The contenders for the Victorian Spring Racing Carnival’s three marquee races have consolidated further on Tuesday with the next round of acceptances taken by Racing Victoria (RV) for the $7.3 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m), $5 million Stella Artois Caulfield Cup (2400m) and $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m).
The Melbourne Cup, which carries record prizemoney next month, has seen a dramatic increase in the number of first acceptances which has risen from 55 and 52 respectively over the past two years to 85 this year.
Australia’s most famous race remains the target for many of the world’s leading stables with 22 internationally-trained horses – up from 14 at this time last year – remaining in the hunt for a start at Flemington on the first Tuesday in November.
The Caulfield Cup has also welcomed a 30 percent increase in the number of second acceptors, whilst the number of rivals still lining up to take on Winx in her pursuit of an historic fourth Cox Plate has been reduced to 24.
First acceptances also closed today for the $1 million Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes (1200m) at The Valley on Friday night, 26 October with 37 horses remaining in contention.
$7.3 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) – Flemington, Tuesday, 6 November
The race to secure a start in the 158th Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) remains a challenge, with the number of first acceptances growing by over 50 percent from 2017.
Whilst the number of international first acceptors has grown to 22, only 12 of those visiting horses currently sit within the top 24 ranked horses leaving an even split between internationally-trained and Australasian-trained horses.
Among the internationals guaranteed a start are six horses that are due to arrive in Melbourne this Saturday, 13 October, including last year’s beaten favourite Marmelo (Hughie Morrison), Irish Derby winner Latrobe (Joseph O’Brien), Ebor Handicap winner Muntahaa (John Gosden) and the highly-fancied Magic Circle (Ian Williams).
Sydney’s premier trainer Chris Waller has 14 acceptors for the Cup, including four horses that sit within the top 24: Sydney Cup winner Who Shot Thebarman and a trio of Oaks winners in Unforgotten, Youngstar and Egg Tart.
Darren Weir has the most first acceptors with 15 including the 58kg topweight Humidor and Japanese import Tosen Basil, who are both guaranteed starts, unlike stablemates Kings Will Dream and Night’s Watch who now sit at 41st and 73rd respectively in the order of entry.
Other local acceptors of note include Saturday’s The Bart Cummings (2500m) winner and now ballot-exempt runner Avilius, reigning Victoria Derby winner Ace High and the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained three-year-old Thinkin’ Big.
As expected, highly-rated international trio Kew Gardens, Torcedor and Flag of Honour have been taken out, whilst retiring New Zealand mare Bonneval and injured Western Australian duo Material Man and Pounamu are the notable Australasian withdrawals.
Second acceptances for the Melbourne Cup will be taken at 10am (AEST) on Monday, 29 October.
CLICK TO VIEW LEXUS MELBOURNE CUP FIRST ACCEPTANCES
CLICK TO VIEW LEXUS MELBOURNE CUP ORDER OF ENTRY
$5 million Group 1 Stella Artois Caulfield Cup (2400m) – Caulfield, Saturday, 20 October
Second acceptances were taken today for the Stella Artois Caulfield Cup (2400m) with the number of horses paid up increasing from 36 to 47 off the back of record prizemoney on offer.
Included amongst the acceptances are 10 internationally-trained horses currently stabled at the Werribee International Horse Centre.
After today’s deadline five of those – Best Solution (Saeed bin Suroor), Cliffs of Moher (Aidan O’Brien), Chestnut Coast (Yoshito Yahagi), Emotionless (Charlie Appleby) and Duretto (Andrew Balding) – currently sit inside the final 18, although Emotionless remains a doubtful starter after an injury setback.
Joining Best Solution as ballot-exempt runners to accept are the Liam Howley-trained Homesman and Darren Weir’s highly fancied pair Kings Will Dream and Nights Watch.
Weir has six second acceptors for the race, two shy of Chris Waller who has eight of the 47 with Unforgotten, Egg Tart, Youngstar and imported pair Count Octave and Finche all now ranked within the top 22.
The most notable withdrawal from the race was the James Cummings-trained Avilius who features among second acceptances for the Cox Plate in what now appears his likely stepping stone to the Melbourne Cup.
Final acceptances for the Caulfield Cup will be taken at 10am (AEST) next Tuesday, 16 October with the field to be released at 11.15am on Wednesday, 17 October.
CLICK TO VIEW STELLA ARTOIS CAULFIELD CUP SECOND ACCEPTANCES
CLICK TO VIEW STELLA ARTOIS CAULFIELD CUP ORDER OF ENTRY
$5 million Group 1 Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) – The Valley, Saturday, 27 October
Three-time Cox Plate champion Winx, who won her 28th consecutive race at Flemington on Saturday, headlines 25 third acceptors for the Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) – down from 36 in 2017.
She is one of four acceptors from the Chris Waller stable alongside D’Argento, Unforgotten and three-year-old colt The Autumn Sun – the commanding favourite for this Saturday’s Group 1 Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas (1600m).
The filly El Dorado Dreaming, a leading contender for this Saturday’s Group 1 Schweppes Thousand Guineas (1600m) at Caulfield, and the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Thinkin’ Big are the other southern hemisphere three-year-olds to accept.
A quintet of internationals feature with invited runner Benbatl (Saeed bin Suroor) joined by Blair House, Emotionless (both Charlie Appleby), Cliffs of Moher and northern hemisphere three-year-old Rostropovich (both Aidan O’Brien).
Other notable acceptors include Avilius, last weekend’s New Zealand Group 1 winner Savvy Coup and 2017 runner-up Humidor – one of six acceptors from the Darren Weir yard.
Headlining the notable withdrawals are Grunt – who was also withdrawn from the Caulfield Cup – Kementari, Jon Snow and 2017 placegetter Folkswood.
Final acceptances for the Cox Plate will be taken at 8.30am (AEST) on Tuesday, 23 October with the field to be released and barrier draw conducted shortly thereafter.
CLICK TO VIEW LADBROKES COX PLATE THIRD ACCEPTANCES
$1 million Group 1 Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes (1200m) – The Valley, Friday night, 26 October
A total of 37 sprinters have stood their ground for the Group 1 Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes (1200m), which with a prize purse of $1 million is Australia’s richest night race.
Of the 37 first acceptors, a total of five are internationally-trained including Charlie Appleby’s sprinter-miler Jungle Cat, who already has a Group 1 victory under his belt this Spring Racing Carnival courtesy of his fine win in the Ladbrokes Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m).
Aidan O’Brien, arguably the world’s pre-eminent trainer, has four horses among the first acceptors including U S Navy Flag, who will contest The Everest (1200m) on Saturday.
His Ballydoyle stablemates Fleet Review, Intelligence Cross and Spirit Of Valor, all of whom are nominated for Saturday’s Group 2 Keno Schillaci Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield, complete the set for O’Brien.
U S Navy Flag’s fellow Everest hopefuls Brave Smash (Darren Weir), In Her Time, Le Romain (both Kris Lees), Redzel (Team Snowden), Santa Ana Lane, Shoals (both Anthony Freedman) and Viddora (Lloyd Kennewell) have also accepted.
The Manikato Stakes will be held at The Valley on Ladbrokes Cox Plate eve, Friday October 26. Final acceptances for the race will close at 8.30am on Tuesday, October 23.