Pre-race favourite Vauban has been given a weight of 55 kilograms for the Lexus Melbourne Cup.
Willie Mullins’ charge, who won the 2022 Triumph Hurdle, heads the market for the November 7 contest after winning each of his two starts on the level this term – chalking up a seven-and-a-half-length victory in the Copper Horse Handicap at Royal Ascot before landing the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes in fine style last time out.
The five-year-old’s weight has him 3.5kg behind last year’s winner and top weight Gold Trip.
Mullins has a second string to his bow in Absurde, who is guaranteed a start in the Group 1 contest after winning the Ebor under a fine Frankie Dettori ride at York last month.
He finished second to Vauban at Ascot and has been given 53kg for the Flemington showpiece, while Aidan O’Brien’s Broome, winner of the Dubai Gold Cup back in March, has 56.5kg.
O’Brien also has St Leger fourth Tower Of London on 50.5kg, with son Joseph – already a dual winner of the race with Rekindling (2017) and Twilight Payment (2020) – having Valiant King (50kg) and Okita Soushi (51.5kg) in the field.
The William Haggas-trained Desert King, who finished a gallant third for the King and Queen in Saturday’s St Leger, has been given 51.5kg.
Fellow Newmarket-trained runner West Wind Blows is on 54kg for Simon and Ed Crisford, with the four-year-old already in Australia ahead of a possible run in the Turnbull Stakes on October 7.
Dermot Weld, who broke new ground when sending Vintage Crop to become the first northern hemisphere-trained winner of the race in 1993 before adding another victory nine years later with Media Puzzle, has Harbour Wind in contention this year but his weight of 50kg leaves him well down the field, which has a limit of 24 runners.
Other familiar names in the field include ex-Haggas runners Alenquer (56.5kg) and Soulcombe (53.5kg), last year’s second Emissary (52kg) plus Francesco Guardi (54kg) and El Bodegon (55.5kg), who were both previously trained by James Ferguson, and last year’s Irish Oaks victor Magical Lagoon (51kg).
Racing Victoria’s head of handicapping David Hegan said: “Gold Trip is the standout performer among the entries for both Cups [Melbourne and Caulfield] and the natural topweight with Broome the only Group 1 winner among an international contingent that boasts an assortment of rapidly emerging stayers.
“We have effectively lifted Gold Trip 2kg from his true weight last year, which is less than the penalty afforded other Melbourne Cup winners in recent times, however we are mindful that it is 48 years since a horse has carried 58.5kg to victory in either Cup so a significant challenge awaits.”