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Why revenge will be sweet for Tiger Moth in Melbourne Cup return
From Mark Mc Dougall: February 2021

Past trends and patterns are incredibly useful when analysing potential Melbourne Cup champions - that is, until a complete outlier like Twilight Payment comes along and blows them out of the water.

The Joseph O'Brien trained horse became the first eight-year-old in more than eight decades to take the tape in first place at the Flemington showpiece. This shows how overlooked he was by punters in their own shortlisting for the 2020 renewal.

Incredibly, according to the early Melbourne Cup 2021 horse racing betting odds, Twilight Payment will be tasked with defending his crown, which would make him the first horse aged nine to win this race in some 160 years of action.

For that reason, the weight of history would dictate that investing your money elsewhere might be a smart strategy, and immediately jumping out from the ante post prices is Tiger Moth. Already developing a reputation as a free-running colt in his native Ireland, Aiden O'Brien brought the three-year-old down under to try and end his own drought in the Melbourne Cup. With Kerrin McEvoy in the saddle, everything was going swimmingly.

But Tiger Moth couldn't quite reel in his more experienced foe, this disappointment to many who had backed one of the market principals. But the history books suggest that another year older and wiser, the O'Brien charge should be in a better place to challenge in 2021.

Four is the Magic Number

Work your way through the long and storied history of Melbourne Cup winners and you will note that four and five-year-olds have enjoyed the most success in the race. Indeed, combined they account for more than 50% of the eventual champions.

The most prolific age is four, with 46 wins in total, and as Tiger Moth celebrates his fourth birthday in 2021 the omens are very strong indeed that a more mature run could avenge his defeat in November.

Prepare to Fail

Did you know that 15 of the last 17 winners of the Melbourne Cup had run at Flemington or another key Australian course - Geelong, Caulfield, or Moon Valley - prior to their triumph in this event? What's interesting is that Tiger Moth had never raced outside of Ireland before, let alone as far away as Australia, and horses can be sensitive animals. The new environment and the completely different conditions to those of the Emerald Isle can all be considered factors in the then three-year-old's narrow defeat. As we know, that box can now be ticked with Flemington experience under his metaphorical belt, and so in that sense, Tiger Moth is more likely to triumph in 2021 than in the year previous.

Going the Distance

Fans of such things will know that more than 50% of Melbourne Cup winners in the past two decades had won over the 1m 7f trip at some point before. Tiger Moth had never even contested a race of that length.

He was facing an uphill battle from the outset in 2020 then. But what will have pleased O'Brien and his connections was just how well Tiger Moth ran on in the final straight, with a couple more furlongs, he would have comfortably reeled in Twilight Payment. The distance will not be a factor for this staying horse.

The major elephant in the room is O'Brien himself, who in 17 attempts is yet to lift the Melbourne Cup and who has witnessed just four of his entries placing. Will Tiger Moth be the one to end the most bizarre trend of them all?


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