How to pick the Cup winner

That time of year has arrived again when people the length and breadth of the country reach for the form guides and search frantically for clues to identify the Melbourne Cup winner.

The task is still as hard as ever with 24 horses accepting for the 150th running of the great race that causes everyone from school children to politicians to pause for just over three minutes while it is run over 3200 metres on the first Tuesday in November.

The once a year punters will put their money on their favourite but will it have a realistic chance of success?

Here is a guide that may help find the 150th Melbourne Cup winner.

The first step is to look at the saddlecloth numbers.

Since saddlecloths were first recorded in 1877 even numbers (69 wins) have the edge over odd numbers (64) while numbers 1-12 have won 84 Cups compared to 50 for numbers 13-24.

This year Zipping (four) and Harris Tweed (12) have the most successful saddlecloths with 11 wins each, while last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Shocking will carry number one (10 wins).

Keep an eye on Hong Kong stayer Mr Medici as he will carry number six which has the best recent record with six of its seven wins coming in past 50 years and four since 1989.

Similarly Campanologist is number two which has won five of seven Cups since 1969.

Bart Cummings will need to work some extra magic with Precedence who is looking to become the first horse in more than century to win carrying number 20, the last being Gaulus in 1897.

English stayer Bauer gets no favours with 18 saddlecloth, carried just once to victory by Peter Pan when he won the first of his two Cups in 1932.

Tokai Trick (No.9 with five wins), Holberg (No. 19 with six) and Once Were Wild (No 23 with two) are saddlecloths on losing runs since 1957, 1942, and 1922 respectively.

However Once Were Wild has drawn barrier 11 which has been the starting position for the most Cup winners since barriers were allocated in 1924.

Caulfield Cup placegetter Monaco Consul starts from barrier 14 which has had six wins.

Barriers 11 and 14 are also the most successful barriers since starting stalls as we know them today were first used in 1958 with five wins each, but surprisingly in that time adjacent barriers 12 (Americain) and 15 (Precedence) have never won.

Out of form Master O’Reilly will also be relying on at least one scratching to move him in from barrier 18 which is winless since 1924.

History shows that Japan’s Tokai Trick has the odds in his favour being the only runner with “T” as the first initial, a feature of a record 16 Cup winners.

Mr Medici, Manighar, Master O’Reilly, Monaco Consul, and Maluckyday all have “M” as an initial which has 12 Cup wins as does the initial “P”, this year represented by Profound Beauty and Precedence and winless since 1950, and “S” with Shocking, So You Think and Shoot Out.

Illustrious Blue would be the first horse to win the Cup with the initial “I”, Zipping and Zavite the second winner with the first initial “Z” and Once Were Wild the second “O”.

Once Were Wild and So You Think are the only runners with three-word names in this year’s Cup but five winners have that characteristic, all of them since 1976, the most recent Might And Power in 1997.

Last year Shocking became the 83rd winner with a one-word name while there have been 61 winners with double-barrelled names.

Master O’Reilly is a chance to join Gurner’s Lane (1982) and Let’s Elope (1991) as the only Cup winners with an apostrophe in their names.

Profound Beauty and Master O’Reilly have 15 characters (including spaces), equal to the longest winning name shared by What A Nuisance (1985) and Might And Power ((1997). Illustrious Blue, with 16 characters, would be the longest named winner.

Zipping and Holberg are the only seven-character names which have the best record with 31 Cups, Saintly being the last in 1996, while Shocking and Manighar have eight characters (22 wins).

Four and five-year-olds have the best Cup record with 43 wins each while Campanologist, Mr Medici, Americain and Red Ruler are chances to be the 29th six-year-old winner and sixth since 1998.

Makybe Diva (2005) was the last of 10 seven-year-old winners, which is the age of Buccellati and Profound Beauty, while Master O’Reilly, Zavite and Bauer would join Toryboy (1865) and Catalogue (1938) as eight-year-old winners.

Zipping and Tokai Trick are both nine-year-olds and would be the oldest ever to win.

Males have dominated the Cup over females with 133 wins to 16. Shocking was the 84th entire (including 19 colts) and Efficient the last of 49 geldings.

This year Profound Beauty and Once Were Wild represent mares who have won seven Cups since 1988.

Bay coloured horses have the best record with 62 wins and, with 14 in this year’s race, the chances favour them again. There are no brown (37 wins) or chestnut horses (34 wins) while Manighar, Linton, and Bauer would join five grey winners.

Matching age, sex and colour and Monaco Consul stands out as a four-year-old bay entire (12 wins).

So You Think and Americain would be the first registered horses as bay or brown entires to win the Cup.

With no horses carrying 52.5kg or 53kg (eight wins each), weighted to win is Maluckyday on 51kg (seven wins).

Next best are Americain and Tokai Trick with 54.5kg (six wins), five times since 1976.

Looking to be just the sixth multiple Melbourne Cup winner after Archer (1861-62), Peter Pan (1932 and 1934), Rain Lover (1968-69), Think Big (1974-75) and Makybe Diva who won three (2003-05), last year’s winner Shocking would also be just the third horse to win carrying 57kg.

Americain, Descarado, Maluckyday, Precedence and Linton all carry weight penalties which 42 Cup winners have done.

Caulfield Cup runners have won 14 of the last 30 Melbourne Cups and Descarado would be 12th horse ever to win both races in the same year .

Significantly 17 of the past 30 Cup winners, including Shocking and Viewed the last two years, raced on Derby Day.

Three international raiders have won the Cup since 1993 and a record nine overseas-trained horses line up this year. Significantly 15 have placed in the first three in the last 12 Melbourne Cups so don’t dismiss them.

Campanologist, Zipping, Linton, Profound Beauty, and Holberg have an edge with jockeys wearing plain bodied silks which have won 56 Cups and Linton has extra good claims with his jockey wearing a red cap (30 wins) as does Zavite’s rider.

Finally there is the Bart Cummings factor.

A winner of 12 Cups, Bart has the favourite So You Think this year as well as Precedence who is an omen bet if nothing else.

There have been 26 outright favourites and seven equal favourites win while the most successful odds are $9 and $11 with 12 and 14 wins respectively.

Only 16 winners have won at $31 or longer, most notably The Pearl (1870), Wotan (1936) and Old Rowley (1940) at $101.

Prediction: Monaco Consul ahead of So You Think, Mr Medici, and Tokai Trick.