Melbourne Cup: Incentivise, The Great Punting Conundrum

Author Image Article By Gavin Beech GDC - Icon - Black - Info
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Melbourne Cup: Incentivise, The Great Punting Conundrum
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That Incentivise is, so far as can be confirmed, the shortest priced ante-post favourite with the best horse racing betting sites since the great Phar Lap in 1930 says as much about the quality of the 2021 edition of the world’s most famous race as it does about Incentivise’s own prospects.

This Group 1 showpiece is one of the horse racing betting highlights of the year which attracts a field of genuine turf stars, including a host of high-class international contenders that have become more and more competitive in recent years.

This year, for many reasons, the international raiding party is limited to last year’s cup winner Twilight Payment and the Spanish Moon, trained by Andrew Balding in England. It’s the smallest overseas involvement since the internationalisation of the race in 1990s.

This pair and a possible stamina doubt appear to be the only barriers between Incentivise and the biggest prize of quite a remarkable career.

Incentivise is a one in a million horse. He’s gone from finishing ninth, sixth and eighth in Ipswich, Doomben and Toowoomba maidens to the hottest Melbourne Cup favourite in decades in a single calendar year.

He’s won nine races in succession and has provided trainer Peter Moody with his first Caulfield Cup. Such was Incentivise’s complete dominance in that Group 1 prize, the 5-year-old now heads the Melbourne Cup betting as a red-hot favourite to add a first Melbourne Cup to Moody’s CV.

Incentivise has never raced beyond 2500m in his 12-start career and there is very little in his pedigree to suggest that the Melbourne Cup trip would be anything like close to an optimum for him.

The problem is, it’s a pedigree that says he’s not a 2500m horse either yet he gave ground away with a wide trip and still spaced them at the business end of the Caulfield Cup, indeed the way he stretched clear in the final 200m of that Group 1 contest strongly suggests that he’ll stay this longer trip and stay it more than well enough.

A 1.5kg penalty for his Caulfield Cup romp means Incentivise must shoulder 57kg in the Lexus Melbourne Cup at Flemington on Tuesday, a weight that only the legendary Makybe Diva (2005) has carried to success in the $7.75m event in more than 40 years.

In the past 165 editions of the Melbourne Cup, 26 horses have started at odds of $3.20 (9/4) or less but just THREE of those favourites went on to add their names to the honour roll. That’s a heavy historical burden, you would think.

However, Sportsbet clearly don’t see any of the above being stumbling blocks to Incentivise landing the $2.5m first prize and becoming the 12th horse to do the Caulfield Cup/Melbourne Cup double because they have already paid out on all single and multi bets placed on Incentivise in the 2021 Melbourne Cup market before 5:00pm (AEDT) on 19/10/21. It’s a stunning PR move that has reportedly cost the firm over $6m.

Spanish Moon is, according to Melbourne Cup ante-post betting odds at least, the biggest danger to the red-hot favourite but for all that the 5-year-old brings top-quality staying form to the table courtesy of his narrow defeat to the iconic stayer Stradivarius in the Lonsdale Cup at York in August, he doesn’t have a typical Melbourne Cup profile.

He’s a genuine stayer that surely won’t have the gears or tactical speed to cope with a horse like Incentivise even if the Melbourne Cup is turned into a stamina test by a searching gallop.

That searching gallop might just be set by Twilight Payment if Jye Mcneil adopts the same front-running tactics as 12 months ago, although it’s hard to see them producing the same end result. Twilight Payment became the joint-oldest winner of the race in 2020 and is being asked to carry 2.5kg more this year so he faces no easy task in conceding weight to every one of his rivals.

Despite the poor record of short-priced favourites, the feeling is that Incentivise has timed his run to perfection. He’s at the peak of his powers at the precise moment the race that stops a nation is the weakest it has been for years.

In all likelihood, Sportsbet won’t be the only ones paying out on Incentivise come Tuesday afternoon.

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Gavin Beech

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