I’m the first to admit I’m no guru when it comes to the gallops.
Like the best of us I know enough to get by and enjoy a flutter here and there over a beer and when I report on meets at Orange’s Towac Park I’ll generally have a crack on the race I’m covering, but by no means am I trawling through form guides and fields over my morning coffee.
Until Melbourne Cup time, of course.
Like so many other punters, when the race that stops a nation rolls around I’m the first to suddenly transform into a racing expert, if anyone so much as breathes the words Melbourne, Flemington or cup I’ll start throwing tips around left, right and centre.
Of course, anyone who listens to them does so at their own risk because, as anyone who’s followed my recent tips in Group 10 premier league or Central West Rugby Union’s Blowes Clothing Cup will know, I’m utterly useless.
In fact, I may as well be the kiss of death.
But you might be interested to know I do have a history of success in the Melbourne Cup – this is in no way a #HumbleBrag either, I just want everyone to know.
Between 2003 and 2011, I picked every winner. That’s nine – count ‘em nine – in a row.
Every year, I nailed it.
For those who can’t be bothered looking it up, those winners were Makybe Diva (2003-05), Delta Blues (2006), Efficient (2007), Viewed (2008), Shocking (2009), Americain (2010) and finally Dunaden (2011).
Viewed may have been in a flexi first-four – which I won, by the way – but it was at 40s for goodness sake, so cut me some slack in counting that one.
But since 2011 I’ve gone nowhere near the front of the field and, to be quite frank, it’s really annoying me.
I used to pride myself on my ability to pick up a form guide a week out from the Melbourne Cup and jag the winner.
So this year I dived a little deeper into my annual bout of half-arsed research, I started seven days earlier than usual.
That’s given me two weeks worth of genuine racing knowledge, which has left me absolutely certain I’m going to return to the winners’ circle on Tuesday afternoon.
Lock it in, Eddie.
If you’re like me, or you normally make your selections based on name, colours or even randomly, I’ve whipped up a cheat sheet on this year’s field – the horses I like, the ones I don’t and why.
I’ve even gone way out on a limb and let you know exactly what bets I’ll be putting on.
Bear in mind if you’re willing to have a punt and run with any of these tips, I in no way accept any responsibility when they inevitably lose.
That’s on you.
One more thing, and this one’s serious – although I make light of having a punt several times here, gambling addiction is very real and can have devastating consequences so please, always gamble responsibly.
So, without further adieu…
MELBOURNE CUP 2017: A NOT-SO-EXPERT ANALYSIS
FINDLAY’S TOP PICKS (number, name, barrier, weight)
5 MARMELO (16) 55kg
Strengths: I’ve been told he won the Prix de Kergolay by more than a length with 59kg on his back and apparently that’s an excellent guide. Looked the goods in the Caulfield Cup and has form over the distance with two wins and two places at 3000m. Dunedoo’s Hugh Bowman’s on him too, and even though I reckon I could’ve ridden Winx to all those wins that has to count for something.
Weaknesses: None, really. Barrier’s not great but it’s not enough to turn me off.
Final word: My pick to win, which is your cue to steer clear.
21 THOMAS HOBSON (21) 52kg
Strengths: His name. I am a massive fan of animals with human names – think the likes of a bulldog named Tim or a cat name Gerald – but this one takes the cake. I’ve no clue whether it’s named after someone, or the person who dubbed it so is just a genius. Either way, I love it. Distance won’t be an issue either.
Weaknesses: It’s English.
Final word: If the race was decided on names, here’s your winner. Sadly, it’s not, but he’s the pick of the international runners for me and looks the goods for a place.
2 ALMANDIN (14) 56.5kg
Strengths: He won last year, ‘nuff said.
Weaknesses: He’s carrying an extra 4.5kg this year, but more than anything I’m terrified of the bloke riding it after what he’s done the last two years. Seriously, Google Frankie Dettori. His recent horror shows are one thing I actually knew about racing.
Final word: It won't win, but has to be considered a place chance.
7 JOHANNES VERMEER (3) 54.5kg
Strengths: My Daily Liberal counterpart Nick Guthrie likes it, and he knows a lot more about racing than I do. That’s actually the only reason I included it, I’ve never heard of it. Guthrie tells me it looks like it wants more distance, despite never winning past 2000.
Weaknesses: As above, it hasn’t won past 2000 metres.
Final word: I’m including it in multiples on Guthrie’s word, and I’m more than prepared to blame him if it costs me any kind of win.
6 RED CARDINAL (24) 55kg
Strengths: A proven two-miler and Andreas Wohler knows what it takes to win, he trained Protectionist in 2014.
Weaknesses: May as well be jumping from Tasmania after drawing barrier 24 and hasn’t run in Australia in the lead-up which even I know is asking plenty. In fact, my research tells me Vintage Crop was the last horse to win after doing that, in 1993 when Meatloaf was topping the charts with I Would Do Anything For Love.
Final word: There’s a bit working against it, but I think you’d be silly not to include it.
22 REKINDLING (4) 51.5kg
Strengths: Carrying next to nothing, it’s drawn well and in preparation has reportedly showed plenty. I like it in a trifecta or first four.
Weaknesses: Hasn’t placed at Group One level, which does make me worry it won’t help me rekindle my love affair with winning… zing.
Final word: Place chance, but with a lucky ride who knows.
16 GALLANTE (18) 53kg
Strengths: Won the Sydney Cup last year, so he’s proven at 3200.
Weaknesses: Flopped in this race last year, he’s only run twice since then and has drawn a tough barrier.
Final word: Don’t bother, like I didn’t in trying to figure out how to pronounce its name correctly.
14 US ARMY RANGER (22) 53.5kg
Strengths: Again, it’s name, which pains me to put it in the also-rans section. Drops in weight to 53.5kg.
Weaknesses: Beaten by a lot in its last two starts. A lot.
Final word: Like the Soup Nazi went nowhere near saying in Seinfeld, “no cup for you, next!”
8 BONDI BEACH (1) 54kg
Strengths: Very few, for me. A 13th last year could be considered a strength, wasn’t particularly lucky in that run I guess.
Weaknesses: Spelled for nine months after that 13th, it’s come second last and third last since then.
Final word: I reckon if Michael Walker jumped on my back I’d do as good a job, and I’m not even sure I can run 3200 metres in one go. Now I’ve written it off completely, it’ll probably win.
9 MAX DYNAMITE (2) 54kg
Strengths: Ran second in 2015, but that was mainly thanks to Dettori’s idiocy. Has a good name too and, admittedly, won last-start and is a stayer.
Weaknesses: He’s only run four times since the 2015 cup.
Final word: I don’t think so, not with so few runs under his belt.
20 WALL OF FIRE (15) 53kg
Strengths: Recent form suggests he’s got real potential as a stayer, despite being well-beaten by Red Cardinal over 3200 not long ago. Finished superbly in the Group Two Herbert Power.
Weaknesses: Hasn’t run at Group One level, and hasn’t won over the distance.
Final word: I’ve got a feeling about this one. I like it.
FINDLAY’S BETTING STRATEGY
Firstly, the Melbourne Cup trifecta pool is ginormous, that’s where I often look in this race… I never said all those winners were on the nose, did I?
I’ll be putting $100 on the Melbourne Cup, no more, no less and yes, you’ll notice there’s a few horses in these selections that I didn’t look over above. I need combinations, darn it, combinations!
First place: 2, 4, 5, 6, 20
Second place: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 20, 22
Third place: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 20, 21, 22
That should come in around 7%.
ON THE NOSE ($50)
Wall of Fire ($25)
And of course, my annual bundle of $1 mystery trifectas, this year $30 worth.
In the words of Homer Simpson, “I’ve got so many tickets I can’t lose”.
Happy punting y’all.