For the first time since 2010 the weights for Australia’s two iconic Group 1 staying races have been released on the same day, with Godolphin gelding Hartnell assigned topweight for the BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m), and the Aidan O’Brien-trained Order of St George the topweight for the Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m).
In a media conference at Racing Victoria (RV) this morning, RV’s Executive General Manager – Racing Greg Carpenter allocated 58kg to James Cummings’ stable star for the Caulfield showpiece on Saturday, 21 October, and the same weight to the dual Irish St Leger winner for ‘the race that stops the nation’ at Flemington on Tuesday, 7 November.
Hartnell was amongst the top 10 rated horses in the world in 2016, thanks to his superb performance when defeating Jameka in the Seppelt Turnbull Stakes (2000m).
Hartnell was allocated 55kg in last year’s Caulfield Cup but did not contest the race, instead chasing home Winx in the Cox Plate (2040m) before finishing third in the Melbourne Cup carrying 56kg.
The only original topweight to win the Caulfield Cup was Dunaden, who carried 58kg to victory in 2012.
“Hartnell proved he was one of the best horses in the world in the Turnbull Stakes, and his other Group 1 win came in the 2400m BMW Stakes in April 2015,” Carpenter said.
“His winning return in the P.B. Lawrence Stakes at Caulfield last month was very impressive, so he is ideally suited to the Caulfield Cup and is a worthy topweight.”
Last year’s Melbourne Cup winner, Almandin, is next in the weights with 56.5kg, while the Darren Weir-trained duo, Japanese import Admire Deus and Australian Cup (2000m) winner Humidor, have both been allocated 56kg.
“Admire Deus was a difficult horse to assess,” Carpenter said. “He is a high-class performer from Japan who ran brilliantly when finishing fourth on home soil in the Tenno Sho over 3200m in May, but whilst he has run at the highest level he has not won a race since 2015.
“Humidor was outstanding when winning the Group 1 Australian Cup at Flemington, where he beat Jameka and Exospheric, and was then second to Jameka in the BMW – Tancred Stakes over 2400m on a heavy track.”
Order of St George has been assigned topweight in the Melbourne Cup for the second year in succession, and will aim to deliver a sixth victory in the race for Hall of Fame owner Lloyd Williams.
The Irish-bred five-year-old justified favouritism when beating Torcedor by nine lengths in Sunday’s Irish St Leger at the Curragh.
Order of St George won the same race by 11 lengths in 2015, and was subsequently allocated 54kg in the Melbourne Cup as a Northern Hemisphere three-year-old, which represented 1.5kg under weight-for-age.
In 2016, he won the Ascot Gold Cup and was allocated 58kg in the Melbourne Cup, the same weight he has been given this year.
“This is the third year the star Irish stayer has been entered for the Emirates Melbourne Cup, and I will be disappointed if his connections don’t take up the challenge of competing in the world’s best 3200m race at Flemington on the first Tuesday in November,” Carpenter said.
O’Brien has had eight previous runners in the Melbourne Cup, with Bondi Beach his most recent representative in the 2016 edition.
Mahler produced his best result when finishing third behind Efficient in 2007. O’Brien’s champion stayer Yeats, who won an Irish St Leger and four Ascot Gold Cups, ran seventh in the 2006 Melbourne Cup with 59kg on his back.
The last original topweight to win the Melbourne Cup was Comic Court, in 1950. Since then, 23 have competed in the race and none has managed to run a place.
Over the past four decades, 35 horses have carried 58kg or more in the Melbourne Cup, with only Makybe Diva winning when carrying 58kg in 2005.
Hartnell, appearing in his third Melbourne Cup, is next in the weights with 57.5kg. He is bidding to join a select group of horses to have won the Melbourne Cup at their third attempt, with Nimblefoot (in 1870), Bravo (1889), Spearfelt (1926), Comic Court (1950) and Empire Rose (1988) all achieving the feat.
Almandin has been allocated 56.5kg, an increase of 4.5kg on the weight he carried to victory in 2016. It is the same weight given last year to the 2015 champion Prince of Penzance, and represents a 3kg turnaround between Almandin and Hartnell from last year’s race.
“I decided to give Hartnell a slight discount in the Melbourne Cup weights to reflect his 3200m record,” Carpenter said.
“He finished 15th in 2015 and was a distant third last year. His only other run in Australia over 3200m was in the 2015 Sydney Cup, when he finished fourth.
“Almandin, meanwhile, is an outstanding stayer who has run just three times at 2200m and further – and won every time. While his margin of victory over Heartbreak City last year was narrow, they dominated the rest of the field with more than four lengths back to Hartnell in third.”
Almandin will attempt to join Makybe Diva (2003, 04, 05), Think Big (1974, 75), Rain Lover (1968, 69), Peter Pan (1932, 34) and Archer (1861, 62) as the only multiple winners of the Melbourne Cup.
With Admire Deus now being trained by Darren Weir, Albert, a two-time winner of the G2 Nippon Sho over 3600m, is the sole Japanese representative in the Melbourne Cup nominations.
Trainer Noriyuki Hori’s stayer has been allocated 55.5kg in his attempt to win a second Melbourne Cup for Japan, following Delta Blues’ victory in 2006.
New Zealand four-year-olds are strongly represented in both Cups, with Gingernuts allocated 55kg – the same weight another Kiwi four-year-old, Mongolian Khan, carried to victory in the 2015 Caulfield Cup.
Murray Baker’s mare Bonneval, who made a winning debut in Melbourne in the G2 Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) last Saturday, has been allocated 52.5kg in both races – the same weight Jameka carried to victory in last year’s Caulfield Cup. Light Fingers also carried 52.5kg as a four-year-old mare when winning the 1965 Melbourne Cup.
Other notable entries include:
- Tiberian (55.5kg), the French-trained stayer who has won four of five runs this season, including most recently the G2 Grand Prix de Deauville over 2500m.
- Red Cardinal (55kg), the Belmont Invitational Cup winner who is nominated for the Melbourne Cup only. His trainer, Andreas Wohler, won the 2014 race with Protectionist.
- Jon Snow (54.5kg), this year’s ATC Derby-winning three-year-old who has been allocated 54.5kg in both races for co-trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman.
- Max Dynamite (54kg), who ran second in the 2015 Melbourne Cup to Prince of Penzance with 55kg. He has been allocated 54kg in both races, but is yet to pass the ballot in the Caulfield Cup.
- Tally (54kg), the James Cummings-trained runner who is exempt from the ballot for the Caulfield Cup after winning the Mornington Cup.
- Who Shot Thebarman (54kg), Chris Waller’s evergreen stayer who will be lining up in his fourth Melbourne Cup, having run third in 2014, 11th in 2015 and fifth in 2016.
- Nakeeta (53kg), who is trained by Scottish horseman Iain Jardine and is attempting to become the first horse to complete the Ebor Handicap-Melbourne Cup double.
- Yankee Rose (52kg), who beat the males to win the G1 Spring Champion Stakes last Spring, before running third in the Cox Plate behind Winx and Hartnell.
First acceptances for the Caulfield Cup will be taken at 12 noon (AEST) on Tuesday, 26 September; while first acceptances for the Melbourne Cup will be taken at 12 noon (AEST) on Tuesday, 10 October.
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