Mark Zahra aboard Santa Ana Lane

Flemington features take shape

The fields for a trio of Group 1 features during the Melbourne Cup Carnival have taken further shape today with the closure of first acceptances.

A total of 25 horses remain in the running for the 165th edition of the AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington on 2 November, one less than the 26 first acceptors for the 161st Kennedy Oaks (2500m) five days later.

The Darley Sprint Classic (1200m) at Flemington on 9 November has retained a star-studded list of 25 first acceptors including nine runners from The TAB Everest.

Darley Sprint Classic (1200m) – Flemington, 9 November 2019

The Darley Sprint Classic, the headline sprint of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, carries record prizemoney of $2 million this year – up from $1 million 12 months ago.

Defending champion Santa Ana Lane headlines the first acceptors and is joined by last year’s runner-up In Her Time and fourth placegetter Pierata.

The horse that accounted for them in last weekend’s The TAB Everest, Yes Yes Yes, is one of seven three-year-olds to accept along with Godolphin’s star colts Bivouac and Microphone and Anthony Cummings’ boom filly Libertini.

Among the 12 Group 1 winners to accept today are Sunlight, Nature Strip, Alizee and Trekking, while Irish visitor Ten Sovereigns (Aidan O’Brien), who won the Group 1 July Cup (1200m) in the UK this year, is the sole international entrant.

The notable withdrawal was 2017 Darley Sprint Classic winner Redzel.

Final acceptances for the Darley Sprint Classic will be taken at 9.30am (AEDT) on Wednesday, 6 November.


AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) – Flemington, 2 November 2019

The AAMI Victoria Derby, the nation’s oldest three-year-old classic, is one of four Group 1 races offering a $1 million or more on the opening day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival at Flemington.

The Mark Newnham-trained Shadow Hero, a winner of the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m), and last Saturday’s runaway Group 3 Ladbrokes Caulfield Classic (2000m) winner, Thought Of That (Ciaron Maher and David Eustace), head betting for the Derby and both feature among the first acceptors.

The Lindsay Park training triumvirate of David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig retain a race-high three acceptors Byerley Handicap (1800m) winner Huntly Castle and Listed Super Impose Plate (1800m) runner-up Independent Road.

Astute New Zealand horseman Murray Baker, who prepared Lion Tamer to win the 2010 Victoria Derby, and his training partner Andrew Forsman have retained Long Jack among the entries, but withdrawn stablemates Quick Thinker and Rhaegar.

Today’s other notable withdrawals were Derby Trial (1800m) winner Adelaide Ace and the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Just Thinkin’.

Tomorrow’s Listed Roderick Insurance Brokers Geelong Classic (2200m) shapes as a pivotal Derby lead-up with 14 of the 17 acceptors remaining among the Derby entries.

The three that are not – The Red Sea, Exalted Ambition and Whispered – can pay a late entry fee of $110,000 for the Derby up until 12 noon (AEDT) this Friday, 25 October.

Final acceptances for the Victoria Derby will be taken at 10am (AEDT) on Tuesday, 29 November.


Kennedy Oaks (2500m) – Flemington, 7 November 2019

The premier staying classic for three-year-old fillies, the $1 million Kennedy Oaks, will spearhead a revamped third day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival at Flemington.

Group 1 Schweppes Thousand Guineas winner (1600m) Flit is one of four acceptors for Godolphin Australia’s head trainer James Cummings who is chasing his first Kennedy Oaks.

Amongst her rivals are the first six horses home in last Saturday’s Group 3 Ethereal Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield, won by the Archie Alexander-trained Gamay, who all feature among the first acceptors.

The Group 2 Edward Manifold Stakes (1600m), won at Flemington on 5 October by Moonlight Maid (Mitch Freedman), also serves as an important form reference for the Oaks with the first five placegetters among today’s acceptors.

Other entrants of note are Oaks Trial (1800m) winner Celestial Falls, while the notable withdrawals were Thousand Guineas third placegetter Southbank and Thousand Guineas Prelude (1400m) winner Acting.

Final acceptances for the Kennedy Oaks will be taken at 9am (AEDT) on Monday, 4 November.