International challengers stand out in Melbourne Cup

Profile Picture: Keeler Johnson

November 4th, 2019

They call it “the race that stops a nation,” and for good reason.

The Melbourne Cup (G1) at Flemington racecourse in Australia is a historic two-mile test of speed and stamina first run in 1861. In terms of national recognition, it’s Australia’s equivalent of the Kentucky Derby, an event so cherished its annual date on the calendar (the first Tuesday in November) is a public holiday in Melbourne.

Twenty-four horses will head to post for the 2019 Melbourne Cup, and if recent history is any indication, a foreign-bred runner—likely one based abroad—will emerge victorious. The last Australian-bred to claim the Cup was Shocking in 2009, with horses bred in Ireland, France, Great Britain, Germany, and New Zealand claiming victory in the years since.

Could 2019 be Japan’s turn to take the spotlight? #2 Mer De Glace certainly rates a strong chance. As a son of Rulership out of the Sunday Silence mare Glacier Blue, Mer De Glace has the pedigree to handle two miles. Rulership has previously sired Kiseki, a Japanese classic winner who convincingly won the 1 15/16-mile Kikuka Sho (G1) in 2017.

Mer De Glace is undefeated in six starts this season while rising quickly through the ranks. After scoring three straight Group 3 victories over 1 ¼ miles in Japan, Mer De Glace shipped to Australia and stretched out to 1 ½ miles for the prestigious Caulfield Cup (G1). Reserved near the back of the pack early on, Mer De Glace sprinted the final 600 meters in :36 3/5 to win by a length under hot jockey Damian Lane.

With his ideal pedigree, improving form, and strong late kick, Mer De Glace looms as a serious threat to win the Melbourne Cup. He will also carry four pounds less than defending winner #1 Cross Counter, who seeks to become the first repeat winner of the race since Makybe Diva in 2005.

A Godolphin homebred trained by Charlie Appleby, Cross Counter has lost his last three starts, but he’s been competing against much tougher Group 1 competition in Europe. He’s knocked heads with superstar stayer Stradivarius a couple of times and most recently finished just 1 ¾ lengths behind British classic winner Kew Gardens when fourth in the 1 ¾-mile Irish St. Leger (G1). Two miles is Cross Counter’s best distance, making him dangerous while returning to Flemington.

Other logical contenders include #3 Master of Reality, who finished third by a length against Stradivarius in the 2 ½-mile Ascot Gold Cup (G1) this summer; #23 Vow And Declare, runner-up in the Caulfield Cup and a Group 3 winner going 1 7/8 miles; and #4 Mirage Dancer, who stretches out in distance after rallying to finish third in the Caulfield Cup.

Let’s bet Mer De Glace to win, then emphasize Mer De Glace Cross Counter while playing the exacta and trifecta:

$10 to win on #2 Mer De Glace $4 exacta box: 1,2 ($8) $1 trifecta: 2 with 1 with 3,4,11,19,20,23 ($6) $1 trifecta: 2 with 3,4,11,19,20,23 with 1 ($6)

Good luck!