Melbourne Cup Carnival: Is This The Year Of Godolphin, Gai Waterhouse?

by | 10.31.2018 | 5:22pm
Rekindling (Steve Hart photo)

Australia's most storied horse racing event, the Melbourne Cup Carnival (Nov.2nd to 9th), is upon us. For trainer Gai Waterhouse, Victoria Derby favorite Thinkin' Big (3/1) will present an opportunity to achieve an honor that narrowly eluded her 23 years ago – a Derby-Melbourne Cup double. Meanwhile, racing stable Godolphin will look to put an end to their lifelong drought at the Melbourne Cup with a first win. Godolphin will have strong odds with three of its horses (Cross Counter (8/1), Avilius (12/1) and Best Solution (16/1)) near the top of the betting markets, behind Yucatan (4/1) and Magic Circle (10/1).

This weekend rewards horse racing fans worldwide with a feast of quality competition as the G1 AAMI Victoria Derby kicks off the Carnival and overlaps with the first leg of the Breeders' Cup Championships on Friday. This will be followed on Saturday by the second leg of the Breeders' Cup, which features the prestigious Breeders Cup Classic and serves as the perfect prelude to the G1 Lexus Melbourne Cup on Monday. The Carnival concludes next week as Kennedy Oaks Day (Nov.7) and Stakes Day (Nov.9) offer a final serving of excitement from Flemington racecourse.

G1 Victoria Derby
Derby Day is the only race day in Australia where all the races are run at group level. Four races hold the prestigious Group 1 status, including the Coolmore Stud Stakes (Written By (16/5), Zousain (16/5), Encryption (15/2)), the Kennedy Mile (Hartnell (6/1), Le Romain (9/1), Comin' Through (25/1)) and the Myer Classic (I Am A Star (11/1), Invincibella (8/1), Shillelagh (7/1)). While racing gets underway at 11:45 a.m. Melbourne time (8:45 p.m. EST or 5:45 p.m. PST on Friday evening), the day reaches its climax with the G1 Victoria Derby at 3:50 p.m. (12:50 a.m. EST, or Friday 9:50 p.m.). The Victoria Derby has a purse of AUS$1.5 million (US$1 million).

The Derby will kick off what could be a massive week for the trainer duo of Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, hoping to make their way into the Melbourne Cup with a win in Friday's feature event. Their Derby entry, the Caulfield Classic winner Thinkin' Big, is currently the top pick of the Derby at odds of 3/1. If he can emerge victorious in the Derby, Thinkin' Big will have a chance to emulate, or possibly outdo, former stablemate Nothin' Leica Dane – Gai Waterhouse's 1995 Derby winner that went on to place second in the Cup three days later.  

“He has ticked every box. He is a class horse going into a class race, and he won't disappoint the punter,” Waterhouse said of Thinkin' Big.

Thinkin' Big will be eying victory from barrier 9, next to second favorite Aramayo (6/1) in barrier 10. Aramayo was the runner-up in this year's G1 Spring Champion Stakes, which was preceded by a victory at the G3 Spring Stakes. His trainer James Cummings made history in 2016 with his first Derby triumph, pushing up the Cummings family's record in the race to eight wins.

Darren Weir remains in search of his first Derby win but his two runners, Extra Brut (7/1) and Savoie (10/1).

G1 Lexus Melbourne Cup
As per tradition, the first Tuesday in November is reserved for Australia's signature spring event, the race that stops the nation, at 3:00 p.m. Melbourne time (12:00 a.m. EST, or 7:00 p.m. PST Monday, November 5th). The Victoria Racing Club will offer the biggest purse in its history with an elevated prize of AU$7.3 million (US$5.1 million).

The year brings new optimism for Godolphin as they seek their first Melbourne Cup win. The stable has had a dominating presence at the winners' stall in major races globally but has yet to claim champion status in the Cup. They narrowly missed out on triumph in 2016 when favorite Hartnell ran second and Qewy fourth.  

In what could well be the biggest international squad in the Melbourne Cup, Godolphin will be well placed on Tuesday with three top contenders. They will be challenging the race's headlining act, Yucatan (IRE) at 4/1, who could give trainer Aidan O'Brien and Sydney's leading jockey James Macdonald their first Cup wins.  

“This is probably our best chance for a while coming here to Melbourne. If we get the draw, I'd be quietly confident – we'll definitely run a big race,” O'Brien's right-hand man TJ Comerford reflected.

Godolphin is represented by three-time undefeated G3 winner Avilius (12/1) as well as Best Solution (12/1), who could become the 12th horse to run the Caulfield Cup-Melbourne Cup double. Their third entry is Gordon Cross Stakes record-breaker Cross Counter (8/1), who has a chance to become the first 3-year old to win the Cup since Skipton in 1941, which preceded a 77-year reign of 4 and 5-year olds.

In addition to Yucatan (4/1) and second favorite Magic Circle (10/1), Godolphin's main rivals for the title are Youngstar (18/1), Muntahaa (14/1), The Cliffsofmoher (16/1) and Marmelo (18/1), to be ridden by Winx's regular jockey Hugh Bowman.

In celebration of two of the world's biggest horse racing meets, Breeders' Cup, Sky Racing World and Victoria Racing Club are inviting fans to participate in a live auction that offers a dream trip for two to the 2019 Breeders' Cup and Melbourne Cup. The auction takes place on Thursday, November 1st, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. EST at the Louisville Marriott Downtown during the Breeders' Cup Handicapping and Charity Dinner Event hosted by Daily Racing Form (DRF). Winners will be flown in from anywhere in the continental United States to Los Angeles for the 2019 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Park. The two lucky fans will then jet off to Melbourne to experience firsthand the thrill of the Melbourne Cup.   

Live coverage from Flemington during the Melbourne Cup Carnival night is available via TVG and ADW platforms such as TwinSpires, Xpressbet, NYRABets, WatchandWager, HPIbet, AmWager, and BetAmerica. Free past performances and expert picks on all races are available at

About David Haslett

A former Managing Director of Sportech Racing, David was appointed President and CEO of Sky Racing World in April 2014. The Louisville, Kentucky-based company, a subsidiary of Australian wagering firm Tabcorp, provides Australian, New Zealand, South African and South Korean thoroughbred racing and Australian Harness racing content for simulcast horse-race wagering to multiple North America-facing ADW brands and race-tracks.

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