The Caulfield Cup has for a long time been the most important lead-up race to the Melbourne Cup but that trend has been changing in recent years as coaches tend to target either the Caulfield Cup or the Melbourne Cup with their horses. Some coaches will use the non group one races as lead-ups rather than the usual ones in the past such as the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate, and McKinnon Stakes.
The Geelong Cup has been shown to be a valuable lead-up race since 2002 when Media Puzzle won that race then followed up by winning the Flemington feature. Others to have successfully follow the exact same route to the big race were Americain (2010) and Dunaden (2011). All these are European trained horses.
The W.S. Cox Plate at Moonee Valley has been a favorite race for Melbourne Cup contenders but this race like the Caulfield Cup is one that trainers tend to target on its own. Still several recent Melbourne Cup winners had their most recent race in the Cox Plate before Flemington. Prince of Penzance was the first horse since the 1980s that raced at the Moonee Valley Cup before going on to win the Melbourne Cup at its very next start.
In 2016, the Cup was won by Almandin who won the Bart Cummings Stakes at his most recent start in early October while Protectionist, the 2014 winner, finished fourth in the Herbert Power Handicap in his latest start prior to the big race. What these races have in common is that they are all at 2400 metres or 2500 metres. The Caulfield Cup, Geelong Cup, and the Lexius Stakes will also be at that distance range.
The last horse to have raced on Derby Day then come out and win the Melbourne Cup three days later was Shocking who won the Lexius Stakes in 2009 but that isn’t to say that the winner of another Cup will not have raced on Derby Day. Every Melbourne Cup has to be taken on its own merits when studying the form book not all Cups will follow previous scripts.