Melbourne Cup horses 2020 | Shane Crawford’s tips, mug punting guide, four horses scratched

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Everyone’s got their Melbourne Cup traditions – picking their favourite number, favourite colour, favourite jockey, funny or relatable horse names.

I say to all of that: YEP! Whatever works for you, whatever your theory is, stick with it.

That’s the great thing about racing. Everyone’s got different systems and ways of approaching it. Favourite trainers, favourite barriers … it ALL makes sense to me!

Go with your gut, it’s all good. Yet at the end of the day, we all want to back the winner.

We want bragging rights with our mates. And we want to make some money; the Cup winner usually pays pretty good odds.

Here are the horses I like for this year’s Melbourne Cup and what I’m steering clear of.

SURPRISE BABY

This horse is going to have a lot of mug punters and a lot of Aussies backing it.

It ran well last year in the Cup, placing fifth after coming from right back. Everything since that race has been built towards having another crack; ‘We’re going to peak on this day in a year’s time’.

And it’s trained in the bush, on the outskirts of Horsham with Paul Preusker. It’s one of those fairytale stories – but more importantly, this horse has got an engine. It really has.

Craig Williams jumped off last year’s Melbourne Cup winner, Vow and Declare, to ride Surprise Baby. That’s always a very good lead. He made that decision early.

This horse will be flashing home and I’d be very surprised if it’s not right in the finish. And it’s a cool name: SURPRISE BABY!

He’s my top pick. I’m hoping for the Aussie battler fairytale to come true.

Whatever you do with your betting, throw Surprise Baby in there somewhere. I just think that come Tuesday, look out – this horse will be flying down the middle.

STRATUM ALBION

I’m always very wary of a certain type of English or Irish horse.

It’s a long way to send a horse, a very expensive exercise to come down for the Cup. They’re not coming for a holiday – they want the prize money.

Stratum Albion, who’s around 50-1, sets off alarm bells for me. He’s a hurdler as well and he’s trained by Willie Mullins, who’s had horses like Max Dynamite run really well in previous Cups. And he’s owned by Tony Bloom, a billionaire punting tycoon.

ALARM BELLS! These are cagey people who know what they’re doing. Something’s going on with this horse.

Not only that, it’s my favourite number: No.9. It was my footy number, I work at Channel Nine and I was born on the ninth of the ninth.

I NEED to have something on it! It just works out even better that he’s got a wily old Irish trainer, who used to be a jockey. He’s been jumping hurdles, laying low after qualifying, he’s been set for the race and it’s a long way to come for him not to be in the finish…

And he’s 50-1! Very nice. Stratum Albion has got my name written all over him, he’ll definitely be getting some of my money.

RUSSIAN CAMELOT

I reckon just about everybody’s going to have a dollar on this horse because of the Aussie flavour.

Danny O’Brien trained Vow and Declare to last year’s Melbourne Cup win. I reckon Vow and Declare has probably had its big day and Russian Camelot, an Irish-bred stallion with Damien Oliver on board, is now the stable’s top chance.

Danny is a Hawthorn supporter and I also used to own a horse with him. He’s a good Hawks man – I remember the night after we won the Grand Final back in 2008, Danny was best on ground at the after party!

I’ve always had a soft spot for him and his horses, especially in the big races. I backed Vow and Declare last year in the Cup partly out of loyalty, partly out of hope because the horse was in good form, and he duly saluted.

Danny’s got Miami Bound, Russian Camelot, King of Leogrance and Vow and Declare in this year’s Cup. It’s quickly becoming an expensive race for me to have a bet in!

MY PROCESS OF ELIMINATION

This is my best advice for mug punters: it’s a process of elimination, trying to narrow it down to a couple of horses that could win, then attacking it from there.

The hardest thing with the Cup these days is that the internationals have ruined it – their horses are better stayers than ours! And it’s a bit tougher to pick the winner these days when you can’t just go with whatever horse the late, great Bart Cummings has trained.

Recent history especially suggests that weight over the Melbourne Cup’s 3200m journey is a key factor, almost regardless of how good the horse is. Makybe Diva in 2005 was the last to win with serious weight – a record 58kg for a mare, for her third Cup – but she was an absolute freak.

I’m happy to stay away from the top four because of the weight issue. Straight away I treat them as scratchings, even though I perhaps shouldn’t. For mine, they’re eliminated as a winning proposition and I work my way back from there.

This year, that scratches Anthony Van Dyck, Avilius, Vow and Declare, and Master of Reality.

Aidan O’Brien’s No.1, Anthony Van Dyck, is a class horse but it’s never won over the distance. It had a decent run for second in the Caulfield Cup but couldn’t win, and here he’s going another 800m lugging 58.5kg.

Every year, we always see something from No.20-24 in the first four somewhere. The lightweights always give you great value, there’s always a horse down the bottom that runs well and figures in the finish.

Concentrate on those last four horses for trifectas and first-fours, or even for a winner. If you like the look of something, go for it.

Tiger Moth is another Aidan O’Brien horse down at No.21, he’s carrying 52.5kg and has three-time Cup winner Kerrin McEvoy in the saddle. He’s one that could probably blow them apart, yes…

But I just can’t back a horse called Tiger Moth. It’s just a weird name. Like seriously – why would you call your horse Tiger Moth?

If they’d come up with a better name, I might have backed it. Admittedly, it’s probably the best international horse, with the low weight. But I just can’t do it.

I also don’t like fitness hiccups before big races.

There’s a lighter weight horse called Oceanex, which had to be cleared of lameness in her right front leg. If you can have a ticket on the horse that comes last, I reckon that might be it.

Not that the horse isn’t good enough to run well, but it’s had a few concerns and I like to steer well clear of those.

There’s a few good Aussies to pick from. I’ve mentioned Surprise Baby and Russian Camelot and Warning is another; trained by the Freedmans, and they know how to win.

It’s always a sound move to go with trainers who have won in the past. They obviously know what ingredients are needed.

MY MELBOURNE CUP TIPS

1. Surprise Baby 2. Stratum Albion 3. Russian Camelot 4. Finche

Confidence levels EXTREMELY low with the top four – but I’ve been on Surprise Baby for a while as the winner. I have great faith that this horse has been primed for one race, and this is it.

Another thing I’d suggest it not to put all your cash into the one race. The Melbourne Cup is incredibly hard to tip, especially with all the international horses these days.

Spread your bets out throughout the day, so you don’t have to wallow in disappointment in the pretty likely event that you don’t get the Cup winner.

But you’ve gotta be in it to win it. If you tip the Melbourne Cup winner, it’s bragging rights for an entire year and that’s a priceless thing to have over your mates.

We’re all geniuses, once we tip a winner and reflect back on it. ‘How did you not see that?’ To avoid disappointment, you can do what some of my friends do, which is to have $2 on every horse in the race just to say you’ve tipped the Cup winner!

Trifectas, first fours – have a crack, because the prize money pool is so big. If you can get a percentage of that, you’ll have a very good Christmas.

It’s going to be a strange Melbourne Cup this year, with no one allowed at the racecourse. I’ll just be watching at home.

I’ve got a friend, John O’Neill, with three horses in the Melbourne Cup. All he’s ever wanted to do was get a Melbourne Cup winner and the year he’s got three decent chances in the race, he can’t even go to Flemington to watch!

John has the Caulfield Cup winner Verry Elleegant, Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet and also Warning. Loyalty in friendship is important, so I’m hoping he wins – but I’ve told him that maybe it’s better he wins next year, when he can actually be there and really experience what it’s all about, taking out The Race That Stops a Nation.

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