Victory in the Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) is still in the sights of 65 horses after second acceptances for Australia’s iconic race closed at 12pm (AEDT) today (Tuesday, 13 October).
The number of second acceptors is up by one on last year’s tally of 64 and is the highest figure since 2010, meaning the jostling for position will be even more intense than usual in the build-up to the $8 million contest, which will be held at Flemington on Tuesday, 3 November.
Ninety-four gallopers remained in the hunt for Melbourne Cup glory after first acceptances closed and that number has been reduced by 29 at the second acceptances stage, with 12 international raiders still in the mix.
The overseas contingent includes pre-race favourite Tiger Moth, one of three contenders trained by master horseman Aidan O’Brien who arguably holds his strongest ever hand as he chases a first win in the Melbourne Cup, one of the very few majors missing from his illustrious resumé.
Tiger Moth’s stablemate and fellow northern hemisphere three-year-old Santiago, who was sired by the 2007 English Derby winner Authorized, is also prominent in the early betting markets; whilst the third member of the O’Brien triumvirate – last year’s Epsom Derby hero Anthony Van Dyck – will back up from this Saturday’s Stella Artois Caulfield Cup (2400m), in which he is expected to start the warm favourite.
Another former Derby winner in Camelot (2012) could also have a big say in this year’s Melbourne Cup, with his highly-progressive son Russian Camelot (Danny O’Brien) still tipped by many observers to run a huge race on the first Tuesday in November, despite having his colours lowered as the odds-on favourite by Arcadia Queen in last Saturday’s Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m).
Joseph O’Brien rode Camelot to Derby glory for his famous father and he is now making great strides after transitioning to the training ranks, with Master Of Reality, Twilight Payment, Buckhurst and Pondus all aiming to give the Irishman a second win – and their leviathan owner Lloyd Williams a seventh success – in the Melbourne Cup.
Buckhurst is set to make his Australian debut in this Saturday’s Caulfield Cup, a race which could again have a big bearing on the Melbourne Cup with prominent contenders Verry Elleegant, Finche, Toffee Tongue (all trained by Chris Waller), Master Of Wine (Team Hawkes), Warning (Anthony and Sam Freedman), Chapada (Mike Moroney), Mirage Dancer (Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young) and Avilius (James Cummings) remaining in the second acceptances list.
International raiders Prince Of Arran (Charlie Fellowes) and Dashing Willoughby (Andrew Balding) will aim to become the third successive overseas winner of the Caulfield Cup on Saturday, before pressing onto the Melbourne Cup.
The pair have contrasting profiles, with Prince Of Arran very familiar to local audiences in light of his exploits over the past two years, whilst Dashing Willoughby is a newcomer to Australia. In-form hoop Jamie Kah, who claimed her third Group 1 in last Saturday’s Toorak Handicap (1600m), is due to ride Prince Of Arran in both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups after his former jockey Michael Walker opted to jump ship to Dashing Willoughby, part-owned by his long-time supporter and fellow Kiwi Sir Owen Glenn.
Vow And Declare remains in the hunt to win a second successive Melbourne Cup for his trainer Danny O’Brien, whilst other notable second acceptors include the joint second favourite Surprise Baby (Paul Preusker) and recent arrival Sir Dragonet (Ciaron Maher and David Eustace), who will be ridden in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) by champion jockey Glen Boss.
Sir Dragonet’s stable companion Persan is due to head straight to the Melbourne Cup without another prep run after he earned his place in ‘the race that stops a nation’ courtesy of a tough victory in The Bart Cummings (2500m) at Flemington.
Perhaps the most high-profile withdrawal of the first acceptors was Port Guillaume, who recently arrived from France to join the training team of Tom Dabernig and Ben Hayes. Another import, the Archie Alexander-trained Young Rascal, will also not line up in the Melbourne Cup after his connections chose not to pay the acceptance fee for him.
Third acceptances for the Melbourne Cup close at 12pm (AEDT) on Monday, 26 October.
Click here to view second acceptances for the Lexus Melbourne Cup
As a result of the withdrawals of Port Guillaume and Young Rascal, there has been significant movement on the Order of Entry for the Melbourne Cup with Miami Bound (Danny O’Brien) and Toffee Tongue (Chris Waller) now jumping into the all-important top 24.
Toffee Tongue, who finished a close second behind her stablemate Verry Elleegant in the TAB Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington, will aim for a second Group 1 win in this Saturday’s Caulfield Cup before a potential tilt at the Melbourne Cup next month.
Miami Bound could provide her trainer Danny O’Brien with a third Melbourne Cup runner, with last year’s winner Vow And Declare and boom colt Russian Camelot both guaranteed starting berths. In contrast, Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman’s Group 2 winner The Chosen One could just miss out on a run in the cup, as the five-year-old son of Savabeel currently sits in the unenviable position of 25th on the updated Order of Entry.
As it stands, nine international raiders are set to line up at Flemington on the first Tuesday in November, which would represent a decrease of two on last year’s tally of 11.
The nine internationals in order are: Anthony Van Dyck (third), Santiago (seventh), Master Of Reality (ninth), Twilight Payment (10th), Tiger Moth (11th), Stratum Albion (15th), Buckhurst (16th), Prince Of Arran (17th) and Dashing Willoughby (20th). The three raiders currently outside the top 24 are True Self (27th), Ashrun (35th) and Pondus (49th).
Click here to view the Lexus Melbourne Cup Order of Entry as of Tuesday, 13 October