The countdown to an historic Spring Racing Carnival has continued today with the closure of nominations for Australia’s premier staying races, the $5.15 million Stella Artois Caulfield Cup (2400m) and the $8 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m).
Total entries for both races are up on 2019 with the 143rd Caulfield Cup, to be run at Caulfield on 17 October, attracting 177 nominations (up from 143); while the 160th Melbourne Cup, to be conducted at Flemington on 3 November, has received 174 entries (up from 152).
If the list of nominations is anything to go by then the chances of an O’Brien being feted as the winning trainer of one or both Cups are high.
Newly crowned Fred Hoysted Medallist, Danny O’Brien, leads the Australian charge with a suite of high-profile horses nominated for both races including Vow And Declare – the 2019 Melbourne Cup winner and Caulfield Cup runner-up.
Joining the Flemington trainer’s assault is the horse that has led betting markets for both Cups, South Australian Derby winner Russian Camelot, along with Adelaide Cup winner King of Leogrance and VRC Oaks heroine Miami Bound.
A total of 34 internationally trained horses have been nominated for the Caulfield Cup with Aidan and Joseph O’Brien providing 20 of those. The acclaimed Irish father and son also put the polish on 16 of the 30 internationally trained entrants for the Melbourne Cup.
Joseph O’Brien, became the youngest person ever to train the winner of the Melbourne Cup when successful with Rekindling in 2017, has nominated seven horses for both races, five of which are owned by Lloyd Williams.
Included among the O’Brien-Williams entries are Master of Reality, who was second past the post in last year’s Melbourne Cup before being demoted to fourth on protest, Twilight Payment and Buckhurst.
Aidan O’Brien, who is yet to taste success in either Cup, has 13 entries in the Caulfield Cup including six-time Group 1 winner Magical, Japan, Magic Wand and 2019 Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck.
The winners of the past two Irish Derbies, Sovereign (2019) and Santiago (2020), are among the nine horses that Aidan O’Brien has entered for the Melbourne Cup, with Anthony Van Dyck also holding an entry for the Flemington feature.
Greg Carpenter, Racing Victoria’s (RV) Executive General Manager – Racing, said: “We were unsure as to the number of nominations that would be received this year given the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic so we’re delighted to see an increase in entries for both the Stella Artois Caulfield Cup and Lexus Melbourne Cup.
“It is pleasing that there is tremendous depth among the entries for both races with 29 Group 1 winners in the Caulfield Cup and 25 in the Melbourne Cup.
“There’s also lots of really interesting stories among the entries for racing fans and punters to follow from afar as we begin the countdown to both races in these unprecedented times.
“It’s fantastic to see the defending Melbourne Cup champion Vow And Declare among this year’s entries and there is no question that Danny O’Brien holds an incredibly strong hand as he plots a pathway to both Cups.
“The number of internationally-trained entries is higher than expected in the circumstances, due largely to the tremendous interest from Aidan and Joseph O’Brien who have an impressive list of entries in the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.
“As has been communicated previously, we are planning to welcome up to 16 international horses on one-way tickets to Melbourne at the end of September and we have provision for up to 16 internationally trained horses on two-way tickets to join them on the one shipment from Europe.
“We have this week received travel exemptions from the Government for a limited number of staff from six international stables to enter Australia and care for their horses during the Spring Racing Carnival. However there remains a number of logistical challenges around flights and mandatory quarantine to overcome before that can become a reality.”
Among the notable entries for Victoria’s marquee spring handicaps are:
- The winners of the 2019-20 editions of the VRC Derby (Warning), VRC Oaks (Miami Bound), ATC Derby (Quick Thinker), ATC Oaks (Colette), SA Derby (Russian Camelot) and SA Australian Oaks (Toffee Tongue) are nominated for both races;
- Dual Melbourne Cup placegetter, English stayer Prince Of Arran (Charlie Fellowes), is nominated for a third consecutive tilt at the race, as are Finche (Chris Waller) and Sound (Mike Moroney). The trio are also entered for the Caulfield Cup;
- Eight of the top 10 placegetters in the 2019 Caulfield Cup have been entered for a tilt at the race again with Vow And Declare joined by fellow minor placegetter Mirage Dancer (Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young);
- German trainer Andreas Wohler completed an historic Prix Kergorlay-Melbourne Cup double in 2014 with Protectionist. He has his nation’s sole entrant in both races - last start Prix Kergorlay runner-up Ashrun;
- Highly touted three-year-old Port Guillaume (Jean-Claude Rouget) is one of three French-trained entries for both Cups alongside the Fabrice Chappet-trained, Australian-owned duo Skyward and San Huberto;
- The other notable internationally trained entries in both races are Dashing Willoughby (Andrew Balding) and the Willie Mullins duo in last year’s VRC Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner True Self and Lonsdale Cup runner-up Stratum;
- Australian owners have been busying this year acquiring Cups contenders from Europe to join local stables with impending imports Delphi (Anthony Freedman), Sir Dragonet (Ciaron Maher and David Eustace) and Nickajack Cave (Peter Moody) among the most notable entries;
- After victories by Northern Hemisphere three-year-olds in two of the past three Melbourne Cups, 15 have been entered for both Cups including Russian Camelot, Santiago, Port Guillaume and Nobel Prize – the younger brother of locally trained dual Cups entrant Cape of Good Hope;
- James Cummings and Godolphin have the sole Southern Hemisphere three-year-old entered in either Cup with current AAMI Victoria Derby favourite Alcyone nominated for the Melbourne Cup. Cummings’ other Cup entrants are ATC Oaks winner Colette and grand veteran Avilius;
- Premier trainer Chris Waller has set his sights on winning his maiden Caulfield and Melbourne Cups with star mare Verry Elleegant, Shared Ambition, Kinane, Finche and 2019 NZ Oaks winner Miss Sentimental (previously known as Sentimental Miss) among his entries in both races;
- Country Victoria’s pin-up horse and nominal Melbourne Cup favourite Surprise Baby (Paul Preusker) has been entered for both Cups, with connections hoping to atone for a luckless fifth in the 2019 Melbourne Cup;
- Ballot exempt runners, Aktau (Mornington Cup) and Oceanex (The Andrew Ramsden), continue their journey to guaranteed starts in the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup respectively. They have been entered for both races;
- The Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained partnership have the most entries in both races with 19 in the Melbourne Cup and 16 in the Caulfield Cup, with Sydney Cup winner Etah James among those to feature in both; and
- Other notable entries across both Cups include Team Hawkes’ highly fancied Master Of Wine; 2020 All-Star Mile winner Regal Power and stablemate Arcadia Queen (Grant and Alana Williams), and comeback galloper Furrion (Tom Dabernig and Ben Hayes).
Weights for both races will be released on Tuesday, 8 September, with first acceptances for the Caulfield Cup on Tuesday, 22 September and the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, 29 September. Late entries for both races close at 12 noon (AET) on Thursday, 3 September.
To view the full list of nominations for the Stella Artois Caulfield Cup click here.
To view the full list of nominations for the Lexus Melbourne Cup click here.