Lexus Melbourne Cup form guide

6 November 2023 Written by Danny Russell

Every Lexus Melbourne Cup runner rated for this year’s Flemington Group 1 showcase. This includes internationals, top weights and the favourites.

It is the race that stops a nation, and this year shapes as a vintage Lexus Melbourne Cup. Gold Trip is aiming to go back-to-back, Vow And Declare is shooting for his second victory, Without A Fight is looking to do the rare Cups double, and they will all come up against highly credentialed raiders such as Willie Mullins’ Vauban and Japanese raider Breakup.

Here is a comprehensive look at every runner ahead of the first Tuesday in November by freelance racing journalist Danny Russell.

Gold Trip (FR) 7yoH 58.5kg

Trainer: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace

Barrier: 2

Jockey: James McDonald

Career: 24: 3-5 -5

Last start: 5th of 12 Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m)

Aiming to become the first horse to win back-to-back Melbourne Cups since Makybe Diva. Was a dominant winner last year, and going equally as well this spring, winning the Turnbull Stakes, finishing third as top weight in the Caulfield Cup and closing late for fifth in the Cox Plate. Also grows a leg on soft ground. The big query is the weight. Rises 1kg on last year. The last horse to successfully carry 58.5kg to victory was Think Big in 1975.

Danny's Tip: Top 3.

Without A Fight (IRE) 7yoG 56.5kg

Trainer: Anthony & Sam Freedman

Career: 22: 10-3-4

Barrier: 16

Jockey: Mark Zahra

Last start: 1st of 18 Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m)

He finished a disappointing 21 lengths behind Gold Trip in last year’s Melbourne Cup – the Irish import’s first run in Australia – but has since thrived under the guidance of Anthony and Sam Freedman, dominating the Queensland winter carnival and winning the Caulfield Cup. Penalised 1kg on the Caulfield Cup run and still a slight query at the distance. But a big chance to become the first horse in 22 years to win the Cups double. Significant that Mark Zahra has chosen to ride Without A Fight ahead of Gold Trip.

Danny's Tip: Top 5.

Alenquer (FR) 6yoG 56.5kg

Trainer: Michael Moroney

Career: 18: 5-2-1

Barrier: 9

Jockey: Damien Oliver

Last start: 9th of 14 Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500m)

Highly regarded international credentials. Alenquer is a Group 1 winner in Ireland over 2112m and finished a credible ninth in last year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. But the import has struggled to make any imprint on Australian racing in five starts since joining Mike Moroney’s stables. Does have a fairytale factor in that he will be Damien Oliver’s last Melbourne Cup ride.

Danny's Tip: Will appreciate all of Ollie's experience and skill in his 32nd and final Melbourne Cup ride!

Breakup (JPN) 6yoH 55kg

Trainer: Tatsuya Yoshioka

Career: 22: 5-3-4

 Barrier: 18

Jockey: Kohei Matsuyama

Last start: 8th of 18 Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m)

A Japanese stayer who ran fourth in this year’s Group 1 Tenno Sho (3200m). That is impeccable form for the Lexus Melbourne Cup. Looked a winning chance in the Caulfield Cup as the field turned for home, but was a touch flat-footed, finishing 8th. Will be suited by the step up in distance, and will be suited if the track is firm.

Danny's Tip: Top 5.

Vauban (FR) 6yoG 55kg

Trainer: Willie Mullins

Career: 6: 4-0-0

Barrier: 3

Jockey: Ryan Moore

Last start: 1st of 8 Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes, Naas (2414m)

Race favourite. Hard to go past his seven-length romp at Royal Ascot in June when he put paid to Cup rivals Absurde and More Felons by more than seven lengths. He then won the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes at Naas, beating another Cup runner Valiant King by 1.5 lengths. Looks well weighted at 55kg. Vauban is also a Group 1 winner over hurdles. Irish trainer Willie Mullins knows the right horse to bring to Australia, having had another hurdler Max Dynamite run second in the 2015 Melbourne Cup and third two years later.

Danny's Tip: Top 3.

Soulcombe (GB) 5yoG 53.5kg

Trainer: Chris Waller

Career: 15: 5-1-1

Barrier: 4

Jockey: Joao Moreira

Last start: 7th of 18 Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m)

The horse is flying. Missed the kick by several lengths in the Caulfield Cup and cost itself any winning chance. The way he closed out the race suggests he will relish 3200m. A change of jockey with João Moreira securing the ride.

Danny's Tip: Top 3, if he jumps.

Absurde (Fr) 6yoG 53kg

Trainer: WIllie Mullins

Career: 13: 3-6-2

Barrier: 8

Jockey: Zac Purton

Last start: 1st of 22 Ebor Handicap, York (2816m)

Flying under the radar because of his more highly touted Irish stablemate Vauban. Absurde booked a trip Down Under by winning the Ebor Handicap at York in August, which is a golden-ticket race into the Melbourne Cup. No horse has won the Ebor-Melbourne Cup double, but Purple Moon and Heartbreak City went close, both running second in 2007 and 2016. Absurde was thrashed by Vauban at Royal Ascot in June.

Danny's Tip: Top 10.

Vow And Declare 8yoG 53kg

Trainer: Danny O’Brien

Career: 37: 5-7-4

Barrier: 19

Jockey: Billy Egan

Last start: 2nd of 14 Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500m)

The evergreen 2019 Lexus Melbourne Cup winner is racing in great heart in the twilight of his career, finishing second at Group 1 and Group 2 level at his past two starts. Was impressive in the Moonee Valley Cup after being caught wide and covering extra ground. But it is hard to see him climbing the mountain again after a 10th and 18th in his past two Melbourne Cups.

Danny's Tip: Top 10.

Right You Are 7yoG 53kg

Trainer: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace

Career: 26: 10-4-4

Barrier: 15

Jockey: John Allen

Last start: 5th of 18 Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m)

The son of So You Think ran out of his skin to finish fifth in the Caulfield Cup and the stable is renowned for peaking their stayers at the right time. Has not raced beyond 2400m and up against some more fancied runners.

Danny's Tip: On verge of top 10.

Magical Lagoon 5yoM 51kg

Trainer: Chris Waller

Career: 13: 3-1-0

Barrier: 7

Jockey: Mark Du Plessis

Last start: 6th of 13 Group 3 Geelong Cup (2400m)

Finished 1.1-length sixth in the Geelong Cup after taking up the lead and fighting to the line. Has not won a race in Australia. Did win the Irish Oaks at the Curragh in July 2022 over 2414m, but is yet untested over 3200.

Danny's Tip: Distance may be a challenge.

Virtuous Circle (NZ) 4yoH 51kg

Trainer: Liam Howley

Career: 13: 2-2-1

Barrier: 6

Jockey: Craig Newitt

Last start: 8th of 13 Group 3 Geelong Cup (2400m)

A semi-spruik horse who was expected to be in the finish in the Geelong Cup but was left flat-footed and finished well back. Will need to improve significantly on that to be a Cup player. Peak run was a second in this year’s AJC Derby.

Danny's Tip: Second half of the field.

Lastotchka (FR) 5yoM 51kg

Trainer: Mick Price & Michael Kent Jr

Career: 11: 3-2-1

Barrier: 21

Jockey: Craig Williams

Last start: 1st of 7 Group 3 Prix Gladiateur, Longchamp (3100m)

The race’s mystery runner. A two-time Group 3 winner in France over 2800m and 3100m who will have her first Australian start in the Lexus Melbourne Cup for Mick Price and Michael Kent Jr. Well weighted, but hard to line-up the form lines. French raiders have won the Cup, but Americain and Dunaden tuned up by winning the Geelong Cup first.

Danny's Tip: A mystery bet.

Future History (GB) 6yoG 50kg

Trainer: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace

Career: 16: 6-4-1

Barrier: 13

Jockey: Hollie Doyle

Last start: 3rd of 14 Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500m)

Gained a golden ticket into the Lexus Melbourne Cup by winning the Group 3 Bart Cummings (2520m) at Flemington on October 7. Capable of going forward with a lightweight and holding ground. The import joined the Maher-Eustace stable at the end of last year and has continued to improve and seems to be peaking at the right time.

Danny's Tip: Top 10.

Sheraz (FR) 7yoG 51.5kg

Trainer: Chris Waller

Career: 23: 4-5-2

Barrier: 22

Jockey: Beau Mertens

Last start: 8th of 14 Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500m)

Looks to be a wet tracker. Ran home well in the Moonee Valley Gold Cup but could not match strides with the winner, Cleveland. Ran second on a heavy track in last year’s Sydney Cup, but has not won in 12 starts in Australia.

Danny's Tip: Would love some rain.

Daqiansweet Junior (NZ) 6yoG 51.5kg

Trainer: Phillip Stokes

Career: 27: 7-1-2

Barrier: 12

Jockey: Daniel Stackhouse

Last start: 4th of 9 Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes, Caulfield (2400m)

Ran a bottler in last year’s Melbourne Cup, finishing sixth and looks to be a horse that relishes the two miles. Has not set the world on fire in five runs since, but might just be looking towards the 3200m again.

Danny's Tip: Just outside top 10.

Ashrun (FR) 8yoG 50kg

Trainer: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace

Career: 17: 4-3-1

Barrier: 11

Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy

Last start: 2nd of 13 Group 3 Geelong Cup (2400m)

A testament to the patience of the Maher and Eustace partnership, considering Ashrun was off the scene for more than a 1000 days with a tendon injury. Won the Group 3 Hotham Stakes at its second run in Australia in 2020 and finished 10th in the Melbourne Cup three days later. Has been working back to full fitness with a strong second in the Geelong Cup.

Danny's Tip: Top 10

Okita Soushi (IRE) 6yoH 51.5kg

Trainer: Joseph O’Brien

Career: 13: 4-2-3

Barrier: 20

Jockey: Dylan Gibbons

Last start: 12th of 18 Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m)

Jumped into the field after a number of withdrawals in the past fortnight. A stablemate to Valiant King, the six-year-old looks to living in the shadows of stable mate. Not quite the form of his international rivals and finished 10 lengths behind the Caulfield Cup winner. Will handle the extra ground.

Danny's Tip: Unwanted by the punters.

Military Mission (IRE) 6yoG 51kg

Trainer: Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott

Career: 27: 7-5-3

Barrier: 5

Jockey: Rachel King

Last start: 1st of 9 Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes, Caulfield (2400m)

Consistent galloper who has been kept in cotton wool since a convincing win in the Herbert Power Stakes. Waterhouse has entered him for Saturday’s Lexus Archer Stakes, but is yet to make a decision on him running. Lloyd Williams pair Yucatan and Assign won the Herbert Power and then finished outside the top 10 in the Melbourne Cup at their next start. 

Prospects: Unproven at this distance.

Serpentine (IRE) 7yoG 51kg

Trainer: Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott

Career: 21: 3-3-1

Barrier: 1

Jockey: Jye McNeil

Last start: 3rd of 16 Group 3 Bart Cummings, Flemington (2520m)

The 2020 Epsom Derby winner led last year’s Melbourne Cup for a period before finishing 20th. Lloyd Williams-owned and Gai Waterhouse trained is usually a good sign.

Danny's Tip: Would be a bit of an upset.

More Felons (IRE) 5yoG 50.5kg

Trainer: Chris Waller

Career: 14: 4-2-0

Barrier: 24

Jockey: Jamie Kah

Last start: 5th of 13 Group 3 Geelong Cup (2400m)

Was elevated into the field after final acceptances. The run of the race in the Geelong Cup, making up late ground out wide to finish less than a length behind the winner in fifth. That was the gelding’s first run for Chris Waller. Finished eighth in the Ebor at York behind Absurde, but capable of big improvement.

Danny's Tip: Top 10.

True Marvel (FR) 8yoG 50kg

Trainer: Matthew Smith

Career: 53: 8-7-5

Barrier: 10

Jockey: Ben Thompson

Last start: 10th of 14 Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500m)

Ran the race of his life to finish second on a heavy track in this year’s Sydney Cup over 3200m at 150-1, but hasn't repeated that form since.

Danny's Tip: Will be a longshot.

Kalapour (IRE) 7yoG 50kg

Trainer: Kris Lees

Career: 18: 4-3-4

Last start: 1st of 7 Lexus Archer Stakes (2500m)

Barrier: 14

Jockey: Zac Lloyd

Grabbed the last slot in the Cup field by winning the Lexus Archer Stakes on Derby Day. It led from start to finish and stuck on well. The Lexus Archer Stakes has not thrown up the Cup winner in recent years. Did finish behind Cleveland in the St Leger Stakes, but does get a big weight swing on that result.

Danny's Tip: A fluker’s chance.

Interpretation 6yoG 50kg

Trainer: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace

Career: 16: 4-1-2

Barrier: 17

Jockey: Teo Nugent

Last start: 1st of 14 Bendigo Cup (2400m)

Last year Maher and Eustace won the Bendigo Cup with High Emocean and the mare then ran third in the Melbourne Cup with a light weight. Interpretation all but guaranteed a Cup start by winning this year’s Bendigo Cup, shooting up to 24th in order of entry - he will not be re-handicapped. Still, it was a grinding win and only by a small margin. 

Danny's Tip: Sometimes you back the stable, not the horse.

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