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2021 Melbourne Cup Preview & Tips

Tim Geers and Trent Crebbin preview the chances of every runner in the 2021 Melbourne Cup!


The Group 1 Melbourne Cup headlines horse racing in Australia on the first Tuesday of November, with “The Race That Stops A Nation” set to jump at 3:00pm AEDT.

A full field of 24 runners will line up over 3200m at Flemington Racecourse, with reigning champion Twilight Payment back to defend his crown with top weight of 58kg. Caulfield Cup hero Incentivise holds favouritism with ($2.80), aiming to make it 10 straight victories.

Tim Geers and Trent Crebbin have put their minds together to bring you a comprehensive runner-by-runner Melbourne Cup preview, which includes their top 4’s and respective betting tips for the race.

Scroll down to find our 2021 Melbourne Cup preview and tips!

Speed map

Expect a good speed. Twilight Payment will kick up from barrier 2 and potentially hold the front from Knights Order and Grand Promenade who will want to slot in. Incentivise likely follows him across and tries to get cover off the fence with Floating ArtistPondus and Delphi will land behind the leaders, Tralee Rose and Persan probably try to follow Incentivise. Spanish Mission generally sits around midfield and would love to slot in around there. Verry Elleegant won’t want to be as far back as last year but also needs to settle and finish off so I’ve got her just worse than midfield, with Sir Lucan getting a fair way back from his draw.

Melbourne Cup speed map

Melbourne Cup runner-by-runner analysis

1. Twilight Payment

Last year’s Melbourne Cup winner defends his crown with top weight of 58kg. He comes into this year’s race off a similar preparation to last year, but he’s had an extra run this time around. Three starts back he was well beaten over 4000m in the same race Spanish Mission ran 3rd in, but then came out and beat the horse that ran 2nd ahead of Spanish Mission. The obvious queries are the big weight and the fact no 9YO has ever won the Cup, but he’ll get a soft run from barrier 2 and is racing in terrific form so must be considered again.

Tim:58kg makes it tough for him and he’s not getting any younger, but he’s still racing in terrific form and will run well again from the good draw.”

Trent: “Was a huge effort to win last year and is racing just as well overseas but with 58kg as a 9yo and more pressure for the front he’ll have to pull out all the stops.”

2. Incentivise

He just has to be the horse to beat. His Queensland winter when getting over a trip was freakish and he put up some ratings that signalled he could be a serious contender in the Cups come the Spring. He hasn’t put a foot wrong since being in Melbourne- the win in the Turnbull especially when everything rode to beat him, he sat on a brutal tempo and was simply too strong. The Caulfield Cup win was dominant and even with the 1.5kg penalty it’s impossible to see anything from that race turning the tables. Map looks fine for him- Prebble can take his time to slot in just behind the speed, small query on him at 3200m but everything he’s done has profiled like two miles will be fine and he was still the fastest last 600/400/200m last start. Massive chance for the double.

Tim: “It’s going to be a big effort to win with 57kg but it was going to be a big effort to win the Caulfield Cup from barrier 18, and it’s fair to say he passed that test. Clearly the horse to beat.”

Trent: “Freakishly good wins in the Turnbull and Caulfield Cup, can’t see 3200m being a concern and he’s very hard to beat.”

3. Spanish Mission

Quite possibly the best credentialed European horse to tackle this race in recent memory, coming off a narrow 2nd placing to staying superstar Stradivarius in the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup at York. He is also tasked with carrying 57kg to victory and comes into this having had a lameness concern in the week leading up to the big race, which can’t be helpful. Craig Williams is booked to ride and he draws reasonably in barrier 14. On best form, he’d give this race an almighty shake but will he be in peak condition?

Tim: “It’s head vs heart here for me. Head says he has to be a risk with 57kg coming into this with a fitness cloud over his head, but heart says I want him to win given I’m riding a $31 ticket. On his best form I think he’s right up there as the horse to beat, but you hardly want any doubts in a race like this.”

Trent: “Proper stayer and his recent form is excellent although I do think the 2nd to Stradivarius is being overplayed. He doesn’t profile as a recent traditional raider down in the weights but has to be respected.”

4. Verry Elleegant

Good to see her in the Melbourne Cup after a very good run in the Cox Plate last start. She was home very well there after covering ground to run 3rd which signalled she was back to somewhere near her best after a somewhat disappointing effort in the Turnbull when starting favourite over Incentivise. She didn’t really have any excuses there and was beaten 3.5L on a good track. Go back to last year and whilst she was probably in a bit better form coming off a Caulfield Cup win over Anthony Van Dyck, her run in the Melbourne Cup on a good 3 was excellent, coming home in the fastest last 600m of the race from a mile back. Query is she has to carry 57kg as a mare which is Makybe Diva level weight and will be on a good 3 again. If she can settle closer this year I’ve no doubt she’ll run the trip and can run a place.

Tim: “She ran a great race last year and comes off a good effort in the Cox Plate, but I have to take her on this time around. Draws 19, going to be a very long way back and has to carry 57kg on a rock hard deck.”

Trent: “Great run in the Cox Plate but was belted by Incentivise in the Turnbull despite starting favourite. Her run last year was enormous and she’s a top 3 player.”

5. Explosive Jack

Dual Derby winner as a 3YO, successful in the Australian and South Australian derbies, before finishing a slightly unlikely 3rd in the Queensland edition. He’s struggled so far since returning as a 4YO, finishing well down the track in the Caulfield Cup last start with seemingly no excuses. Always have to respect this stable and jockey combination, especially in staying races, but he looks up against it.

Tim: “Hasn’t come up well enough against the big boys this preparation after a long and dominant 3YO campaign. Happy to risk him here.”

Trent: “Was building very nicely before the Caulfield Cup flop. He’s better than that and will eat up 3200m at Flemington, but again I can’t see how he turns the tables on Incentivise.”

6. The Chosen One

Another that flopped in the Caulfield Cup after a very good run in the Herbert Power behind Delphi prior. Potentially he might need a firmer track which he finds here and his run in last year’s Melbourne Cup was very solid in 4th. Gets a pretty soft map from 5 and Lane sticking is obviously ideal but I don’t think he can improve on his result from last year even if he does bounce back to his best.

Tim: “Ran very well in the Herbert Power behind Delphi who I rate here. Happy to forgive a flop in the Caulfield Cup on unsuitably wet ground. Carries a similar weight to what he did when finishing 4th in this race last year and gets Damian Lane booked. Top six chance.”

Trent: “The Herbert Power run was good and his run last year was good but he’s hard to have off last start and even at his best I think he’s a few lengths off winning.”

7. Delphi

Former Irish horse who had one start during the Queensland Winter before being put out for a spell. He was very good in his first three starts back, finishing 2nd to subsequent Caulfield Cup runner-up Nonconformist in the Naturalism Stakes before winning the Herbert Power Stakes. He started a $6.00 chance in the Caulfield Cup one week later but was a big flop, beaten 11L by Incentivise. The reports were that he struggled with the quick back-up, so he’s better suited coming into this a couple of weeks between runs. Profiles well as a lightly-raced European stayer with a very winnable weight on his back and Damien Oliver booked to ride.

Tim: “Think he’s clearly the best value in this year’s race, and has been backed into $21 after getting out to as much as $51. Forgive his Caulfield Cup run where he didn’t handle the quick back-up, and he’s also better suited on firm ground. Profiles very nicely.”

Trent: “Starting $5.50 in the Caulfield Cup has to have some merit and he potentially didn’t handle the backup. Firm track, 3200m no issue, he’s a must for exotics and not hopeless.”

8. Ocean Billy

He whacked away midfield in the Caulfield Cup beaten 9L by Incentivise so it’s hard to see him featuring, however he did look in need of two miles and is an Auckland Cup winner at the trip on a good track. That form isn’t strong enough to win here beating Sound who is a group 2 stayer at best in Australia, but he’s not a bad top 10 play given he’ll relish the distance.

Tim: “Probably hasn’t been with Chris Waller long enough for him to work his magic. Not good enough to win.”

Trent: “Can’t see him running top 3 on class but won’t run last given he’ll stay the 3200m and likes dry ground- maybe could sneak top 10.”

9. Selino

The Sydney Cup winner comes into the Melbourne Cup with a similar sort of lead up to when he won the 3200m feature in the Autumn. He’s had four fairly ordinary runs leading up to Tuesday and now gets up to 3200m at his fifth run in. Draws barrier 24 so is going to be close enough to last but returns to his favoured firm ground after three runs on soft ground, which he doesn’t appreciate. Will definitely run the distance, which is half the battle.

Tim: “If you’re looking for a blowout chance, this may be it at $81. Sydney Cup form doesn’t usually hold up in the Melbourne Cup, but Chris Waller is a genius. Peaked big time at this stage last prep, gets up in distance and back onto a Good track.”

Trent: “Disappointing in the Caulfield Cup however I think he needs a firm track and his Bart Cummings 4th with 57.5kg was excellent. Go back to his UK form he was 3L off Spanish Mission and we know he’ll run 3200m. Definite top 10 player for mine and maybe a very wide first 4 hope.”

10. Johnny Get Angry

We (Tim & Trent) both backed him in the Derby so he’ll always have a soft spot, but he’s going absolutely awfully his last couple. Once he was put into a race with tempo in the Turnbull Stakes and Geelong Cup he was completely found out as a good race horse and he can’t win. Should be $501 not $71- there are much, much better roughies.

Tim: “God bless him for his Derby win, but can’t win this.”

Trent: “Not good enough, not going well enough, can’t believe he’s under 100-1.”

11. Knights Order

Deserves to be huge odds. His Naturalism run earlier this prep wasn’t bad at all beaten 4L by Nonconformist and Delphi but since then he’s been poor. They’ve tried to race him back into form by running in the Bart Cummings, Geelong Cup and the Hotham on Saturday and none of those runs have been remotely good enough to run top 10 here. If he found his absolute best which was a dominant Brisbane Cup win at 3200m he’d be a rough top 10 hope, but impossible to have at the moment.

Tim: “Can’t win.”

Trent: “Simply not going well enough to figure and will be one of the first beaten likely sitting on a good tempo.”

12. Persan

Went from winning a maiden at Bendigo to running 5th in the Melbourne Cup last year, all in the space of six months. He’s had three starts this preparation to get him ready for the Cup, most recently running 3rd behind Incentivise in the Caulfield Cup, beaten 5.25L. Only gets a 1.5kg weight swing in his favour but we know he runs the distance and he draws well in barrier 11. This stable is sure to have him at peak condition for Tuesday and he’s a top six chance once again.

Tim: “Good run in the Caulfield Cup and he did run well in this race last year. Ticks plenty of boxes and is a place chance, but don’t think he can win.”

Trent: “Great effort in the Caulfield Cup but Incentivise dropped him at the 600m. The first up run behind Floating Artist with 61kg was good and we know he’ll stay- rough top 5 chance.”

13. Carif

Another that simply isn’t good enough nor going well enough to do anything here. His best win was in a Sandown Cup over 3200m beating Realm Of Flowers who would’ve been around $21 here, but he’s been winless since then and that horse has improved lengths since then. His last few runs have been awful and despite a nice map he’ll be much closer to last than first.

Tim: “I think you have to include him in your wider exotics. He needs every bit of 3200m this horse, which is an edge he has on plenty in this field.”

Trent: “Knights Order belted him in the Brisbane Cup and he’s got none here. One of a few contenders for the coveted 24th placegetter.”

14. Master Of Wine

Looked to be the next star of Australia racing back in the Autumn of last year, but he’s failed to win a race since then. He’s had five runs this preparation, placing once in The Bart Cummings, and finishing no better than 10th in the other four. Draws well in barrier 6 and carries 52.5kg but it would need to be a significant turn around in form for him to be competitive here.

Tim: “Looks a shadow of the horse we saw in the Autumn of 2020 and can’t win on current form.”

Trent: “Wasn’t bad in the Bart Cummings at all but failed in the Caulfield Cup and he’s a complete enigma. Even at his best I can’t see him running top 5.”

15. Pondus

Interesting runner. His international form is definitely inferior to a few of these but he has run well in Australia having finished 2nd in the Bendigo Cup when a moral beaten with top weight and in the Queen Elizabeth to True Self. His first up run in the Bart Cummings was very good leading at a very fast tempo and only going down by 2.5L. He was backed off the map last week in the Moonee Valley Cup and whilst a bit disappointing, he may have been a touch flat and just needing one more run. Does no work from the gate and should get his chance off a good tempo – not the worst chance and a definite exotics player.

Tim: “I’ve got him as a live hope here, or at least a horse worth including in exotics. From a stable that knows exactly how to win this race and they’ll have him spot on third up with no weight. Distance no issue.”

Trent: “I was with him in the Moonee Valley Cup and given he started $2.20 there he has to be some hope for a first 4.”

16. Grand Promenade

Very reminiscent of the stablemate Persan from last year, who recorded nine consecutive top-two finishes before running 5th in the Melbourne Cup with 51kg. This horse has had eight top-two finishes from nine starts this preparation and like Persan, won The Bart Cummings leading into the Cup. Carries 52kg from barrier 21, which isn’t an ideal draw, but it’s hard to say the horse can’t do what Persan did last year and produce a top five finish. Kerrin McEvoy knows how to win the Melbourne Cup and he’s booked to ride.

Tim: “Absolutely flying and this stable have a freakish ability to keep horses in form for long periods of time. Profiles to run very well, think he finds a couple better.”

Trent: “Profiles very similarly to Persan last year winning the Bart Cummings, beating Tralee Rose in a fast race and has to be considered a hope off that although I think he’s about his right price.”

17. Miami Bound

She wasn’t bad in the Moonee Valley Cup, a race she won last year en route to the Cup, and again she was okay beaten 5.5L in the Bart Cummings, meeting a handful of horses from that race again here. The major concern for her, other than a lack of talent, is a firm track. She’s a much better horse on wet ground and could only manage 14th last year. Since then some of her form has been solid including a Sydney Cup placing on a good 4, but she can’t win unless it’s genuinely wet.

Tim: “Not going well enough.”

Trent: “Needs it wet to figure and even then she’s not up to a few of these- think she runs in the second half of the field.”

18. Port Guillaume

French import for the Hayes brothers, who has failed to make any sort of impression since making his Australian debut in September. He’s had four starts here, with a 6th placed finish in the Naturalism his best performance. Since then he’s run last beaten 14L in The Bart Cummings and then 10th in the Caulfield Cup, beaten 9L by Incentivise. All career wins have come on soft or synthetic tracks.

Tim: “Not going well enough.”

Trent: “Late splits were good in the Caulfield Cup but he’d need to find 6 lengths to be considered a top 5 hope.”

19. She’s Ideel

Another solid run in the Caulfield Cup when getting her preferred soft conditions and is a good staying mare but lacks the class to really figure in the finish. The Sydney Cup 4th when getting a long way back was good beaten 3.6L by Selino and prior to that she did run 2nd in the Tancred to Sir Dragonet. The 2 miles is no issue at all, Flemington should suit, but barrier 20 doesn’t help her chances of settling close enough to run top 10.

Tim: “Good mare on her day but she was beaten fair and square in the Sydney Cup over this distance with 50kg, so looks tested here.”

Trent: “Beaten 6.7L by Incentivise last start to run midfield and that’s probably the best she can finish again here.”

20. Future Score

A 7YO now, who ran 3rd in last year’s Hotham Handicap and then 3rd in the Zipping Classic. He followed that with a long break and has had three lead up runs to this year’s Melbourne Cup. He’s been well beaten in all of those and despite getting in with no weight on his back, looks tested on current form.

Tim: “Not going well enough.”

Trent: “Not going as well as he was last year which was still in much weaker races – can’t win.”

21. Tralee Rose

She’s looked a potential Melbourne Cup contender since her dominant 7L win in the Bagot Handicap earlier this year over 2800m. She failed at her only run over 3200m in the Adelaide Cup as an odds-on favourite but did have a few issues post-race and her form this prep has been excellent. I thought she had every chance in the Bart Cummings and was no match for Grand Promenade but potentially she had a bit more improvement to come and it was a tough win in the Geelong Cup in good time. The query is that she beat Dr Drill by 0.5L who wasn’t going very well at all and this is much, much harder, but she’s progressive, down in the weights and loves Flemington.

Tim: “I think she’s a live place chance this mare. She’s racing in super form, and her only start over 3200m came when she was beaten as the $1.85 favourite in this year’s Adelaide Cup. She pulled up with respiratory issues and cardiac issues there, so willing to forgive. No weight, well drawn and the Geelong Cup form has stood up over the years. Might find a few too classy, but she’ll run well.”

Trent: “Not completely sold on her- she had her chance in the Bart Cummings and beat average horses in the Geelong Cup. Will run well but I don’t think she’s a betting proposition at current prices.”

22. Floating Artist

Another one of these Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained horses that just keeps turning up and running well. There’s every argument to be made that he should have five straight wins leading into this, with some criticism aimed at jockey Teodore Nugent for his past two defeats. Whether the strength of his form is at the level needed to be a winning chance in the Melbourne Cup is arguable, but you wouldn’t rule him out of running a place with just 50kg on his back.

Tim: “Absolutely flying, typical of the Maher/Eustace stayers that just continue to improve no matter how deep into a preparation. No weight, should run very well, but won’t be on him to win.”

Trent: “He’s been well backed with 50kg and is very progressive, a moral beaten in the Moonee Valley Cup and meets Pondus 1.5kg better. Can run a huge race and is a big exotics player.”

23. Great House

Another that gets in on the minimum with 50kg after an excellent run in the Caulfield Cup two starts ago, running 5th beaten 5.5L by Incentivise, making his run nearer the inside which wasn’t the best ground. Ran in the Hotham on Derby Day to assure his start and it was a solidly run race which proved him the best stayer in the field. He didn’t beat much there but if he elevates off the very quick backup, which can happen, he can stake his claim for a top 5 chance, although top 3 would come as a shock.

Tim: “Pretty keen on him as a top four chance. The Hotham form typically stands up despite being three days prior to the Cup, and Waller will have him ready. Profiles well with no weight.”

Trent: “No query on him at 3200m, if he handles the backup he’s a rough top 5 hope but can’t see him winning.”

24. Sir Lucan

An intriguing inclusion in this year’s Cup field is Sir Lucan, an Irish import who makes his Australian debut for Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott. In recent years we’ve seen the lightly-raced, lightly-weighted, unexposed Northern hemisphere three-year-olds feature prominently. It’s a blueprint that has been very successful. Whether the son of Camelot is actually good enough is the question, but he has the profile of a horse that can run very well. Glen Boss takes the ride with 50kg and there will be plenty keen to be in the horse’s corner.

Tim: “Resembles everything I typically gravitate towards in this race as pointed out above, but I just don’t think his form is good enough for me to stamp him a serious chance. No surprise at all to see him go close, but I prefer others.”

Trent: “Big watch. He’s inconsistent but has beaten Wordsworth who started $2.25 against Twilight Payment last start. Will get back but if he brings his best he’s a big player with 50kg.”

Melbourne Cup selections


Incentivise picks himself here. He’ll have to be good with 57kg but he made it quite clear in the Caulfield Cup that he is something out of the box. In a year which potentially lacks serious international threat down in the weights, he really gets his chance. I’m riding a $31 ticket on Spanish Mission so I’ll be hoping he’s fighting out the finish, and on best form he probably rates as the horse to beat in this field. Obvious queries over his fitness though. I expect Delphi to bounce back from his Caulfield Cup flop. Didn’t handle the quick backup and if you rule a line through that, he profiles really well for this race. Pondus is from a set of connections that know what it takes to win this race and will be ready to peak here. Great House and Selino are blowout chances to round out my top six.

(2) Incentivise $2.95 BoomBet

(3) Spanish Mission $11 PlayUp

(7) Delphi $19 BetDeluxe

(15) Pondus $23 TAB


Incentivise clearly has to go on top. Can’t see anything from the Caulfield Cup turning the tables, can’t see 3200m pulling him up, he’s got to carry the weight but I think he’s good enough. Floating Artist and Sir Lucan are dangerous with 50kg, Delphi can bounce back off his Caulfield Cup SP and I think Pondus ($34) and especially Selino ($81) are the best roughies, mainly for top 10 betting markets and wider exotics.

(2) Incentivise $2.95 BoomBet

(24) Sir Lucan $26.00 Sportsbet

(22) Floating Artist $18.00 PlayUp

Betting strategy

Trent: 3.5 units WIN Incentivise, 0.25 units WIN Sir Lucan, 0.25 units WIN Floating Artist

0.5 units Pondus (top 10 Betfair Starting Price), 0.5 units Selino (top 10 Betfair Starting Price

Tim: 1 unit WIN Incentivise, 0.5 units WIN Spanish Mission, 0.5 units WIN Delphi, 0.5 units WIN Pondus

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