Hanson: Spot Plays for the 2020 Melbourne Cup

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

November 2nd, 2020

Unfortunately due to the global pandemic, a crowd of more than 100,000 spectators will not be out to enjoy the forecasted glorious sunshine and warm spring weather when Flemington hosts the 2020 Melbourne Cup (G1) in Australia on Tuesday afternoon (Monday evening U.S. time).

However, the rich and prestigious two-mile handicap can still be enjoyed and played throughout the world, including at Post time for the A$6 million "Race That Stops a Nation" is 11 p.m. ET.

As has been our custom for a number of years now, we'll spread our bankroll around on the 24-horse field. After tabbing the winner in 2016 and coming close in 2017 and 2018, we unfortunately whiffed going three deep in last year's renewal. You can find links to our analyses of these Cups in the 2019 write-up.

This year's spectacular field includes the Caulfield Cup (G1)-winning mare Verry Elleegant, Cox Plate (G1) hero Sir Dragonet, and 2019 Epsom Derby (G1) winner Anthony Van Dyck, second in the Caulfield Cup in his debut Down Under. However, we're going in different directions for a couple each-way plays.

#13 SURPRISE BABY (9-1) is the more logical of our punts. Widely considered to have been unlucky when making a sustained but very wide bid in the stretch of last year's Cup, he wound up fifth and was beaten less than a length in a blanket finish.

Not seen on the track for 10 months afterward, Surprise Baby finished second over a mile on Sept. 6 and then proved not quite fit enough when ninth in the 1 1/4-mile Turnbull (G1) in early October, though less than three lengths behind the winning Verry Elleegant. A more representative performance is possible in the third start of his form cycle, and we know he loves this distance.

Our longer-priced play is on #19 WARNING (40-1), who turned in a mild surprise when taking the Victoria Derby (G1) by more than three lengths at least year's Melbourne Cup Carnival. Unfortunately, he's generally failed to live up to that form and thus is one of this race's longer shots.

His one attractive quality, though, is his fondness for Flemington. Although just 2-for-16 lifetime, both wins came over this course. And even in his two local defeats earlier this spring -- seventh over a too-short mile while returning from a four-month layoff and a fast-closing sixth in the Turnbull -- he ran well. His general disinterest in running his best outside Flemington was evident in a 12th-place effort in the Caulfield Cup last time, a race we'll cut him some slack for.

Here's hoping we kick off an incredible week of worldwide racing on a winning note. Cheers!