Lexus Melbourne Cup field comes into sharper focus after fourth acceptances

Eight days out from the 161st running of Australia’s most famous race, the probable field set to line up in the Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) on the first Tuesday in November has become ever clearer following the closure of fourth acceptances at 10am (AEDT) today.

With 35 horses, including Peter Moody’s red-hot favourite Incentivise, now remaining in the hunt for the $8 million showpiece event, the battle to secure one of 24 golden tickets will intensify this week before the field is finalised on Penfolds Victoria Derby Day this Saturday (30 October).

Incentivise is guaranteed a start thanks to his emphatic victory in the Carlton Draught Caulfield Cup (2400m), and his opponents are set to include three internationally-trained gallopers in the shape of defending champion Twilight Payment (trained by Joseph O’Brien), second favourite Spanish Mission (Andrew Balding) and Away He Goes (Ismail Mohammed).

The trio will this week ramp up their preparations at the TAB Werribee International Horse Centre, with Twilight Payment bidding to reclaim bragging rights from his next-door neighbour State Of Rest, who delivered a first Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) win for O’Brien last Saturday.

Cox Plate minor placegetter Verry Elleegant, one of a quartet of fourth acceptors for Australia’s leading trainer Chris Waller, will aim to improve on her seventh-place finish in last year’s Melbourne Cup and claim a 10th Group 1 win next Tuesday.

Her stable companions, Sydney Cup (3200m) winner Selino (10th in the Order of Entry) and Auckland Cup (3200m) winner Ocean Billy (13th), are both assured their places in the final field, whereas Great House (26th) will be reliant on attrition or a ballot exemption in order to gain a start.

As it stands, Sir Lucan is in possession of the 24th and final Melbourne Cup berth, giving Gai Waterhouse – who trains in partnership with Adrian Bott – potentially two opportunities to win ‘the race that stops a nation’ for a second time. Lexus Brisbane Cup (3200m) winner Knights Order (16th in the Order of Entry) is guaranteed a place in the field; but with the winner of this Saturday’s Group 3 Lexus Hotham Handicap (2500m) at Flemington earning ballot exemption, the first lady of Australian racing faces a nervous wait to see if Sir Lucan will also line up.

Floating Artist, one of seven entrants for Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, is hopeful of winning his way into the great race through the Hotham Handicap. Should he qualify, the Maher and Eustace stable could well have four Melbourne Cup runners with The Lexus Bart Cummings (2520m) winner Grand Promenade (second in the Order of Entry), Explosive Jack (sixth) and last year’s fifth placegetter Persan (15th) already assured starts.

Forgot You is also hoping to leapfrog into the field with victory in Saturday’s Penfolds Victoria Derby (2500m) for his co-trainers Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young. The Savabeel colt, who holds favouritism for the Derby thanks to his last-start win in the Group 2 Drummond Golf Vase (2040m) at The Valley, is yet to pass the ballot but would be liable for a weight penalty should he win Victoria’s pre-eminent race for three-year-olds.

Fairy-tale enthusiasts can continue to cheer on Tralee Rose, who stamped her credentials with victory in the bet365 Geelong Cup (2400m) and remains among the fourth acceptors at 17th in the order of entry. The five-year-old mare, who will deliver a first Melbourne Cup experience for her trainer Symon Wilde and regular jockey Dean Holland, was a $50,000 bargain buy and would take her career earnings past the $5 million mark if she can triumph in Flemington’s flagship event.

For the full list of fourth acceptances for the Lexus Melbourne Cup, please click here

For the updated Melbourne Cup Order of Entry, please click here