There was a time when I attributed far more importance to Group 1 races that had the word “Australia” or “Australian” in their title than I really ought to have done, but this was only due to my being a daft Pommy migrant.

Early on in my acclimatisation, I was convinced that the Australia Stakes just had to be the top sprint on the Australian racing calendar – ‘cos of the name see – but, over time I realised that I was somewhat wide of the mark. The Australia Stakes gets sandwiched in between other perhaps more significant sprints such as the Lightning, Newmarket and Oakleigh sprints.

When it comes to 3yo Guineas’ competitions, too, there seems to be such an abundance of them that you could almost forget that the Australian Guineas was on the menu during the late summer carnival, especially when compared to the louder hoo-ha that goes with the Caulfield Guineas in the spring.

The Australian Cup could arguably be considered as a “not-quite-so-interesting-as-other-races” type of race but I would have to say, in its defence, that such a claim would be unwarranted, as it has, in my limited experience of the race anyway, frequently thrown up many great contests that loom large in the old memory banks.

Okay, I know it’s not a “Major” (a la Cox Plate, etc.), but I do think that many exciting races have been run beneath its auspices and as a consequence have done more than enough to let the race receive such a grand monicker as THE AUSTRALIAN CUP. If you think back to Lonhro’s defeat of Delzao or perhaps Makybe Diva’s win which took out the track record amidst a top class field, not forgetting the dual wins of the outstanding Northerly, then you’ll see what I mean.?

I think the Australian Cup certainly puts the Mackinnon “trial” thingy in the shade and it acts well as the seasonal balance to the Cox Plate, helping to verify just who the top 2000m performers in Australia are – as long as the same protagonists from the spring show up in the autumn, too!

Anyhow, let’s break this race down in the usual way.

If I had to be ultra-minimalist in divulging the critical information surrounding the last start performance of past winners of the Australian Cup, then I would probably sum it up in just three little words – St George Stakes.

The St George Stakes is the Group 2 Weight For Age race held on Blue Diamond Stakes day, which this year is held on February 23 (around about the time that this issue of PPM hits the street). Sixteen of the last 20 winners of the Australian Cup came via the St George Stakes and only three of those winners came from outside the first two placings. Obviously this is a critical trial race so it’s important to examine the result.

There are two aspects to the career performance of past winners of the Australian Cup. The first is that they all needed a decent lead-up preparation that contained at least two starts. I’d be very surprised if this year’s winner did not have a similar preparation.

Every winner, bar one, in the last 20 years has had at least two starts in their preparation, and if one of the lead-up starts for a contender this year happens to include a barrier trial then that’s okay. Only Better Loosen Up got away with a one-start prep back in 1991.

The second aspect to a candidate’s career performance is the form that has been produced during the season so far. Every one of the past winners of the Australian Cup had shown a level of high-class form in either a Group 1 at 1800m-plus from the spring or in Caulfield’s key lead-up race, the St George Stakes.

In all, 16 out of the last 20 winners had come 1st or 2nd in one of the following races: St George stakes, Cox Plate, Yalumba (Caulfield) stakes, Mackinnon, Caulfield Cup or Underwood. Of the four Australian Cup winners that hadn’t appeared as part of the quinella in those races, their best performances were: Roman Arch 2006 – 1st Sandown Classic-Gr.2, Northerly 2001 – 1st Railway stakes-Gr.1, Saintly 1996 – 1600m Listed Hcp & G2 WFA sprint and, finally, Dandy Andy – 1988 whose best seasonal effort was 4th in the St George but which had won the Doomben Cup-Gr.1 at the end of the previous season.

So two of these four had won at least at Group 2 level and the other two had confirmed themselves as Group 1 winners. All had achieved these at 1600m-plus, although it should be mentioned that the 1600m wins were both in big fields of 14 runners or more – emphasising the stamina content inherent within those “mile” races.
Here’s a reminder of the critical form from the spring:

Cox Plate:1. El Segundo2. Wonderful World
Yalumba:1. Maldivian2. Miss Finland
Turnbull:?1. Devil Moon2. Scenic Shot
Mackinnon:1. Sirmione2. Princess Coup
Caulfield Cup:1. Master O’Reilly2. Douro Valley

According to history, there’s an 80 per cent chance that the Australian Cup winner is going to be one of these horses.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the decay of the abilities of staying three-year-olds within Australia that none have contested this race since 2004 when Delzao and Elvstroem tried to peg back Lonhro in a thrilling finish. Prior to that it was a fairly regular thing for them to contest this race but even so the stats never really favoured them that much anyway.

Only Saintly has managed to win the Australian Cup as a three-year-old in the last 20 years and quite a few have tried. You’d have to go back to the early 80s for the last 3yo winner before him.

The winning age range in the Aussie Cup for the last 20 years or more has been in the 4yo to 6yo age range, with Roman Arch being the first 7yo+ to win since Hyperno in 1981. Regular readers will know from that I don’t rule out 7yo+ horses nowadays from this kind of competition, as they can have an impact when conditions are right for them, but they do have to conform to a strict set of rules before they can be considered. These rules, in case you’re interested, are outlined in detail in the Nov 2007 issue of PPM in the article entitled “Age Shall Not Weary Them”.

These days I have found that judging horses in the 2000m–3200m distance range is becoming increasingly difficult from the standpoint of race times. In recent years I would say that only a handful of horses performed in the Group 1 staying races with times that genuinely stated that they were the real deal.

This being so I have decided to turn to my old English friend for comfort and support in the shape of the Timeform organisation. Their data can be found at and will show, if you look into their evaluations, that they assess horses with a good deal of accuracy.

Their data only goes back five years but even this simple sample suggests that a contender will have needed to have scored a Timeform figure of at least 122 to be considered as a real Group 1 candidate. There maybe years, as in 2006, when Roman Arch won, where no candidate will have scored such a high figure and in such situations it will become harder to discern the likely winner.

This year the highest Timeform scores have been from the following horses and are listed in descending order – along with the highest rating they attained in the spring and the race it was achieved in.

NOTE: Ratings for the major West Aussie race winners, Megatic and El Presidente, have not been published at the time of writing but we will deal with them later under “Breeding”.

El Segundo125Cox Plate
Efficient123Melbourne Cup
Wonderful World119Cox Plate
Marching118AAMI Vase
Master O’Reilly117Caulfield Cup
Miss Finland117Yalumba
Devil Moon116Turnbull
Scenic Shot116Turnbull
Zipping115Sandown Classic
Douro Valley113Caulfield Cup
Princess Coup110Mackinnon
Table: 1
As you can see, only the top three horses have succeeded in getting past the magical 122 mark.

Double-figure barriers can be a real problem in this race. If you look at the barrier draws of this race and the Mackinnon (same course and distance), then you’ll see a marked trend that suggests the vast majority of winners come from single-figure barrier numbers but, that said, many Australian Cups have contained relatively small field sizes too – around eleven runners or less.

In other words, it’s the usual conundrum presented to punters of trying to know whether a wide draw will affect a contender or not. Naturally, knowing a horse’s racing style is pivotal to success. If your horse is a leader or on-pace runner (as many are), then a barrier of 11 or more will definitely present a problem. If your horse is a drop-back-and-swoop type then in theory it should not be inconvenienced but you’ll need to satisfy yourself entirely before committing to a horse drawn wide. Likely high-profile candidates such as Maldivian and El Segundo will suffer if they happen to be drawn in Flemington’s car park, as both require to be ridden handy.

Your selection for the Australian Cup should have a dosage profile that contains at least one stamina point held in either the “Solid” or “Professional” categories. Your selection should also have a minimum of eight points in total within the whole dosage profile.

I have banged on at length in the pages of PPM for some time about the merits of having a good staying source in the pedigree of any selection you make for a Group 1 staying race in Australia. Aussie-bred stayers are never lost for an inherited speed source but it’s the good staying sources that are often left out of the equation.

Punters need to be aware that their selection has the right requirements regarding stamina but this issue can be easily dealt with. Simply head for the Internet and look up and type in the name of the horse you’re looking for. Check the dosage profile where it says “DP” and look at the five numbers on offer (e.g. DP = 3-7-14-2-5). If there are ANY numerical entries filling the two right-hand categories (such as the 2 and 5 in my example) then your horse should be OK for stamina.

Next, check the total number of dosage points in the brackets next to the profile. All winners of the Australian Cup have their classy pedigrees underlined by a high number of points in the dosage profile’s total. This will need to be a figure of at least eight but a higher number, preferably 10 or more, is always welcome.

If I apply a simple YES or NO to the best-rated Timeform horses listed in table:1 above, stating which horses have the correct dosage profiles, then an even clearer picture begins to emerge regarding the likely players in the Australian Cup.

El Segundo125Cox PlateY
Efficient123Melbourne CupY
Wonderful World119Cox PlateN
Marching118AAMI VaseY
Master O’Reilly117Caulfield CupN
Miss Finland117YalumbaY
Devil Moon116TurnbullN
Scenic Shot116TurnbullY
Zipping115Sandown ClassicY
Douro Valley113Caulfield CupN
Princess Coup110MackinnonN
Megatic-Kingston TownN
El Presidente-RailwayN
Table: 2
?The horses displayed in bold are the ones with the correct dosages. I mentioned earlier that I would deal with the recent Group 1 West Australian winners Megatic and El Presidente. As it stands, both their dosages lack the necessary staying points required so there’s a major doubt as to whether they will see out the trip of a true-run Group 1 race of 2000m at Flemington.

As you can see from Table 2, there really only seems to be a few proper candidates for this year’s Australian Cup. They are Maldivian, El Segundo and Efficient, who all profile well. On the subject of Efficient, I seem to remember Steven Arnold querying whether he could be a truly effective WFA star so the jury is still out with the Melbourne Cup winner in a race of this nature. Rubiscent might be a consideration if he was to be drawn low and the top three drawn high (past barrier 10), but the possibility that it would happen is unlikely.

Still, as has been mentioned before, the St George stakes is all too frequently the key race here so it will pay to scrutinise the result of this race. Funnily enough, there is a system that you could use based on the St George stakes, which cuts down the thinking time required for the Australian Cup considerably and runs as follows.

If you’d bet first two home in the St George stakes in the Australian Cup over the past 15 years (providing that the 2nd horse home had won a pattern race at 1600m-plus since the start of the season i.e. from August 1) along with the provisos that (a) they had a barrier of 10 or less, and (b) that they had a dosage profile that contained at least 8 points in total and 1 staying point in either the Professional or Solid categories, then you’d have had seven wins from 14 bets (50 per cent strike rate) and made an overall profit of $18.

This simple system alone shows the importance of the Caulfield lead-up race as a punting pointer, but you might find that this year, as does happen sometimes, that the system produces no qualifiers at all. Hopefully the extra information contained in this article might help you find the winner though.

Speaking personally, most of the evidence from the spring points firmly towards Maldivian and El Segundo but if they don’t show then it could be wide-open contest.

By Julian Mould