The history of favourites in the Melbourne Cup
Vauban entered rare territory in the week leading up to the 2023 $8.4 million Group 1 Lexus Melbourne Cup when he had his price cut to around $3.60, even shorter in some parts.
In the 162 years of Australia’s most famous race, only six horses have won at that price or shorter.
Phar Lap is likely to forever remain the only odds-on winner – scoring at 8/11, or $1.73 – in 1930, while the other ‘shorties’ to win in the first century of the race were Revenue ($2.75 in 1901), Archer ($3 in 1862), Tim Whiffler ($3.50 in 1867) and Rising Fast ($3.50 in 1954).
The only to have done so since Rising Fast was Makybe Diva, who started $3.60 in the second of her wins.
Vauban has drifted since Saturday night’s barrier draw, but will almost certainly head betting come jump time for the race that has been a graveyard for favourites of late, no matter their price.
Makybe Diva was also favourite, at $4.40, when she completed her hat-trick in 2005 but the only favourite to win since was $7 chance Fiorente in 2013.
Incentivise (2021), Hartnell (2016) and So You Think (2010) are the only other outright favourites to place in that time, while Pop Rock was $6 equal favourite with Tawqeet when he finished second in 2006.
Pop Rock is one of 14 Northern Hemisphere-trained horses to start on the top line of betting since Ireland’s Vintage Crop internationalised the race in 1993 and is the only one to place.
Plenty have carried a boom similar to Vauban, as recently as last year when Deauville Legend could manage only fourth at $4.40.
The most famous UK flop was Double Trigger, who was beaten at the 1200m and finished 18th at $4.50 in 1995, a year before Oscar Schindler – who Gai Waterhouse famously said had ‘50 lengths’ on his Aussie rivals – ran 15th at $5.
Fame Game got into a similar quote as Vauban a few days out from the 2015 Cup, but started $5 and finished 13th.
Cross Counter ($9), Protectionist ($8) and Dunaden ($8.50) are the only other Melbourne Cup winners at single-figure odds post-Makybe Diva era with nine winners starting between $10 and $21.
The exceptions were Twilight Payment ($26), Viewed ($41) and Prince Of Penzance, one of only four $101 winners in the history of the race.
Vauban, Gold Trip and Without A Fight are this year’s runner who, pre-Call Of The Card, were single-figure odds and Gold Trip has history to overcome no matter what price he starts.
He won as a $21 chance last year and will become only the fifth back-to-back winner if successful.
Archer did it in the first two editions, 1861/62, Rain Lover in 1968/69, Think Big in 1974/75 and, of course, Maybe Diva from 2003 to 2005.
Since Think Big, 21 Cup winners have attempted to defend their crown with Makybe Diva the only one to fill a top-three placing.
Americain, who finished fourth in 2011, Doriemus (sixth), Hyperno, Viewed and Vintage Crop – who all finished seventh – and ninth placegetters Black Knight and Arwon are the only others to run top-10.
Gold Trip’s quest will be carried out under 58.5kg, a weight that hasn’t been carried to victory since Think Big completed back-to-back wins.
Kingston Town, who finished second in 1982 under 59kg, and Vintage Crop, the 1995 third placegetter under 59kg, are the only others to place under at least 58.5kg since Think Big.
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