Lexus Melbourne Cup contenders to emerge at home and abroad
Racing in Australia and abroad this weekend marks the official start of the Road to the Lexus Melbourne Cup with the Lexus Andrew Ramsden joined by a plethora of races interstate and in Europe that have been long regarded as Cup pointers.
While May is not traditionally associated with unearthing Lexus Melbourne Cup contenders, eight of last year's 23 runners stepped out on this weekend with a further two running either side.
Last year's Lexus Andrew Ramsden winner Realm Of Flowers did not take her place in the November feature, but those who finished second (Grand Promenade), third (Miami Bound) and fourth (Persan) all made it to the 'race that stops a nation'™.
South Australian Derby winner Explosive Jack also made it to the Lexus Melbourne Cup, while eventual Cup runner-up Incentivise continued his fairytale rise from obscurity by taking out a 2150m Benchmark 70 handicap at Toowoomba by seven and a quarter lengths.
Overseas, Spanish Mission took out the Yorkshire Cup this weekend last year, while Sir Lucan won the Yeats Stakes and Twilight Payment finished third in the Saval Beg Stakes.
That octet were joined in the final field by Knights Order, who ran in the Wagga Wagga Gold Cup and the Lord Mayors Cup on either side of this weekend, and Carif, who finished fourth in the Gosford Gold Cup a week earlier.
With a golden ticket into the Lexus Melbourne Cup on the line in the Listed Lexus Andrew Ramsden (2800m), horses like Splendiferous, Point Nepean, Luncies and Warning will have their chance to press their claims for a berth on the first Tuesday in November. Even without victory tomorrow, there are still further opportunities later in the year with golden tickets on offer in the Group 3 The Bart Cummings (2500m) and the Group 3 Lexus Hotham Stakes (2500m).
The Group 1 South Australian Derby (2500m) already looks to have a ready-made Lexus Melbourne Cup contender in VRC St Leger winner and Penfolds Victoria Derby runner-up Alegron, while the unbeaten Detonator Jack - a son of late Melbourne Cup placegetter Jakkalberry - could develop into a Cups chance for Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock.
Last weekend's Listed Wagga Wagga Gold Cup (2000m) saw promising Chris Waller-trained import Aleas take victory, while the Listed Gosford Gold Cup (2080m) featured a pair of Irish imports with Numerian holding off Lexus Hotham Stakes winner and last year's Lexus Melbourne Cup runner Great House.
Tonight's Group 2 Yorkshire Cup (2800m) features Stradivarius looking for a third win in the race and, while the eight-year-old is unlikely to travel to Australia at this stage of his career, it may be worth watching younger horses like Tashkhan, Thunderous and Max Vega who could develop into Lexus Melbourne Cup contenders.
Also contesting the Yorkshire Cup is two-time Irish St Leger winner Search For A Song, but it is her brother Kyprios who creates more interest as a long odds-on favourite in the Group 3 Saval Beg Stakes (2800m) at Leopardstown.
The Saval Beg has been won by Melbourne Cup winners Media Puzzle and Twilight Payment and Kyprios, who is trained by Aidan O'Brien, looks to be a promising type for the race following his big win over his sister in the Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan.
The Listed Yeats Stakes (2600m), contested tomorrow at Navan, has been run for five years with two winners - Southern France and Sir Lucan - making it to the Lexus Melbourne Cup.
Favourite Arbutus creates even more interest as he is out of three-time Australian Group 1 winner Sea Siren, making a future Australian career appear even more alluring.
Tomorrow’s Group 3 Al Rayyan Stakes (2400m) at Newbury could also see the emergence of a Lexus Melbourne Cup chance with Scope, who defeated The Queen’s Chalk Stream – now based in Australia – by almost eight lengths in the Noel Murless Stakes, set to make his seasonal reappearance.
Caption: Spanish Mission won the Yorkshire Cup this weekend last year.