A total of 42 horses, including defending champion Cross Counter and leading local contender Surprise Baby, have stood their ground after the third acceptances for the $8 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) were taken at 10am this morning.
Cross Counter, trained in England by regular Spring Racing Carnival visitor Charlie Appleby, remains on track to become the first horse since the mighty mare Makybe Diva to defend his Melbourne Cup crown.
Stella Artois Caulfield Cup (2400m) winner Mer De Glace, who will be ridden by Australia’s most in-form jockey Damian Lane, is on course to continue Japan’s dominance of the Spring Racing Carnival’s major prizes after he too remained amongst the entries for the Melbourne Cup. Should he achieve the feat, the Hisashi Shimizu-trained stayer would become the 12th horse in history to complete the Cups double.
The home brigade is led by Paul Preusker’s bargain buy Surprise Baby, who is guaranteed a start in ‘the race that stops a nation’ after his slashing win in the Group 3 Bart Cummings (2520m) at Flemington on Saturday, 5 October.
Recent European arrivals Constantinople and Mirage Dancer, who have joined the respective stables of Lindsay Park (David Hayes, Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig) and Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young, will aim to build on the solid foundations of their Caulfield Cup runs.
Constantinople shot to the head of the early Melbourne Cup markets after his fast-finishing fourth in the Caulfield Cup, whilst Mirage Dancer’s third ensured the former Sir Michael Stoute-trained galloper also captured the attention of racing form analysts.
The horse that split Mer De Glace and Mirage Dancer in the Caulfield Cup, Danny O’Brien’s Vow And Declare, is also primed to repel the international invasion after standing his ground for the Melbourne Cup.
The overseas brigade includes last-start Bet365 Geelong Cup (2400m) winner Prince Of Arran (Charlie Fellowes) and the Aidan O’Brien-trained pair Hunting Horn and Magic Wand, who both made their Australian debuts under champion jockey Ryan Moore at The Valley last Saturday (26 October).
Hunting Horn won the McCafe Moonee Valley Gold Cup (2500m), whilst Magic Wand ran a valiant fourth behind Lys Gracieux in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m).
This Saturday’s Group 3 Lexus Hotham Handicap (2500m), won last year by Prince Of Arran, offers a final chance for horses to secure a guaranteed start in the Melbourne Cup (provided they are still nominated for the race).
Notable horses to have dropped off the Melbourne Cup entry list include Avilius (trained by James Cummings), Homesman, Yucatan (both Liam Howley), Verry Elleegant, Shraaoh (both Chris Waller), Mr Quickie (Phillip Stokes) and Big Duke (Kris Lees).
Final acceptances for the Melbourne Cup will be taken at 4.30pm (AEDT) on Saturday, 2 November. Prior to that, the top 35 acceptors will undergo a compulsory examination by RV veterinarians on Thursday and Friday to determine their suitability to accept.
To view the Melbourne Cup entries after the third acceptances stage, please click here
To view the updated Melbourne Cup Order of Entry, please click here