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Going global

Angus Loughran focuses his attention on Melbourne and Kentucky this month for two of the biggest races in the world, before returning to the home comforts of Cheltenham

November’s racing schedule takes us all over the world to see the best horses in action – and I couldn’t think of a better place to start than in Australia for one of the highlights of any season, the Melbourne Cup.

One of the richest races in the world, with the 2010 purse at a staggering AUD$6 million, the two-mile handicap always attracts a strong contingent from the UK to try and bring the trophy back to these shores. However, no British or Irish trainer has saddled the winner since 2002 (the Dermot Weld-trained Media Puzzle) so it is very important to study the form of the runners from elsewhere before having a punt.

Having said this, British-based trainers have finished runner-up in the last three successive renewals so perhaps their duck is close to being broken at Flemington. From a betting perspective, also remember that the last four winners of the Melbourne Cup have all returned 9/1 or bigger – so it can pay to take a chance with a live outsider. The 2009 renewal was won by the Mark Kavanagh-trained Shocking – who also won a Group 2 on the same track in September – so he is sure to be a leading player this time around if he takes his chance.

It’s then off to Louisville, Kentucky, where Churchill Downs plays host to the Breeders’ Cup series for the seventh time in the tracks prestigious history. With a purse of over $25.5 million across two days, the world’s best are always out in force and the 2010 renewal promises to be no exception. The richest race on the card is the $5 million Breeders Cup Classic, which British runners have traditionally struggled to win since its inauguration in 1984. In fact, there have been just two European-based winners since 1993 – one of whom was the John Gosden-trained Raven’s Pass, who held off the challenge of Henrythenavigator in a memorable finish two years ago. Last year saw American superstar Zenyatta continue the superb record of home-grown runners – she is already the first filly or mare to win the race and she could also become the oldest winner in history (at six) if she bids to retain her crown.

The Europeans have a much better record in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, for obvious reasons. Nine of the last 12 winners have come from this side of the Atlantic, including in 2008 and 2009 when Sir Michael Stoute saddled Conduit to victory on successive occasions. Stoute is now the most successful trainer in the race’s history, with four wins in the last 15 years, so any runner of his is worthy of consideration. It is also worth noting that only five of the last 24 winners were three year-olds so the older generation tend to have the upper hand over this one-mile trip.

But while UK horses have dominated that race, the Breeders’ Cup Mile is a different story. No British or Irish trainer has taken the $2 million prize since 1995, though French handler Freddy Head has been dominating in recent years with 2008 and 2009 wins courtesy of the brilliant Goldikova. No horse has ever won this prestigious prize three times and though Makfi managed to beat her at Deauville in August, it would take a brave man to bet against her at Churchill Downs. This is another contest in which the classic generation historically struggle – with just eight winners in 26 runnings – so the older horses should form the bulk of your betting portfolio.

And jumps fans will also be licking their lips this month with the start of the Cheltenham Open Meeting – the highlight of which is the Paddy Power Gold Cup. Run over 2m4f, you can expect to see some of the runners going on to take their chance in the Boylesports Gold Cup and the Ryanair Chase – and maybe even the Cheltenham Gold Cup in future years, just as 2008 winner Imperial Commander managed. Easyodds’ Andy Newton has highlighted some superb trends in his column over the page – with some big stats on weight and age to consider – but the one that really amazes me is that Paul Nicholls has never trained the winner of this race. The Ditcheat handler almost broke that duck with Poquelin last year, who was second to Tranquil Sea, and it will be interesting to see if he can finally claim the prize this time around.

As already mentioned, pay close attention to the winner if they take their chance in the Boylesports Gold Cup – we have had three dual winners of these races since 1988, most recently Exotic Dancer in 2006. Another feature of the meeting is the Grade 3 Greatwood Handicap Hurdle, which can prove to be a good trial for December’s Boylesports International Hurdle – two of the last four winners have won both (Detroit City and Khyber Kim). Some horses can even go onto claim the Champion Chase in the same season – Rooster Booster achieved this treble in 2002-03.
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