I don’t know anything about horses. Ever since I was bitten by one at the Easter Show as a small child, they have ranked very low on my animal preference list: only just above geese. Still, at this time of year almost everyone in Australia gets caught up in some way with the Melbourne Cup, the race that stops the nation. As usual, I expect that my involvement will only stretch as far as participating in the $2 sweep at the office, thereby avoiding the need to actually make any kind of ignorance-based horse selection.
But, with a mule as this blog’s mascot, you would think that I could do better than that, so I have thrown my charting skills at the history of previous winners in as slap-dash a manner as I can to see where playing the historical odds would get me.
I thought I would start with colour because, even as a racing-form novice, I suspect that should have no bearing on the result and so it seems like a safe place to start. Based on the winners going back to 1861, here is the distribution of winning colours.
Cup Winners by Colour (1861-2008)
This suggests that bay-coloured horses have an edge (or maybe it is just a common colour for a horse). What about the “sex” of horse (please do not ask me what all of these terms mean, but apparently “horse” is a sex)?
Cup Winners by Type (1861-2008)
So, a plain old “horse” seems like the best bet. I notice no geese have ever managed to win. A quick check confirms that there are no unfortunate interaction effects (although this does also suggest that bay geldings and brown horses could be worth considering).
Cup Winners by Colour and Type (1861-2008)
Heading towards statistics that may actually mean something, here is the distribution of winners by age.
Cup Winners by Age (1861-2008)
So far, we are heading towards picking a five-year-old bay horse. Last, and perhaps most important (but what would I know?), here is the distribution of winners by handicap weight*.
Cup Winners by Handicap (1861-2008)
Now the median handicap weight is 51.5 kilograms (I have to admit I do not know what units that is in, but it cannot be kilograms, unless these are very light horses: at least I know they are not very heavy geese) and the mean is 51.2. So, ideally I would pick a five-year-old bay horse weighing around 51 to 51.5.
Unfortunately, a few cursory google searches have not turned up any pages giving the colour, age or type of the current field for the 2009 race, the best I could come up with just has handicap weight. If you have a better source, let me know! In this list, there are three horses weighing 51.5 and one weighing 51. Not knowing anything more about the three weighing 51.5, I cannot separate them, so on that basis alone, I will pick the one weighing 51.
So, here is the Stubborn Mule Melbourne Cup pick: Shocking.
At this point, I should remind you of how little I know about horse racing, so don’t blame me if this horse comes closer to the back of the pack than the front.
* Thanks to commenters Stilgherrian and mkl for pointing out that the weight here represents handicap weight: jockey, saddle plus ballast. It seems unlikely that this would have much bearing on the outcome as it is actually designed to level the field. In case you had any doubt before, which you should not have done, this confirms just how weak the prediction here is.
UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that Shocking will, sadly, be starting from barrier 22, which is very unlucky from a historical perspective.
Cup Winners by Starting Barrier (1861-2008)
Since the median barrier of past winners is 4, this leads me to a secondary tip: Spin Around, which will start from barrier 4 today. It’s handicap is 52, which is not too far from my preferred 51.5 to 51 kilogram range.
FURTHER UPDATE: It was a long shot, but I managed to draw both Shocking and Spin Around in the office sweep. I feel obliged to share the comment on the Spin Around slip:
I do not think the horse should even in in the race. He is realistically a 500/1 chance.
So, it seems that my secondary tip is an appalling one. Longer odds even than drawing my two tips in the sweep.
FINAL UPDATE: Shocking won. Shocking, isn’t it? Perhaps I have a new and glorious career picking race winners. Then again, perhaps not.