Last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter has been allocated one of the race’s toughest-ever penalties at the announcement on Tuesday of the handicaps for the 2019 Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.
The Aidan O’Brien stayer Kew Gardens earned topweight of 58 kilograms for the $8 million race on November 5 but with 57.5kg, Godolphin horse Cross Counter faces the task of having to rise a whopping 6.5kg from his winning weight as a Northern Hemisphere three-year-old.
Godolphin’s Group 1-winning duo Avilius and Hartnell have been assigned the joint topweight of 58kg for the $5.15m Caulfield Cup.
Cross Counter, who surged to victory in last year’s Melbourne Cup for his British trainer Charlie Appleby, will carry 57.5kg this year as he bids to become the first horse since Makybe Diva in 2005 to retain the crown.
The 6.5kg increase from last year’s weight of 51kg is the joint-second-highest progression in the weight allocated to a Melbourne Cup winner since 1970, with only Gala Supreme – in 1974 – receiving a larger increase of 8.5kg.
With differing topweights across the two Cups, the majority of dual entries have received 0.5kg less in the Melbourne Cup than the Caulfield Cup.
Avilius has been handed 57.5kg in the Melbourne Cup, with brilliant Japanese mare Lys Gracieux next in the weight scale on 57kg.
“Kew Gardens was the world’s joint-highest-rated stayer alongside Stradivarius last year, he was a dominant winner of the 2018 St Leger at Doncaster and so is a worthy topweight among the 152 entries for this year’s Melbourne Cup,” said Carpenter.
“Cross Counter will carry 6.5kg more than when he won the Melbourne Cup, which is the same increase as Let’s Elope in 1992, but given the nature of his victory last year and the natural progression in the weight-for-age benchmark from a three-year-old to a four-year-old, I felt it was an appropriate penalty to impose.
“In the Caulfield Cup, Avilius and Hartnell have both proven themselves at the highest level and thus have been assigned equal topweight among the 145 entries.
“In the past 12 months, Avilius has won two Group 1 races at 2000 metres or further and was Australia’s highest-rated stayer, while Hartnell has maintained his place among the nation’s elite performers.
“The 2018 Caulfield Cup topweight Humidor has been assigned one kilo less for this year’s renewal, whilst Homesman’s superb win in the Group 2 Feehan Stakes at The Valley last Saturday has earned him 56.5kg in the Caulfield Cup and 56kg in the Melbourne Cup.
“Homesman had 53kg when a narrow second to Best Solution in last year’s Caulfield Cup.
“Inevitably the internationals will again pose a formidable challenge to the locally-trained stayers, with the first three home in the 2018 Melbourne Cup all set to return to Melbourne this year, but if the likes of Andrew Ramsden winner Steel Prince and Adelaide Cup winner Surprise Baby can maintain their form throughout the spring, I’m sure the visiting horses will have a real fight on their hands.”
The weights allocated to other notable entries are as follows:
• 2018 Melbourne Cup placegetters Marmelo (Hughie Morrison) and Prince Of Arran (Charlie Fellowes) both have same weight as they carried 12 months prior with 56kg and 53kg respectively. Prince of Arran has 53.5kg in the Caulfield Cup;
• Andrew Ramsden winner Steel Prince (Anthony Freedman) is guaranteed a start in the Melbourne Cup and has 52.5kg – the same weight as the horse he narrowly defeated in the ballot exemption race, Surprise Baby (Paul Preusker). Both horses carry 0.5kg more in the Caulfield Cup;
• Northern Hemisphere three-year-olds have won the past two Melbourne Cups and the equal highest weighted on 52.5kg are Lindsay Park import Constantinople, German Derby runner-up Django Freeman (Robert Hickmott) and Lonsdale Cup placegetter Il Paradiso (Aidan O’Brien). The former two are also nominated for the Caulfield Cup and have 53kg;
• Six-time Melbourne Cup-winning owner Lloyd Williams has multiple runners in contention for a start in the 2019 edition including Joseph O’Brien-trained trio Master of Reality (55.5kg), Latrobe (55kg) and Twilight Payment (55kg) and Liam Howley-trained trio Homesman, Johannes Vermeer (55kg) and Yucatan (54.5kg);
• Last start German Group 1 winner Danceteria (David Menuisier), one of two late entries for the Caulfield Cup alongside Constantinople, has been allocated 56kg for the 19 October feature;
• Soon-to-arrive imports Mirage Dancer (Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young) and Southern France (Ciaron Maher and David Eustace) have also been allocated 56kg in the Caulfield Cup – 0.5kg more than the Melbourne Cup;
• Recent Group 1 Winx Stakes winner Samadoubt (Bjorn Baker) – who is entered for the Caulfield Cup only – shares the line with them at 56kg;
• The Australian Bloodstock-owned Ebor Handicap winner Mustajeer (Kris Lees) has 55.5kg in the Caulfield Cup and 55kg in the Melbourne Cup, while runner-up Red Galileo (Saeed bin Suroor) has 53kg and 52.5kg respectively and third placegetter Desert Skyline (David Elsworth) has 53kg in the Melbourne Cup;
• Emerging stayer Mer De Glace (Hisashi Shimizu), a winner of his past five starts, is one of five Japanese entries across the Cups and is weighted on 55.5kg in the Caulfield Cup and 55kg in the Melbourne Cup;
• Brisbane Cup winner Sixties Groove (Kris Lees) has been allotted 54.5kg in the Caulfield Cup and 54kg in the Melbourne Cup – 0.5kg more in both races than Sydney Cup winner Shraaoh (Chris Waller);
• The highest weighted locally-trained four-year-old is ATC Derby winner Angel of Truth (Gwenda Markwell) who has been assigned 54kg in the Caulfield Cup and 53.5kg in the Melbourne Cup;
• Fellow three-year-old classic winners among the entries are Queensland Derby winner Mr Quickie (Phillip Stokes) who has 53kg/52.5kg, New Zealand Derby winner Crown Prosecutor (Stephen Marsh) who has 53kg/52.5kg and South Australian Derby winner Qafila (David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig) who has 51.5kg/51kg; and
• ATC Oaks winner Verry Elleegant (Chris Waller) is weighted on 52.5kg for the Caulfield Cup, while Queensland Oaks winner Winning Ways (Garry Newnham) has 51kg in the same race. Verry Elleegant drops to 52kg in the Melbourne Cup.
First acceptances for the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup will be taken at noon on Tuesday, October 1.