The Courier Mail’s Nathan Exelby looks at his top chances for the Melbourne Cup

Nathan Exelby’s insights into the 2020 Melbourne Cup

Sir Dragonet

Roared up Cup markets after landing a plonk to win the Cox Plate 10 days ago. That race has been an excellent guide to the Cup in the past 15 years, providing four winners. Two of the last three Plate winners to run in the Cup won it, the other was third.

His European scorecard was solid, even though he had developed the reputation of a non-winner. He started favourite in last year’s Derby and was beaten just over half a length, notably on firm ground, suggesting he doesn’t need the wet to win. He now meets the winner, Anthony Van Dyck, 3kg better at the weights.

Imports often improve at their second start in Australia – think Media Puzzle, Americain, Dunaden, Protectionist. What’s to say he won’t?

He ran well in last year’s St Leger (2900m), finishing two lengths ahead of Il Paradiso, who was stiff in last year’s Cup, so the 3200m is unlikely to phase him.

He is ridden by a big race master in Glen Boss, from the stable of Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, who are picking off big races one after another.

Hard to find many negatives with him.

Tiger Moth

The real X-factor in this race, with just four starts under the belt.

Ran a close second in the Irish Derby, which already makes him one of the best-credentialed Northern Hemisphere three-year-olds to come for this race. He stepped off that race and caned older horses over 2400m in a rating that said he’d come on significantly since the Derby.

Aidan O’Brien brought Mahler out as a NH-3yo in 2007 and he ran third. Each year, the master trainer has been getting closer to finding the right horse. Last year he had Il Paradiso, who was stiff not to win. This guy looks a step up from that horse and has superior form to Cross Counter and Rekindling.

Not worried about the lack of experience, as the Cup is becoming more and more a race for the lightly-raced and his trainer wouldn’t have him here if he didn’t think he was up to it.

Has eased in betting since the barrier draw, but that tends to be overplayed. Drawing out is generally not enough to stop you winning a Cup.

There’s always an element of doubt when you haven’t seen them, but he could very well blow them away. I want him onside.

Russian Camelot

Has fallen out of favour since defeats in the Caulfield Stakes and Cox Plate, but the fact is, he ran very well in both.

Jeune had a not too dissimilar profile in 1994 before coming out and winning this race at good odds, while Fiorente, Green Moon and Efficient all came off Cox Plate defeats to win this race.

His best win remains the South Australian Derby, where he came from a mile back to win the 2500m race running away. He will stay the 3200m based on that run.

He bumped into a couple of highly-credentialed Europeans in the Cox Plate, so no disgrace in that. It might be a task to turn the tables on Sir Dragonet based on that, but he might just be looking for this trip now.

Trainer has done amazing things in the past 12 months and jockey is still a whiz, 25 years on from his first win in this race.

I have the other two clearly on top, but don’t want this guy running as a loser and he goes in all multiples.

Anthony Van Dyck

A genuine treat to have an English Derby winner running in the Cup and he showed his class at Caulfield coming from wide and well back to test Verry Elleegant.

He’s a horse who has well and truly earnt his 58.5kg in this race, having run second to the highly-rated Ghaiyyath in June and then winning a Group 2 race impressively before arriving at Caulfield.

My inclination is to say he can’t win, based on the history of the race and just how difficult it is to carry this sort of weight. Plus, his run may have just ended at Caulfield and he has to go to 3200m now.

But against that, Hugh Bowman will give him the perfect run from the good barrier, he’s trained by a genius and class takes you a long way.

I suspect he runs top five, but may just find a lighter weighted one or two a shade better.


Three of the last eight Lexus Hotham winners have finished top four in this race. The last one to win was Shocking in 2009.

No Lexus winner in that time carried the weight this guy did on Saturday. He took a while to wind up under his 61kg, but when he did, he put them away comfortably.

He’s a typical import in that he’s come on from that first up run in Australia.

The question now is whether he can back up or not? Two of the imports to win the Lexus flopped badly in this race, unable to cope with the quick turnaround. But Prince Of Arran did back up and place a couple of years ago.

That is an unknown, but based around the history of the Lexus and the fact his win likely rates up better than any of them, he has to be on side. He’s a much better chance than a lot of those ahead of him in the market.


History tends to repeat itself in the Melbourne Cup and it also tells you which horses face a task.

There will always be the exception – like Prince Of Penzance – but more often than not it stands up.

So I’m against the Caulfield Cup winner Verry Elleegant, based on the fact only one mare has carried 55.5kg to win (Makybe Diva) and horses that do the Cups double, generally start lower in the weights.

Very few horses win the Cup at their second or even third attempt, so I’m against those that have had a crack previously like Surprise Baby, Prince Of Arran, Finche, Steel Prince, Vow And Declare, Avilius, Master Of Reality, Twilight Payment and so on.

I expect Surprise Baby, Master Of Reality, Steel Prince and Prince Of Arran will run well, but I can’t have them as winning chances.


Sir Dragonet and Tiger Moth the top two hopes.

Can also have something on Russian Camelot and Ashrun to ensure they aren’t losers.

Anthony Van Dyck goes in all multiples.

Coupling up those five in quinellas, trifectas and first fours.

Those longer in the market to be entertained in wider multis include Steel Prince, Prince Of Arran and Master Of Reality.

Ladbrokes betting summary:

Best Backed

Anthony Van Dyck

Tiger Moth

Surprise Baby

Verry Elleegant

Russian Camelot

Worst Result

Twilight Payment


Anthony Van Dyck

Verry Elleegant

Master Of Reality

Best Result


Stratum Albion


Vow And Declare


Ladbrokes Bookies Tip – Sir Dragonet

The Ladbrokes bookies are chasing back-to-back wins in the Melbourne Cup after successfully tipping Vow And Declare 12 months ago. This year they have landed on Sir Dragonet. We think the Ladbrokes Cox Plate is the right form reference for the Melbourne Cup and it will take a genuine weight-for-age horse to get the job done. He was strong through the line in the Cox Plate and the step-up to 3200 metres shouldn’t be an issue.

Originally published asNathan Exelby’s Melbourne Cup Guide

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