Phantom Cup may upstage real race

IT'S Melbourne Cup day and just after 3pm (NSW time) this afternoon the nation will again stop for our greatest race.

The 2010 version of the Cup has been described as one of the best in history.

But the ‘Greatest Melbourne Cup Never Run' – a virtual race comprising the ‘best' 24 Melbourne Cup winners over the past 149 years – threatens to upstage the real event.

With the aid of modern technology, the phantom cup, ‘run' at 1.30pm on Channel 7, is attempting to settle thousands of arguments: It will pit 24 runners in a digitally animated race to determine which of them was best.

Would Might and Power have beaten Think Big? Could Makybe Diva top So You Think? Or would Phar Lap have trounced them all?

Preparation for the phantom cup has been almost as arduous as for the contestants of the big race itself. Months in the planning, the race was formulated in the mind of VRC chief handicapper Greg Carpenter, who reviewed each of the 149 cups to come up with a field.

The next step was to think through how a race between them might have played out.

First, Carpenter ranked them in order and assigned each horse a handicap based on its record.

Next, the VRC conducted a barrier draw based on those handicaps.

Finally, the VRC selected a panel of 20 racing experts to look at the field, the weights, the barriers and predict who would finish first and then put them in order all the way back to 24.

There was no communication between the experts.

Their predictions formed the finishing order of the race that was digitally re-created.

The result of the race is a tightly guarded secret, but the big money is on racing legend Phar Lap to come up trumps.

Ironically, the comparisons between current champion and 2010 Cup favourite So You Think and Phar Lap are somewhat eerie.

If he can win today, So You Think can argue a better form line than Phar Lap. His strike rate at the same time of their careers is better.

Phar Lap's record before he won the 1930 Melbourne Cup as a four-year-old was 21 wins from 32 starts. So You Think goes into the Cup today with eights wins from 11 starts.

So You Think has two Cox Plate wins while Phar Lap had just one.

Their comparative careers as four-year-olds are also remarkably similar. Going into the 1930 Cup, Phar Lap had put together seven consecutive wins. So You Think is undefeated in five starts this spring. Both gallopers won the same two races going into the Cup.

Phar Lap went on to win another 15 races from his next 17 starts to take his record to 37 wins from 51 starts. So You Think still has a long way to go on that score.

Who do you think will win the Phantom Cup?  Tell us in the comments section below.

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