For those keeping count, we have just passed the point of six months to go until the 2022 Melbourne Cup (Tuesday, 1st November). While that’s still a long way off, we already see signs of early preparation, with statements coming from trainers on how they plan to prepare for the spring (in Australia) campaign.
But when it comes to these big races – and they don’t come much bigger than the Melbourne Cup – there should always be a note of caution when looking at the ante-post betting markets as a guide for what will happen on race day.
A case in point is the current state of the betting for the Melbourne Cup 2022, which sees four horses – Hitotsu, Stay Foolish, Verry Elleegant, and Vauban – listed as the four favourites. As mentioned, six months is a long time in racing, so punters would always tread very carefully at this stage. But there is a more stark issue than simply backing the wrong horse at this stage of the year – there is a distinct possibility that none of that quartet will even contest the Melbourne Cup this year, never mind win it.
Verry Elleegant could be set for Europe
All for horses are, for different reasons, class acts that deserve to be on the grand stage at Flemington Park. You’ll know Verry Elleegant is the defending champion. But the superstar mare, as well as the others, might have business elsewhere. Verry Elleegant’s trainer, Chris Waller, said in a recent statement that her involvement would depend on her spring campaign beginning in August. After that, a trip to Europe might be on the cards.
As for Hitotsu, the plan seems to be to go for the Cox Plate and the Japan Cup. It is possible that Hitotsu goes for all three, but the timing of the races would mean a minor miracle would need to be pulled off. The sensible option seems to be to go for the Cox Plate (22nd October) followed by the Japan Cup 36 days later. Squeezing the Melbourne Cup in on 1st November is a lot to ask before making that 8,000KM trip to Japan.
Stay Foolish, meanwhile, has plenty of options. The Dubai Gold Cup winner is a star on the Japanese racing scene, and his owners are keen to get him racing in Australia in the busy spring season, which was an option not available to Japanese horses due to travel restrictions over the last two years. The Melbourne Cup is undoubtedly a possibility, but it is far from certain.
Vauban must learn his trade first
And then there is Vauban, a novice horse trained in Ireland who suddenly finds himself among the favourites for one of the world’s greatest horse races. Vauban looks like a brilliant prospect, but he is a novice hurdler – a jumps horse competing in national hunt racing. His trainer, Irish maestro Willie Mullins, has had horses finish prominently in the Melbourne Cup before, notably Max Dynamite, who finished 2nd in 2015 and 3rd in 2017. But it seems a bit too soon for Vauban. Logic dictates that he might go to Australia in 2023, and that’s only if his career progression goes to plan.
Overall, then, the advice is to be cautious. When you back a horse ante-post, you should ensure that the bookmaker will return the stake should the horse not take part in the race. Thankfully, most Aussie bookmakers will return bets at this stage if the horse is not subsequently nominated for the race (we are still in the pre-nominations stage for the 2022 event). But you should never assume that the horse favourite in the betting is going to be there on race day. And right now, the four leading contenders in the Melbourne Cup betting might all miss the race.