The battle to claim a prestigious place on the start line for the 161st edition of the Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) has intensified today, with 60 horses now remaining in the hunt for the $8 million race after third acceptances closed at 12pm (AEDT).
Defending champion Twilight Payment, who arrived in Australia from his native Ireland over the weekend, and pre-race favourite Incentivise head the contenders set to chase the $4.6 million first prize before a capped but no doubt vocal crowd of 10,000 fully-vaccinated spectators at Flemington on Tuesday, 2 November.
Incentivise, who will shoot for his third straight Group 1 win in the Carlton Draught Caulfield Cup (2400m) this Saturday (16 October), is the headline among a group of today’s third acceptors who will be bidding to become only the 12th horse in history – and the first since Ethereal in 2001 – to claim the coveted cups double.
With eight successive wins in the form guide, Peter Moody’s budding superstar is the nation’s most talked-about horse but the overseas challenge could pose a serious threat to his local supremacy, with the Joseph O’Brien-trained Twilight Payment, Spanish Mission (Andrew Balding) and Away He Goes (Ismail Mohammed) all intent on continuing Europe’s recent dominance of Australia’s great race.
That talented trio are currently in quarantine in the TAB Werribee International Horse Centre alongside Sir Lucan, who has moved up to 40th place in the Melbourne Cup Order of Entry for the training team of Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott. The first lady of Australian racing has also accepted with the 2021 Lexus Brisbane Cup (3200m) winner Knights Order, who currently occupies the all-important 24th place in the Order of Entry.
Delphi shot into calculations with his tough win in last Saturday’s Group 2 Neds Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) – for which he was penalised 1kg – and the emerging Freedman Racing-trained stayer remains on course to take his place in the field for Flemington’s flagship event alongside his stablemate Realm Of Flowers, the ballot-exempt winner of The Andrew Ramsden (2800m) in May.
Another horse guaranteed a start in ‘the race that stops a nation’ is Grand Promenade, who claimed a golden ticket courtesy of his dominant display in The Lexus Bart Cummings (2520m). The British import is one of 10 third acceptors from the training team of Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, with reigning Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) champion Sir Dragonet, Gold Trip, Explosive Jack and Persan – who are all assured a start at this stage – amongst the horses vying to deliver a first Melbourne Cup win for Victoria’s leading stable.
Despite his extraordinary success, Chris Waller is also chasing a first win in the race and he will hope either reigning Victorian Racehorse of the Year Verry Elleegant, Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) winner Selino or recent Kiwi arrival Ocean Billy – the leading hopes of his five-strong acceptors – can deliver on the biggest stage of them all.
Herbert Power Stakes runner-up The Chosen One, who performed so well for Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman in both the 2020 Caulfield Cup (third) and Melbourne Cup (fourth), will be aiming to carry the same form into this year’s contests; whilst Baker’s son Bjorn is set to be represented by She’s Ideel, a recent winner of the Group 3 Kingston Town Stakes (2000m).
Tralee Rose, currently 27th in the Order of Entry, could sneak into the field to give Warrnambool trainer Symon Wilde his first taste of the Melbourne Cup; whilst the inclusion of Johnny Get Angry provides an opportunity for Denis Pagan to write another chapter in his fairy-tale story.
Four horses that had occupied a place in the top 24 of the Order of Entry have been withdrawn at the third acceptances stage. They are: Colette (trained by James Cummings), Hungry Heart (Chris Waller), Spirit Ridge (Mark Newnham) and Angel Of Truth (Team Hawkes).
The Group 3 Lexus Hotham Handicap (2500m), which takes place at Flemington on Saturday, 30 October, is the final ballot-exempt race for the Melbourne Cup.
To view the full list of third acceptances for the Lexus Melbourne Cup, please click here
To view an updated Melbourne Cup Order of Entry, please click here