In mid-October each year the Caulfield Cup brings the excitement of the Melbourne Racing Club’s Spring Carnival to fever pitch, taking centre stage on the carnival’s third and final day. The Group 1 Thoroughbred horse race takes place on the hallowed turf of the Caulfield Racecourse and offers a $3 million prize, as well as a chance to qualify for the iconic Melbourne Cup that stops the nation just 16 days later. It is one of the richest thoroughbred races in Australia and the richest 2,400-metre race in the world. The 2017 Caulfield Cup will be run on Saturday 21 October.
Caulfield Cup to leave behind handicaps
The big news in 2017 is that the Melbourne Racing Club is seeking to change the Caulfield Cup from handicap conditions into a weight-for-age race. In a handicap race, each horse must carry a weight that is decided on a range of factors, such as the prize money it has accrued and its recent wins. Under weight-for-age conditions, the weight carried by the horse depends upon its age, sex, the race distance and the month of the year. It would make the Caulfield Cup less like the Melbourne Cup and more like the Cox Plate.
If that change occurs it will likely attract a smaller field of elite horses. Meanwhile, the club has suggested that the purse could be increased to $4 million, placing it far ahead of the Cox Plate’s $3 million and making it second only to the $6.2 million of the Melbourne Cup.
Melbourne Racing Club chairman Mike Symons said the main purpose of the proposed change is to attract more horses from overseas. “If we are going to increase international competition, we need to evolve,” he said. “The distance is internationally recognised as the elite distance for good horses but almost every other jurisdiction conducts those races at weight-for-age.”
Caulfield Cup Field and Odds
Each year horse owners throughout Australia are eagerly trying to gain a spot in the Caulfield Cup, but only 18 get a chance at the $3 million purse. The race is open to all horses over three years and automatic entry goes to the winners of the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes and the Listed Mornington Cup. The rest of the field is decided by a ballot system that takes into account a range of factors including their prize money, wins and placing in the lead-up races. Four horses are nominated as emergency entries. The purpose of the ballot is to provide a more level field, giving some of the lesser-performed horses a chance to claim the cup.
There are few moments in the horse racing community that are more eagerly anticipated than the Caulfield Cup barrier draw. Everybody with a stake in a competing horse watches with bated breath to discover their fate. It is a massively important event that has the power to make or break racing and punting careers.
The actual barrier a horse is placed in is not particularly crucial, as the spread of success across the various barriers has been quite even throughout the history of the Caulfield Cup. However, there is at least one barrier you would like your horse to avoid: Barrier 1. A horse that drew the rails has not won the Caulfield Cup since 1941 when Go Dreaming became the only horse to ever do so.
The final Caulfield Cup odds are not released until a few days before the race, but there are highly lucrative futures odds that are offered many months in advance. The odds are not only based on how a horse is likely to perform in the race, it also takes into account the horse’s chances of making it into one of the barriers in the first place.
The odds are updated every time a new round of nominations or acceptances are released. As the Caulfield Cup approaches, the odds become increasingly scientific, taking into account how each horse runs in the lead-up races such as the Metropolitan, Spring Champion Stakes, Craven Plate, Yalumba Stakes and Cranbourne Cup.
In the 2016 Caulfield Cup, the winner Jameeka came in at fixed odds of $4.20, which are worth cheering about if you’re a punter who’s made a decent bet. There would have been a lot more excitement, though, if the second-placed Scottish had brought home its $7 odds. Even better than that would have been the jubilation if the third horse to cross the line, Exospheric, had come out on top with the $15 it was trying to gain for every dollar its supporters laid down.
Here’s an extra reason to keep an eye on the Caulfield Cup: a dozen of the past Caulfield Cup winners have gone on to win the Melbourne Cup. The last was Ethereal in 2001.