WHEN it comes to tipping a winner for the annual Melbourne Cup, Col Hodges admits he has a record more akin to that of a roughie than a favourite.
But everyone knows that roughies sometimes surprise and given the vast knowledge of the legendary Central West race caller, Hodges' tip is still worth consideration.
This year the runner he likes in the 3,200 metres feature at Flemington is seven-year-old English raider Prince Of Arran.
The Charlie Fellowes trained runner placed third to Cross Counter in last year's Melbourne Cup, but it was his run in the October 23 Geelong Cup which convinced Hodges to make him his tip for Tuesday's feature.
Prince Of Arran was positioned at the front for most of that Group Three event over 2,400m, hitting the front with some 200m to travel and going on to post the sixth win of his career.
Though there are runners in the Melbourne Cup field with better records, Hodges' points out that the Geelong Cup is a handy race to gauge form.
Media Puzzle (2002), Dunaden (2010) and Americain (2011) each went on to win the Melbourne Cup after success at Geelong, while Bauer (2008) came second in Flemington feature.
"Prince Of Arran ran third in the Melbourne Cup last year and he won the Geelong Cup last start and the Geelong Cup - a couple of horses Dunaden and Americain they won the Geelong Cup and came out and won the Melbourne Cup," Hodges said.
"I'd take the Geelong Cup as a good guide even though it's a race out in the countryside. I was originally keen on Finche because it ran a good race in the Melbourne Cup last year. It was right up on the speed in the Caulfield Cup, but was run down and beaten.
"So I'll go for Prince of Arran, I'll try for a fluke there."
The other reason, albeit it a more sentimental one, Hodges is tipping the Geelong Cup winner to go on and find success in the Melbourne Cup is because that process has worked for him in the past.
"Look it's embarrassing really," Hodges laughed when asked about his record of tipping Melbourne Cup winners.
"I think I went about 20 years without tipping a cup winner then I got that Subzero , that grey horse ... then I got those two that won the Geelong Cup, which is why I have a soft for the Geelong Cup, I tipped Americain and Dunaden and they both won.
"I tipped Makybe Diva the second time she won the Melbourne Cup , I didn't have her the other couple of times. But there are not many others I have tipped I can tell you."
While not a runner Hodges is tipping, he would not mind if Twilight Payment were to be first past the post in the Group 1, $7,750,000 race given he will be ridden by former Bathurst apprentice and Dunedoo native Hugh Bowman.
Bowman was initially slated to ride Marmelo, the Hughie Morrison trained British stayer runner who placed second last year.
But Marmelo was controversially scratched by Racing Victoria last week after stewards reported he had incomplete fractures in his near fore and off hind cannon bones.
Irish stayer Twilight Payment is trained by Joseph O'Brien. Distance is not expected to be an issue but there is a question over whether or not can find the speed needed down the Flemington straight to win.
In Twilight Payment's most recent start - the Irish St Leger - he finished behind fellow Melbourne Cup hopefuls Southern France, Cross Counter, Latrobe and Master Of Reality.
"Of course I'd love to see him [Bowman] win it, he's won most other things. I'd would be lovely to see him win it, someone from this area," Hodges said.
While Bowman is still hunting for a Melbourne Cup success story, Hodges points out there have been some interesting Central West tales in the past to come from the race.
Of course I'd love to see him [Bowman] win it, he's won most other things.Col Hodges
Forbes' Malcolm Johnston rode in 12 Melbourne Cups, his uncle Les Coles rode the 1962 winner Even Stevens then there is the story of a Grenfell long shot.
"Malcolm Johnston has ridden in the Melbourne Cup and of course he came from Forbes. He was Tommy Smith's stable rider down there," Hodges said.
"Of course he rode Kingston Town when it just got beaten in the  Melbourne Cup. Kingston Town hit the lead in the straight, but Gurner's Lane - Mick Dittman was riding Gurner's Lane - it got up on the inside and caught him in the last bit.
"Malcolm Johnston's uncle, Les Coles, he also came from Forbes and he won the Melbourne Cup on Even Stevens back in the 60s.
"Les, he started racing at the picnic races, I think he rode his first winner at the Young Picnic Races and then he turned to professional.
"Then he went to New Zealand and rode there quite a few years and bought that horse, Even Stevens, in New Zealand.
"They nearly broke half the bookmakers around Australia because Even Stevens won the Caulfield Cup and the Melbourne Cup. They backed him off the map in both of them.
"But one of the most romantic stories from this area, even though it didn't win, was Come On. He was trained by a fella called Bill Spies, he had a garage in Grenfell.
"There are a lot of qualifying rules now for the Melbourne Cup, you've got to win certain races now and half the field are overseas horses, but it used to be that you just nominate your horse so you used to have some real rank outsiders in the cup.
"Come On used to race in all the picnic races around here and Spies nominated him in the Melbourne Cup. He got in the Melbourne Cup and he started at 500-1 and I'll always remember Bert Bryant, he was calling the race, saying 'At the half mile, the despised outsider Come On still leads the cup field'.
"There were 24 in it and he got ridden down at the 800 metre mark and ended up coming 12th."
- MELBOURNE CUP FIELD: 1 Cross Counter, 2 Mer De Glace, 3 Master Of Reality, 4 Mirage Dancer, 5 Southern France, 6 Hunting Horn, 7 Latrobe, 8 Mustajeer, 9 Rostropovich, 10 Twilight Payment, 11 Finche, 12 Prince Of Arran, 13 Raymond Tusk, 14 Downdraft, 15 Magic Wand, 16 Neufbosc, 17 Sound, 18 Surprise Baby, 19 Constantinople, 20 Il Paradiso, 21 Steel Prince, 22 The Chosen One, 23 Vow And Declare, 24 Youngstar.