Verry Elleegant and Anthony Van Dyck

Defending champions headline entries for Australia's spring majors

The three reigning champions Verry Elleegant (Carlton Draught Caulfield Cup), Sir Dragonet (Ladbrokes Cox Plate) and Twilight Payment (Lexus Melbourne Cup) headline a star-studded list of nominations released today (Tuesday, 3 August) for the marquee races of the 2021 Victorian Spring Racing Carnival.

Before the closure of entries for the trio of Group 1 contests at 12pm (AET) today, Chris Waller’s seven-time Group 1 winner Verry Elleegant took her place at the top of the 170-strong list of contenders for the $5 million Caulfield Cup (2400m) on 16 October. She has also been nominated for the Cox Plate (CP) and Melbourne Cup (MC).

Sir Dragonet is one of 153 gallopers, including 43 three-year-olds (38 from the southern hemisphere and five from the northern hemisphere), in the running to claim The Valley’s showpiece event on 23 October. The Ciaron Maher and Dave Eustace-trained winner of the 100th Cox Plate also features among the Caulfield Cup (CC) and Melbourne Cup entries.

Twilight Payment, who delivered a second Melbourne Cup last year for his Irish trainer Joseph O’Brien and a seventh for his part-owner Lloyd Williams, is one of two previous winners among the 174 horses nominated for the nation’s most famous horse race at Flemington on Tuesday, 2 November, alongside 2019 local winner Vow And Declare (Danny O’Brien).

As well as the previous champions, two of the hottest horses in the land feature among the nominations and are on a path towards Victoria’s spring features. Former Queensland galloper Incentivise (entered for CC, CP, MC) – now in the care of Peter Moody – is currently the favourite for both cups, while Annabel Neasham’s stable star Zaaki (CP) – who has three feature wins in Australia – is the favourite for the Cox Plate. 

Both horses burst onto the scene during Queensland’s winter carnival, with Incentivise registering six straight wins by ever-increasing margins, culminating in a 12-length demolition of the field in the Group 3 Tattersall’s Cup (2400m). If anything, former British galloper Zaaki made an even greater impression by winning the Group 1 Channel 7 Doomben Cup (2000m) by seven lengths, before following up with another dominant performance in the Group 2 Sky Racing Q22 (2200m). 

Greg Carpenter, Racing Victoria’s (RV) Executive General Manager – Racing, said: “Today’s release of nominations officially begins the countdown to the 2021 Victorian Spring Racing Carnival, and represents an exciting time for racing fans and punters who will begin poring over the entries and choosing their horses to follow this spring.

“It is always pleasing to see the defending champions headline the entries for the Lexus Melbourne Cup, Carlton Draught Caulfield Cup and Ladbrokes Cox Plate which are Australia’s most iconic races and will again provide a beacon for the nation in these challenging times.

“The Cups and Cox Plate always generate amazing storylines and while defending champions Verry Elleegant, Sir Dragonet and Twilight Payment are familiar names among the entries, we know that opportunities will arise for new heroes to be born and that is what makes the countdown so exciting.

“Can Denis Pagan create more history and train a Melbourne Cup winner? Can Edward or James Cummings join their grandfather Bart as a Cup winner? Can Verry Elleegant cement her future place in racing’s Hall of Fame by adding a Cox Plate to her Caulfield Cup title? There are so many great questions to be answered.

“We’re very pleased with the nominations received today across all the feature races and whilst the international contingent is down on quantity as expected, the nominations from abroad remain high on quality and their journey in the weeks and months ahead will create plenty of interest.

“The challenges presented by the COVID pandemic both internationally and domestically in terms of travel cannot be underestimated and in setting a new global safety benchmark for the Spring Racing Carnival additional challenges have emerged, but we make no apology for that.

“This is the year of opportunity. Take the Ladbrokes Cox Plate for example. Five of the first six home in last year’s centenary race won’t be running this year, paving the way for new challengers to Sir Dragonet to emerge. There are great opportunities for hometown heroes to be created this Spring and for our friends from New Zealand to be major contenders in our Carnival.

“The Victorian Spring Racing Carnival has provided some of the nation’s greatest sporting moments, and with over $100 million in prizemoney and bonuses on offer this spring and a revamped end to the carnival this November, we are confident that it will again deliver fantastic racing for all to enjoy.”

Explosive Jack (CC, CP, MC) – one of five Derby winners in the list of nominations – was one of the breakout stars during the autumn and winter period, having claimed the Tasmanian Derby (2200m), Australian Derby (2400m) and South Australian Derby (2500m) in a superb three-month streak for the Maher and Eustace stable. 

Having been nominated for the Melbourne Cup, Johnny Get Angry (CC, MC), who delivered a fairy-tale victory in last year’s Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) for former AFL Premiership coach Denis Pagan, will now attempt to become only the 17th horse in history to win both races at Flemington.   

Duais (CC, CP, MC), the winner of the Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2200m), could also continue her meteoric rise by claiming one of Australian racing’s crown jewels for her trainer Edward Cummings, whose grandfather (Bart) and great grandfather (Jim) both etched their names into Melbourne Cup folklore. Edward’s brother James and father Anthony will be hoping to do likewise with their leading Cup entries Colette (CC, CP, MC) and Nancho (CC, CP, MC).

The connections of two horses can already start mapping out their spring programs, with Listed Neds Mornington Cup (2400m) winner Mount Popa and Listed The Andrew Ramsden (2800m) heroine Realm Of Flowers having assured their places in the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups respectively. 

From further afield, Twilight Payment (CC, CP, MC) and his stablemate Master Of Reality (CC, CP, MC), who has run in the past two editions of the Melbourne Cup, form part of Joseph O’Brien’s quartet of nominations alongside USA Belmont Gold Cup winner Baron Samedi (CC, MC) and Benaud, the northern hemisphere three-year-old who has only been entered for the Melbourne Cup. 

They are among 16 internationally-trained horses holding a collective 28 entries across the three major races in the Victorian Spring Carnival.

Perhaps the overseas nominee most familiar to a local audience is Prince Of Arran (CC, MC), Charlie Fellowes’ popular gelding who has compiled an outstanding record on Australian soil. Incredibly, of his eight runs Down Under Prince Of Arran has only finished outside the first three once, when he came fourth in last year’s Caulfield Cup (2400m). 

His subsequent third under Jamie Kah in the Melbourne Cup (3200m) extended his formidable record in ‘the race that stops a nation’, following a runner-up finish in 2019 and another minor placing on his debut in 2018. Prince Of Arran’s previous visits to Victoria have also produced two victories, in the 2018 Lexus Stakes (2500m) and the 2019 Geelong Cup (2400m).

Another high-profile international entrant is Spanish Mission, who has been nominated for the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups. Trained by Englishman Andrew Balding, a frequent visitor to Australia in recent years, Spanish Mission has emerged as a seriously consistent stayer with five wins – including four at Stakes level – and five minor placings from 14 career starts. 

In his most recent outing the northern hemisphere five-year-old, who is owned by the US-based Team Valor International, finished third in the Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup (4014m) at Royal Ascot. His last win came in the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup Stakes at York in May, when he comfortably beat Group 1 winner Santiago.

Lone Eagle (CP, CC, MC), trained in England by multiple Group 1 winner Martyn Meade, is also a notable nominee. The son of renowned sire Galileo has a 50 per cent win rate, and recently came within a neck of breaking through at Group 1 level in the Irish Derby.

A little closer to home, a strong Kiwi contingent is headlined by the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained The Chosen One (CC, MC), who finished third and fourth in last year’s Caulfield and Melbourne Cups respectively, and a high-class team of entries from the powerful Jamie Richards stable in Group 1 winning mares Probabeel (CP), Avantage (CP) and Amarelinha (CC, CP).

To view the full list of nominations for the $5 million Carlton Draught Caulfield Cup, which takes place at Caulfield on Saturday, 16 October, please click here

To view the full list of nominations for the $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate, which takes place at The Valley on Saturday, 23 October, please click here

To view the full list of nominations for the $8 million Lexus Melbourne Cup, which takes place at Flemington on Tuesday, 2 November, please click here

Today also saw nominations taken for the Spring Racing Carnival’s coveted Group 1 three-year-old classics at Caulfield, the Neds Caulfield Guineas (1600m) and the Thousand Guineas (1600m).

The Neds Caulfield Guineas is Australia’s premier three-year-old mile and the headline race on 9 October – the opening day of the 2021 Carlton Draught Caulfield Cup Carnival.

A total of 278 horses – up from 264 last year – have been nominated for the $2 million race headlined by the heroes of last season’s two-year-old crop in Stay Inside (G1 Golden Slipper), Anamoe (G1 Sires Produce), Artorius (G1 Blue Diamond), Captivant (G1 Champagne Stakes) and Converge (G1 JJ Atkins Stakes).
 
The Thousand Guineas for three-year-old fillies returns to its traditional home on day two of the Caulfield Cup Carnival this year – Wednesday, 9 October – and has attracted 249 entries, 11 more than last year.

Headlining the entries for the Thousand Guineas is unbeaten blueblood Argentia, Four Moves Ahead, Arcaded, Crystal Bound and She’s All Class

To view the full list of nominations for the $2 million Neds Caulfield Guineas, which takes place at Caulfield on Saturday, 9 October, please click here

To view the full list of nominations for the $1 million Thousand Guineas, which takes place at Caulfield on Wednesday, 13 October, please click here