct 2 — unusual for a locally-trained horse. Because of his injury, he had been sparingly raced.

Runner-up Heartbreak City had been bought out of a claimer at Deauville in France in 2013 by his current trainer Tony Martin as a dual-purpose horse. It is very common for older horses in Ireland to run both over jumps and on the Flat.

It proved an astute purchase by Martin as Heartbreak City went on to win the showcase Galway Hurdle, and followed up with a win in Europe’s richest staying handicap, the Ebor at York.

Although French-bred, Heartbreak City is a son of Lando, a German champion. He had won six of his 22 starts before Tuesday.

Third home in the Cup, Godolphin’s Hartnell, had been mixing it with the staying elite in Britain as a three-year-old, winning the Listed Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and finishing seventh in Kingston Hill’s Doncaster St Leger when trained by Mark Johnston.

But he has taken on a different guise with John O’Shea in Australia, having won five of his 14 starts in his new environment. Hartnell is by a Derby winner Authorized, out of a mare by Anabaa, a brilliant sprinter but a sire capable of getting middle-distance types.

And that brings us to Qewy, perhaps the most interesting of them all. He had won four of his 23 starts before Tuesday, including a decent race over hurdles at Newbury in the UK, and finished a respectable fifth in the Supreme Novices Hurdle. He was also twice placed over fences at a high level. Godolphin secured Qewy when John Ferguson disbanded Bloomfields, his jumping stable, earlier in the year.

Putting all the evidence into the mixer, it seems you need an experienced horse, preferably one with up to 20 starts on the clock. He needs to have started his career with another trainer — and any German lines to his pedigree should be taken as a positive.

One other factor to consider is that the experience of jumping in a horse’s past should never be viewed as a negative from a Melbourne Cup perspective.

The guidelines are there, but there are no rules.