With only four horses left to draw a gate for the Emirates Melbourne Cup yesterday, a whisper went around the committee room at Flemington – no horse had yet drawn barriers 18 or 24.
Barrier 24 is understandable, with conventional wisdom suggesting a horse needs to get towards the rails early – definitely by the turn out of the straight – if they are to have any chance in our great race.
However, Melbourne Cups have been won from the outside before – Brew came from the outside in 2000 (gate 22, following two scratchings), as did Doriemus (gate 21 in a field of 21), while the likes of Shocking (2009) and Rogan Josh (1999) have won from barriers near the outside in the last 20 years.
Barrier 18 is unique, though, in that it is the only gate which has not provided a winner since the stalls were first used in 1958.
In recent times, genuine chances have not jumped from the “cursed” barrier – Fox Hunt ($31), Campanologist ($71), Capecover ($101) and Boundless ($81) were the last four horses to start from
The last horses in the market to start from the gate were Sirmione in 2008 ($14) and Distinctly Secret in 2003 ($15).
And so it was that a groan went up in the committee room when last year’s runner up Red Cadeaux drew barrier 18. All is not lost yet – if there is a pre-race scratching, Jakkalberry (19) or even Precedence (20) may move into the barrier.
But if the full field makes it to the barriers, it means Red Cadeaux’s tough battle against historical trends becomes just that little bit harder.
He is already aiming to be the first horse since Bitalli in 1923 to win the Melbourne Cup off a break of three months or more. Bitalli, a fragile horse trained by the legendary James Scobie, won the Melbourne Cup 101 days after his previous run in the South Australian Tattersall’s Cup in late July.
The only other horse to win off such a break in the 20th century was Revenue in 1901. He was first up in almost a year, a herculean effort.
Vintage Crop, when he won in 1993, only had a let up of 45 days between his Irish St Leger victory and his trailblazing Melbourne Cup success.
Red Cadeaux will be first up in 117 days in the Melbourne Cup. He is not alone though – Galileo’s Choice (89 days) and Mount Athos (80 days) are also running off an extended break.
In this new era of the Melbourne Cup, there will undoubtedly be a horse at some stage that will win off a three month break, but it is still a query for Red Cadeaux backers.
Red Cadeaux is also aiming to be the first horse since Empire Rose to win the Melbourne Cup the year after running second. Empire Rose was second to Kensei in 1987, before just managing to hold off Natski in 1988.
The only other horses to win the Melbourne Cup after running second the previous year were Gold and Black (1977) and the champion Carbine (1890).
There is good news for those that are keen on Ed Dunlop’s charge, though.
He gets a good turnaround of 2.5kg on Dunaden on last year for a nose defeat, critical over the two mile journey.
And he looks to be a far superior horse to last year, although he has only won once in six outings since. He has, however, been in the placings at every run, including in races like the Hong Kong Vase and the Coronation Cup.
History is made to be broken, and perhaps Red Cadeaux will demonstrate the Melbourne Cup’s new era with a powerful win.
Red Cadeaux remains a $9 chance with TAB Sportsbet.