RICH PICKINGS: Top weight

This week we're turning the Spring Racing Carnival on its head and taking a look at the form of some of the richest racing identities who made the field for Tuesday's Melbourne Cup.

There are countless ways to pick the winner of the Melbourne Cup. Keen punters will spend hours pouring over race replays and studying form guides. Others will pick their fancy based on its name, its jockey or the colours of its silks. Some punters like to consult their horoscope, while others are happy to follow a tip from their butcher.

But here’s a new way to pick the horse that will win the race that stops the nation – choose the owner with the biggest bank balance.

The army of foreign horses in this year’s Melbourne Cup has made the race a battle between some of the world’s wealthiest thoroughbred owners, including an Australian property baron, a Barbados-based currency trader extraordinaire and the world’s oldest billionaire.

Let’s go racing!

Horse: Septimus
Owner: Derek Smith
Wealth: $2.3 billion

Irish raider Septimus shot to favouritism for the big race after winning the Irish St Ledger by 13 lengths. According to form experts, Septimus is a far superior horse to All The Good, which upstaged the best Australian gallopers in the key lead-up race, the Caulfield Cup. While Septimus has plenty of weight, Irish trainer Aiden O’Brien from the Coolmore stable is confident his horse can become the third Irish horse to win the cup.

The horse is owned by Derek Smith, who started his career at the British bookmaking firm Ladbrokes before leaving in 1988 to start is own currency trading business. Smith, who was valued at $2.3 billion on this year’s Sunday Times rich list, lives in a mansion in Barbados, next to the Sandy Lane Hotel, which he owns in partnership with John Magnier, Michael Tabor and JP McManus. Those men are also the key investors behind the powerful Coolmore stable, which has become one of the most powerful racing and breeding operations in the world since it was established in 1975. Smith is reportedly set to travel to Flemington to attend Cup Day.

Horse: Mad Rush
Owner: Earle Mack
Wealth: $400 million

Mad Rush, trained by Italian-born, England-based trainer Luca Cumani, was the hard-luck story of the Caulfield Cup after he got caught up in traffic and rattled home for fourth. He has been installed as second favourite for the Melbourne Cup and looms as one of the toughest to beat. The Cumani trained Purple Moon was second in last year’s Melbourne Cup.

Mad Rush is owned by Earle Mack, a New York property developer whose family owns a large stake in the listed Mack-Cali Realty Corporation and a portfolio of property. Mack’s personal website describes him as "a successful developer with an arts habit and a knack for diplomacy”. It’s a pretty accurate description. On top of his generous support for arts, cultural and education institutions, Mack served as the US ambassador to Finland between 2004 and 2005. Mack has a long history of horse ownership and breeding and has also campaigned for the introduction of legislation to make horse sales more transparent.

Horses: Zipping, C’est La Guerre
Owner: Lloyd Williams
Wealth: $942 million

Lloyd Williams' chances of winning the Melbourne Cup suffered a blow in late September when his horse Efficient, winner of the 2007 Melbourne Cup, was ruled out of this year’s race with a leg injury. Still, Williams owns two of the best local chances in Zipping and C’est La Guerre, which is co-owed by John Singleton (who is worth around $230 million). Both ran good races in the Cox Plate and C’est La Guerre’s win in the New Zealand Derby in March means he should run out the 3200m of the Melbourne Cup.

Williams is best known as the founder of property developer Hudson Conway, which developed and built Melbourne’s Crown Casino in 1997 before selling it to Publishing & Broadcasting Limited in 1999. Williams took Hudson Conway private a year later and turned it into an investment company that also owns an extensive property portfolio. These days, horses take up most of Williams’ time. He buys staying horses that he thinks can win big races like the Caulfield Cup, Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate, and ruthlessly culls his stable by selling nags that don’t make the grade. Williams admits he makes no money from racing, but his buying strategy has helped him win the Melbourne Cup three times. Williams was formerly known as a big punter and launched successful betting plunges with mate Kerry Packer on the 1997 and 1998 Melbourne Cups. He no longer likes to bet.

Horse: Profound Beauty
Owner: Walter Haefner
Wealth: $5.2 billion

Profound Beauty is one of the more mysterious runners in this year’s Cup. Her overseas form is moderate, but the imported gallopers look so superior that keen form students are unwilling to discount her chances. Profound Beauty’s other big advantage is that she is trained by master Irish horseman Dermott Weld, who won the Melbourne Cup with Vintage Crop in 1993 (the first overseas raider to win) and again in 2002 with Media Puzzle, which Walter Haefner bred and raced.

Swiss billionaire Walter Haefner, aged 98 is described by Forbes magazine as the world’s oldest billionaire. Haefner has had a long love affair with horses, first as an amateur rider (he was European champion amateur in 1963) and later as a breeder and owner though his Irish stud farm, Moyglare. The bulk of Haefner’s wealth comes from the technology industry. He is the largest individual shareholder in US company Computer Associates; he acquired his 24 per cent stake when he sold his data processing business to the tech giant in 1968. Haefner is also Switzerland’s biggest importer of Volkswagen, Seat, Skoda, Audi and Porsche.

Horse: All The Good
Owner: Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Wealth: $26 billion

Caulfield Cup winner All The Good was scratched on Friday evening and won't be taking his place on Tuesday. The news will no doubt devastate Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and owner of the Godolphin and Darley stables. The Sheik, who is the world’s biggest thoroughbred owner, has ploughed billions of dollars into his racing interests, including the $500 million purchase of the Woodlands Stud in the Hunter Valley earlier this year. The Sheik, who has built his fortune on the oil industry, has tried to win the Melbourne Cup several times without luck, although the win of All The Good in the Caulfield Cup proves that Godolphin is getting closer.

Rich Pickings’ Melbourne Cup summary:

The wealth watcher in me says to go with Walter Haefner's money (all $5.2 billion of it) and back Profound Beauty. But the punter in me is leaning towards Earle Mack’s Mad Rush. While Septimus is probably the best horse in the race, I worry about his big weight and the fact he has not raced in Australia before. The fact that Mad Rush has been here for several weeks, acclimatised and run a slashing race in the Caulfield Cup gives him a slight edge.

Good luck and remember what leviathan punter Kerry Packer once said: ''Every man who ever created anything was a gambler.”

Selections:
1.Mad Rush
2. Septimus
3. C’est La Guerre