They call it the ‘Race That Stops a Nation.’ And with good reason. Every first Tuesday of November, more than a million Australians tune in to watch the Melbourne Cup, with about a hundred thousand more at the racecourse itself.
One of the most enduring questions about the Melbourne Cup (or in any race, for that matter) is, ‘Should you back the favourite?’
A Melbourne Cup favourite is a horse bookmakers believe will most likely win the race. Usually, it’s the horse with the best form and ridden by the most experienced jockey. But you know what? Favourites don’t always win. In fact, favourites in the Melbourne Cup have only won 32 times since 1861. That’s only about 20% of the time. Hardly a guarantee, right? Yet a favourite is a favourite, and there are reasons why that particular horse is the favourite.
The role of the favourite
The heart of the Melbourne Cup betting often revolves around the favourite horse—that one equine contender deemed by the bookmakers to have the edge.
So who’s the favourite horse in the Melbourne Cup 2023? As suggested earlier, the favourite is usually the horse that earned the nod of bookmakers and punters. Mind you, it isn’t easy to earn their approval. Check out Racenet or other reliable online resources to get up-to-date information and coverage on this year’s top contenders.
When determining the favourite, oddsmakers consider various factors, including the following:
Past race performance
Becoming the favourite is the result of meticulous calculations. The odds aren’t arbitrary but determined based on each horse’s strengths and weaknesses. In recent Melbourne Cup history, the favourites Makybe Diva and Fiorente proved their mettle, but many other favourites failed to meet the expectations of many punters.
Also, do you know that only four favourites finished in the money (in the top 3) since 2006? They are the following:
Incentivise: Second in 2021
Hartnell: Third in 2016
Fiorente: First in 2013
So You Think: Third in 2010
The last favourite to win the Cup was Fiorente in 2013. The other favourites didn’t even place in the top 3, which goes to show that favourites aren’t shoo-ins.
So who’s this year’s favourite?
For this year’s Melbourne Cup, Vauban is the current favourite after the weight release last September. He’s deemed the horse to beat because of the following reasons:
Endurance: Vauban has won over distances of up to 2,500 meters, including the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes at Naas in Ireland in August.
Recent form: Vauban has won two of his last three starts and ran a strong third in the Group 1 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
Versatility: Vauban has won on various ground conditions, including soft and heavy ground, giving him a good chance of handling the conditions at Flemington on Melbourne Cup day.
As a result, the four-year-old bay gelding’s popularity among punters is very high. But don’t forget, there are a number of other horses that could challenge Vauban for the 2023 Melbourne Cup.
Check these horses out:
These entries are all in good form and have the potential to be a serious threat to the favourite. Ultimately, the decision of which horse to bet on in the Melbourne Cup will depend on your strategy.
The case for betting on the favourite
That the favourite doesn’t always win is no reason for punters not to bet on that horse. Favourites, as mentioned earlier, are favourites for a reason—or a number of reasons, in this case. Racing experts and bookmakers using various metrics—like consistency in previous races, a jockey that knows how to win, and others—decide that a particular horse is likelier to win compared to the others in the field.
Moreover, the favourite is often the horse trained specifically for the Melbourne Cup. The horse’s trainer has been preparing for this race for a long time; presumably, it’ll be in peak condition on race day.
If you think betting on the favourite is a good idea, here are a few additional things to remember:
Look for horses with a good record at Flemington Racecourse.
The Melbourne Cup is run at Flemington Racecourse, so looking for horses with a good record at this track is important.
Consider the horse’s weight.
The Melbourne Cup is a handicap race, meaning horses are assigned weights based on their form and ability. Remember, horses carrying lighter weights have an advantage, especially in a two-mile race like the Melbourne Cup. Note also that horses carrying a weight heavier than 56 kilograms have only won five times since 2000.
Typically, horses with heavier weights are the better horses. But in long distances, the added weight can be costly.
Take note of the barrier draw.
At 3,200 meters, the Melbourne Cup is among the longest handicap horse races in the world. Due to the race’s distance, some people may think the barrier draw doesn’t matter much for races over 1,500 meters. They may have a point.
But because of the number of horses in the field (24 for this year’s race), the barrier can play a significant role. For example, horses from the middle typically struggle to get a good position early in the race. Historically, the middle barriers from 7 to 17 have only produced one winner since 2000.
On the other hand, horses from barriers 1 to 6 have won 11 of the 19 races since 2003. Among these barriers, number 5 is the winningest—it has eight winners so far.
Why you should not bet on the Melbourne Cup favourite
The favourite is the horse with the shortest odds of winning a race. Typically, most punters put their money on the favourite. In turn, the amount of money on each horse can influence the odds set by bookmakers.
So let’s say you’re betting on the favourite horse at odds of 2:1, meaning that for every $1 you bet, you’ll win $2 if the horse wins. However, since the favourite is the most popular choice, it’s also less lucrative because the odds get shorter and potential payouts decrease.
For example, if you bet $10 on the favourite at 2:1 odds, you’ll win $20 if the horse wins. But if the horse loses, you’ll lose your entire $10 bet. On the other hand, if you bet $10 on a less popular horse at 10:1 odds, you’ll win $100 if the horse wins.
Therefore, betting on the favourite can be riskier because you have to bet more to win the same amount. So if you want to win big, you won’t get it betting on the favourite. Well, maybe you can, but then again it would take a lot of money.
So should you bet on the Melbourne Cup favourite in 2023? If you’re a casual punter seeking thrill and excitement, placing your money on a favourite might offer a reasonable choice. After all, favourites earn their status for sound reasons—be it their proven form, experienced jockeys, or meticulous training regimens.
However, if your aim is more about making a profit than joining the festivities, you might want to consider other horses in the race. The favourite is the most popular choice and can demand a higher wager for a potentially smaller return. Though riskier, betting on horses with longer odds can yield more significant winnings for a smaller investment.
Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It’s about balancing the thrill of the race with your risk appetite.
Learn more about this year’s Melbourne Cup here.