Racing Victoria’s chief handicapper Greg Carpenter had the intricate job of allocating weights to all 162 Melbourne Cup nominees, including all international horses.
This year’s Melbourne Cup nominations closed on September 1st instead of the previous August 1st to allow for more accurate selections.
The release of weights was also delayed by 13 days in order to allow for races on Makybe Diva Stakes Day, Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes Day and the Irish St Leger to be included for consideration.
“We used to get a lot of people paying the nomination fee… and then find that by the times the weights came out there was another horse that had come up (or the original horse was not ready),” Carpenter said.
“(The new date) would take into account the Makybe Diva stakes… and of course the Irish St Leger.
“This year that form has been able to be built into the weights.”
There are still a large number of horses nominated for this year’s $6 million Melbourne Cup that haven’t passed the first clause of the ballot.
One of these horses is December Draw who is already attracting attention for his three impressive wins since arriving in Australia in May.
“December Draw has not passed the ballot for the Melbourne Cup… so in actual fact he is in the bottom half of the ballot,” Carpenter said.
December Draw’s only hope is to win this weekend’s Naturalism Stakes, which will grant him automatic entry into the $2.5 million Caulfield Cup next month.
“With 50 and a half (kilograms) that would still not get him into the race,” Carpenter said.
“If he wins that he can be penalised for both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cup.
“From there he’s got to run in the Caulfield Cup.”
A finish in the first eight of the Caulfield Cup would qualify December Draw for the Melbourne Cup ballot, however, would not guarantee him a run unless he were to win.
Carpenter said that any horse that won the Naturalism Stakes this weekend would likely to receive a penalty for the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.
“I think the Naturalism Stakes on Saturday is of sufficient quality to assume the winner would get a penalty,” he said.
“It would be probable that one of those horses would take a penalty.”
The handicapper feels that December Draw is a good chance for this weekend’s race.
“He’s undefeated at Flemington,” Carpenter said.
“He ran second to Philda at Moonee Valley.
“He’s a very exciting horse, he’s just got to convert that potential into a win on Saturday.”
Another international horse, Scarlett Lady, is guaranteed of a run in both the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup, despite only receiving 51 kilograms.
“She is definitely going to get a run in both races,” Carpenter said.
“That’s (50kg) the equivalent of an older mare having 54.”
New Zealand will be hoping for their first Melbourne Cup winner since Ethereal won the Cup in 2001.
“(Ethereal) won the Caulfield Cup with a lighter weight with 50(kg) and then the Cup with 52 (kg),” Carpenter said.
“Scarlett Lady had group form in New Zealand to support (her chances), whereas Ethereal… in her New Zealand form she hadn’t won a Group race.”
Carpenter has allocated Americain 58 kilograms for the Melbourne Cup, where he will attempt to defend the title he won last year.
“He’s already entered quarantine; the only question with Americain is where he has his leading run to the Melbourne Cup,” Carpenter said.
“They (Americain’s owners) are wanting to run prior to the Melbourne Cup.
“There’s a good chance we’ll see him run in the Cox Plate.”
Carpenter said that while winning the cup with 58 kilograms on his back would be a difficult task, winning two consecutive Melbourne Cups was never meant to be easy.
“Since 1972 there have been 35 horses who have run in the Melbourne Cup with 58 kilograms or more,” he said.
“This year’s cup is going to be very strong.
“There is a lot of quality in the overseas form.”
Americain finished a disappointing tenth in his last start in the Group 2 Prix Kergorlay in France.
“It was a run you could really ignore,” Carpenter said.
“The winner Jukebox Jury led in the race… and he won very impressively.
“But really from second to tenth… was only about 2 lengths.”
While five-year-old gelding Dangerous Midge is nominated for the Melbourne Cup, Carpenter suspects he will most likely travel to America to defend his Breeder’s Cup title in November.
“We don’t actually know too much about where he is tracking,” Carpenter said.
“He was one of the highest rated in the world last year.
“He hasn’t been seen this season; he did an early entry for the Caulfield Cup and didn’t accept.
“We understand he will be running in the next week or so.
“(A Melbourne Cup start is) not ruled out but I think it’s unlikely.”
Irish St Leger winner Jukebox Jury has been allocated 57 kilograms for the Melbourne Cup after his recent performances in England, Ireland and France.
“He’s been a high quality horse for a number of years now… he’s only a five-year-old,” Carpenter said.
“They took him to Dubai…and he ran pretty poorly there.
“This year he won first up, winning a race impressively in France.
“A percentage of the horse has been purchased by Australian interest so he’s definitely coming.
“(But) I don’t know who has purchased the horse in partnership with the original owners.”
Godolphin owned Cavalryman is also nominated for the Melbourne Cup this year.
It is usual for Godolphin to enter their horses in both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cup, however, this year they are concentrating wholly on the Flemington feature.
“Godolphin…usually enter for the Caulfield and the Melbourne Cup,” Carpenter said.
“Cavalryman was a fantastic three-year-old.
“He hasn’t won since, his last win was actual two years to the day the weights were released on Tuesday.
“(But) this year he was second to Jukebox Jury beaten a length.”
Impressive Hong Kong galloper Mighty High is nominated for both Cups and has been allocated 54.5 kilograms for the Melbourne Cup.
“He’s actually going to run in Caulfield next week,” Carpenter said.
“I think (trainer) John (Moore) is very pleased it will give him a chance to blow out the cobwebs going into the Caulfield Cup.
“John Moore has a burning ambition to win a Group 1 wish in Australia.
“I think Mighty High is going to be a very good chance, particularly in the Caulfield Cup.”
Drunken Sailor will be looking to make this year’s Melbourne Cup field after failing to make the cut last year.
“There was a big push for this horse last year and he actually came out to Australia…and he wasn’t able to get himself into the field,” Carpenter said.
“This year he won the Glorious Goodwood Stakes where he beat Harris Tweed (UK) and Jukebox Jury.
“He’ll probably run in the Geelong Cup again.”
Carpenter believes French runner Dunaden (54kg) has a very realistic chance in this year’s Cup.
“Dunaden is a very capable French stayer,” he said.
“He finished in front of Americain (in the past).
“Between Jukebox Jury and this horse in the weights there is 3 kilograms and they ran level in France.
“Probably the Melbourne Cup for him is the main target.”
There continues to be a great deal of interest in former German stayer Lucas Cranach, who has been purchased by Australian interests and is awaiting his upcoming spring carnival campaign under new trainer Anthony Freedman.
“He’s got a wonderful strike rate,” Carpenter said.
“He’s been purchased by similar connection to (Illustrious Blue).
“To be perfectly honest with you…the reports coming out from Lee Freedman (in England) is that this horse is a serious Group 1 horse.
“The early reports from the stable are very positive.”
Carpenter also touched on the chances of Bart Cummings’ latest stable addition, Illo.
“(Illo was) purchased by similar interest to December Draw and My Kingdom Of Fife,” Carpenter said.
“(But) his best form is 2000 metres”
“We’ll just see what the amazing J.B. Cummings can do with the horse.”
Despite the hype surrounding the international Melbourne Cup competitors, Carpenter still predicts a local horse will win the race but found it hard to go past a certain European galloper.
“I’d be looking for a hometown winner but from the internationals I think Jukebox Jury is in really good form,” he said.