Melbourne Cup 2015 Picks and Plays

This year's edition of "the race that stops a nation" looks a wide open one despite the market being firmly in the corner of Japanese raider Fame Game. If you're a follower of mine on Twitter (@chare889), it's no surprise that I'm leaning towards Hartnell in this spot.

A useful type in England with form through the likes of Snow Sky, Postponed, and Prince Gibraltar, Hartnell has always looked an outright stayer, but he was rarely given the opportunity at those events during his English career. His victory in the Queen's Vase was the biggest indicator of his staying ability and while it's debatable whether or not he truly stayed that trip, a questionable two-miler in Europe typically will stay the trip in Australia.

In four runs during the Australian Autumn season, his highlight came in the G1 BMW where he showed a solid sustained closing finish en route to defeating To The World, who previously had been second to Gentildonna in the G1 Arima Kinen. While his G1 Sydney Cup was disappointing after he struggled to settle throughout when questionable tactics to go to the lead versus the quality of competition were applied. He had led versus softer company in the past, but it's always been clear he's best when held just in behind the main speeds. He also pulled up lame after the race and as a result, his run there is best left scrapped.

Fast forward to this season and while he hasn't explicitly caught the eye, all three of Hartnell's runs have been solid and he's quietly been ticking over solidly en route to this, his clear goal from the day he set foot in Australia. His G1 Turnbull over 10 furlongs in particular stood out, as he was one of only four horses to break 12 seconds in his final 200m and was the second fastest finisher (behind the winner) over the final 600m. He was taken back that day due to a wide draw and compromised as a result, but that won't be an issue here. Expect him to sit near the forward end of midpack, which is a position which much better suits him tactically, as he doesn't posses the turn of foot to win from the rear.

Following a solid fifth in the G1 Cox Plate, Hartnell moves back to Flemington, a track which clearly suits him better than Moonee Valley, and the step up in trip is exactly what he needs. Subtle gear changes involving his bit and noseband have occurred, but with him steadily improving as the season went on, there's no reason to be concerned about said changes. Godolphin has yet to win the Melbourne Cup, but Hartnell looks a big chance to break that streak of "close but no cigar" finishes in the biggest handicap in the world.

As for the others, lightweight The United States intrigues as one who is clearly unexposed over this staying trips. He's a horse on the rise and has improved for the steady step up in trip over which he's ran since arriving in Australia last year. Other chances include the clear favorite Fame Game, who ran enormous first up in Australia when clearly being given a run in order to protect his handicap mark and should he run back to his Tenno Sho (Spring), he'll be close at the finish. He'll be ridden more prominently here, which while it was expected is slightly concerning considering his strength is his superior turn of foot. Almoonqith's Geelong Cup was outstanding and puts him square in the mix here, as does Trip to Paris' runner-up effort in the Cox Plate for a trainer who knows how to go close in this race in Ed Dunlop. Lastly, we'll give place claims to Max Dynamite, who was dominant in the G2 Lonsdale Cup over the likes of Trip To Paris and G2 Long Distance Cup runner-up Clever Cookie.

Top 4:
#6 Hartnell (31.00)
#22 The United States (20.00)
#3 Fame Game (4.40)
#10 Trip To Paris (7.50)

My Wagers:
#6 Hartnell to win, place, show 
Exacta box: 3,6,10,22
Trifecta: 3,6 / 3,6,8,10,17,22 / 3,6,8,10,17,22,24

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