Melbourne Cup winner to go back to back

Protectionist
The Melbourne Cup has been run and won for 2014 but there is an excellent futures bet to be struck on next year’s Group One race that stops a nation – well, it stops Australia for three and a half minutes on the first Tuesday of November.

One thinks that 99.99 per cent of ante-post racing markets are poisonous for punters. Rarely do bookmakers offer what one would class as generous odds and layers use the markets to generate cheap publicity from media outlets that want a fresh angle on what would otherwise be a boring story. But one thinks that bookmakers have erred with their markets on next year’s Melbourne Cup to such an extent that it is worth taking the punt on the runner at the top of their lists.

There have been 154 editions of the Melbourne Cup and there may not have been a more impressive winner than this year’s champion, Protectionist. It was not a vintage Melbourne Cup field that Protectionist beat – the favourite, Admire Rakti, finished tailed off and, in a heartbreaking postscript, died of a heart attack a few minutes after the race – but that is one reason why one is keen to bet on him to go back to back. Quite simply, the Australian staying thoroughbreds are poor and the best of them, Melbourne Cup fourth Signoff, is not likely to get such a light weight for next year’s event.

This year’s Melbourne Cup was Protectionist’s second race in Australia. His first start was in the Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield 24 days before the Melbourne Cup and his effort was outstanding, finishing third behind former European foe Big Memory and the aforementioned Signoff. He was carrying a huge weight and his rivals enjoyed a fitness edge but he was strong to the line, recording the best late sectional times.

The query about Protectionist in this year’s Melbourne Cup was whether he would be able to finish off it as strongly as he finished off the Herbert Power Stakes. The Melbourne Cup is run over 3,200 metres – 800m more than the Herbert Power Stakes – and there is big difference between Flemington and Caulfield, with the former having a long, tiring straight.

Punters who backed joint third favourite Protectionist to win this year’s Melbourne Cup did not have a moment’s worry. He did not spend a penny in the run under top jockey Ryan Moore and, when the British hoop asked his mount to charge down the Flemington straight, he put the race to bed in a matter of strides, eventually winning by four lengths.

Australian racing bodies publish sectional times and it is those that highlight the brilliance of Protectionist’s run in this year’s Melbourne Cup. Eleventh with 400m to go, he was the leader at the 200m and he ran the final furlong in 11.66 seconds – 0.55s faster than any of his 21 opponents. It is worth dwelling on Protectionist’s 200m sectional time because it was comparable to the day’s three sprint winners, thoroughbreds who had raced over no more than 1,200m. And it was quicker than the 11.79s sectional time that Terravista posted over the last 200m of the Darley Classic four days later on what was probably a firmer Flemington track.

Protectionist has remained in Australia following his win in this year’s Melbourne Cup, joining the Newcastle stable of Kris Lees. Next year’s Melbourne Cup is on Protectionist’s hit list and one can be pretty sure that he will not have to carry much more weight than the 56 and a half kilograms that he did this year. He is likely to be the 58kg top weight but he will be one year older and, also, one year stronger.

Bet365 is offering odds of +1200  that Protectionist becomes the first back-to-back Melbourne Cup winner since Makybe Diva (2003, 2004 and 2005) and the fifth back-to-back winner in the history of the race that stops a nation. He will be half those odds if he gets to next year’s Melbourne Cup fit to race and he is more likely than not to take his place.

Tips Summary

Protectionist to win the Melbourne Cup
3rd November
Odds:  +1200
Where to Bet: Bet365

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