Irish stars head the weights for Australia's famous Cups

A gathering of high-class Irish entries from premier trainer Aidan O’Brien feature among the topweights for the $5.15 million Stella Artois Caulfield Cup (2400m) and $8 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) with the release of weights today by Racing Victoria’s (RV) Executive General Manager – Racing, Greg Carpenter.

The three highest weighted horses in the 143rd Caulfield Cup, to be run at Caulfield on Saturday, 17 October, are O’Brien’s star-studded Group 1-winning trio of Anthony Van Dyck (58.5kg), Japan (58.5kg) and Magical (58kg).

With the latter two only nominated for the Caulfield Cup, 2019 Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck is the sole topweight for the 160th Melbourne Cup, to be run at Flemington on Tuesday, 3 November, with 58.5kg.

O’Brien’s 2019 Irish Derby winner Sovereign is among a trio of horses allotted 57kg in both races, making them the equal second highest weighted horses in the Melbourne Cup. The other two are defending Melbourne Cup champion Vow And Declare (Danny O’Brien) and Godolphin’s three-time Group 1 winner Avilius (James Cummings).

Russian Camelot (Danny O’Brien), the pre-weights Caulfield Cup favourite, has been allotted 53.5kg making him the highest weighted Northern Hemisphere three-year-old in both races alongside Aidan O’Brien’s 2020 Irish Derby winner Santiago.

Surprise Baby (Paul Preusker), the pre-weights Melbourne Cup favourite, has been handed 54.5kg in both races – 1kg more than the 2019 Adelaide Cup and The Bart Cummings winner carried into fifth place in last year’s Melbourne Cup.

Of the other horses highly fancied in pre-post betting for both Cups, Chris Waller’s four-time Group 1 winning mare Verry Elleegant has been allocated 55kg in each, while Team Hawkes’ revelation of the 2019-20 season, Master of Wine, has been weighted on 53.5kg.

Like her stablemates Japan and Magical, Aidan O’Brien’s globetrotting mare Magic Wand is nominated for the Caulfield Cup only. The 2019 Mackinnon Stakes winner has been handicapped on 55kg – 1.5kg more than she carried when 10th in the 2019 Melbourne Cup.

Carpenter said: “Aidan’s O’Brien’s entries are the standouts on performances over the past 18 months and have been handicapped accordingly at the top of the weights for this year’s Stella Artois Caulfield Cup and Lexus Melbourne Cup.

“The joint Caulfield Cup topweights Anthony Van Dyck and Japan were both Group 1 winners over 2400m in 2019 and have been placed behind the world’s highest rated horse Ghaiyyath this year. Anthony Van Dyck holds the honour of sole topweight in the Melbourne Cup with Japan not nominated.

“The outstanding Magical, who is a six-time Group 1 winner and nominated for the Caulfield Cup only, has 58kg and will need to set a weight carrying record for a mare with Tranquil Star claiming that mark when winning the 1942 Caulfield Cup with 56kg.

“There’s a challenge been set for talented local mare Verry Elleegant also, who has 55kg in both Cups. Makybe Diva is the only mare to carry more than 55kg to victory in the Melbourne Cup having done so in 2004 (55.5kg) and 2005 (58kg), the latter being the last time a mare has placed in our most famous race.

“There is always great interest in what weight is given to the defending Melbourne Cup champion and this year that is Vow And Declare who rises to 57kg having won the race with 52kg last year for Australia with Craig Williams in the saddle for Danny O’Brien.

“The 5kg increase for Vow And Declare represents a 1.5kg increase in his weight-for-age benchmark moving to five years of age and a 3.5kg penalty for his 2019 win. That’s the same penalty that was afforded to Cross Counter, Prince of Penzance, Green Moon, Dunaden and Americain for their title defences over the past decade.

“With today’s release of weights for the Stella Artois Caulfield Cup and Lexus Melbourne Cup, connections can now begin plotting a path towards a coveted place in the final field for both races, while punters can cast a more discerning eye across the form and betting markets.

“While the honour roll for both Cups is littered with amazing stories, one gets the feeling that the winners of the 2020 editions will be long remembered given the unique circumstances under which both races will be conducted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Carpenter further added that the prospects of international stables participating in this year’s Cups is looking favourable but will ultimately be determined by events over the next week.

International stables granted Government exemptions for a limited number of staff to travel to Australia to care for their horses have booked flights between 11 and 16 September and are now waiting to see if they will be honoured. Those stable staff will be required to undertake mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine upon arrival in Australia.

On the racetrack, a number of Cups nominees will be in action this weekend across England, Ireland and France with their performances to determine whether they enter pre-export quarantine when the two weeks commences on 16 September.

The weights allocated to other notable entries are as follows:

  • 2020 ATC Derby winner Quick Thinker is the highest rated South Hemisphere four-year-old in both Cups on 53.5kg, with 2019 VRC Derby winner Warning allotted 53kg;
  • Last season’s ATC Oaks winner Colette is the highest weighted four-year-old mare on 52kg. Fellow Oaks winners Miami Bound (VRC Oaks) and Toffee Tongue (Australasian Oaks) have been given 51kg in both races;
  • Dual Melbourne Cup placegetter, English stayer Prince Of Arran (Charlie Fellowes), has been allocated 54.5kg – 0.5kg more than he carried when promoted to second in the 2019 edition and 1.5kg more than his third placing in 2018;
  • Master of Reality, who was second across the line in the 2019 Melbourne Cup before being demoted to fourth on protest, rises 0.5kg this year to 56kg – the same weight the Joseph O’Brien trained stayer has in the Caulfield Cup;
  • In addition to Master of Reality, Hall of Fame owner Lloyd Williams has Twilight Payment (55.5kg), Buckhurst (55kg) and Adelaide Cup winner King of Leogrance (53.5kg) prominent in the weights in his pursuit of a seventh Melbourne Cup and second Caulfield Cup;
  • Mirage Dancer (Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young), third behind Japanese stayer Mer de Glace and Vow And Declare in the 2019 Caulfield Cup, drops 1kg from last year’s performance to 55kg;
  • Oceanex will be one the lightest weighted runners in this year’s Melbourne Cup after being given 51.5kg. The Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr trained mare is guaranteed a start as the winner of The Andrew Ramsden at Flemington in May;
  • It’s a similar tale for the Mike Moroney-trained import Aktau who will take his place in the Caulfield Cup with only 51kg after securing a ballot exemption courtesy of his victory in the 2020 Mornington Cup;
  • Sydney Cup winner Etah James (Ciaron Maher and Dave Eustace) has been allocated 52.5kg in her bid to become the first horse to complete the Sydney-Melbourne Cup double since Makybe Diva in 2004;
  • Germany’s sole entrant Ashrun has been assigned 53kg in both races for the 2014 Melbourne Cup-winning combination of trainer Andreas Wohler and syndicators Australian Bloodstock;
  • Northern Hemisphere three-year-olds have won two of the last three Melbourne Cups. Young French stayer Port Guillaume (Jean-Claude Rouget), touted as a key contender should he make the trip, has been weighted on 52.5kg;
  • The Willie Mullins-trained duo of recent Lonsdale Cup runner-up Stratum and last year’s VRC Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner True Self have been handicapped on 55kg and 52kg respectively;
  • Sir Dragonet, a much-hyped former member of the Aidan O’Brien team, headlines a large group of European horses on one-way tickets to Melbourne next month for a Cups assault. The Maher and Eustace stable acquisition has 55.5kg in both races;
  • Other impending European imports of note are Nickajack Cave (Peter Moody) and San Huberto (Matt Cumani), both allotted 53.5kg, French stayer Skyward (Busuttin and Young) 52.5kg and the in-form Delphi (Anthony and Sam Freedman) 50kg; and
  • Former Hungarian Horse of the Year and last start German Group 1 winner Nancho, who is already based in Australia with Anthony Cummings, has been handed; and
  • Nonconformist (Grahame Begg), who is prominent in pre-post betting for the Caulfield Cup, has only 51kg and is likely to need a feature win over the next month to secure a berth in the 2400m handicap.

To view the 2020 Stella Artois Caulfield Cup weights, click here.

To view the 2020 Lexus Melbourne Cup weights, click here.

First acceptances for the Caulfield Cup will be taken at 12 noon (AET) on Tuesday, 22 September and on Tuesday, 29 September at 12 noon (AET) for the Melbourne Cup.