The Darren Weir-trained Signoff secured the final place on the 2014 Melbourne Cup field on Saturday after winning the Group 3 Lexus Stakes (2500m) at Flemington Racecourse.
The winner of the Lexus Stakes earns an automatic entry into the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m), and Signoff earned his berth with an easy 2½ length victory over Big Memory.
Signoff’s Derby Day performance earned him a 1kg penalty for the Melbourne Cup, which bumps his assigned weight to 51kg – the lightest of the24 horses on the field. Shocking (2009) was the last horse to win the Melbourne Cup at this weight .
Joao Moreira brought the four-year-old home to victory in the 2014 Lexus Stakes and will again partner the gelding on Tuesday; however the superstar international jockey has advised connections he cannot strip his frame to lower than 51.5kg, which means Signoff will have to ride half a kilogram over his assigned weight – in line with Unchain My Heart.
Weir would rather Moreira was able to get down to the minimum weight but conceded he would rather the hoop retain his ride than find another who could carry 51kg.
“It is not ideal to be over weight, I just hope it’s not the difference between winning and losing,” Weir told Sky Racing.
Signoff’s owner Gerry Ryan meanwhile is not fazed by the news, keen to have Moreira in the saddle even if he is over his allotted handicap.
“Who else can ride at that weight?” Ryan said at the live barrier draw Saturday evening.
“Joao is a world-class rider and makes up the difference in weight.”
Signoff drew barrier 16 at the live event at Flemington Racecourse on Saturday evening following the action of Derby Day. The 3200m start at Flemington allows a great opportunity for all runners, even those drawn wide, to find their way into a favourable position and win the race.
Barrier 16 has brought home three winners in the Melbourne Cup, the last of which was Jezabeel in 1998.
Signoff is in good form ahead of the ‘race that stops the nation’ having finished top three in his last three starts. He was a close runner-up in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) on October 11 before getting a minor placing in the Group 3 David Jones Cup (2000m) one week later.
After winning the Lexus Stakes, the gelding has won his two starts over 2500 metres and is ready to make the step up to two miles. Punters were impressed with his Derby Day win, with his price surging to $8 in the Melbourne Cup betting at Ladbrokes.com.au.