By Jon Lees
Australia: The number of international entries in the 2021 Melbourne Cup have dropped by 50% compared to 12 months ago with Twilight Payment entered – but neither Charlie Appleby nor Aidan O’Brien have made nominations for the Spring Carnival.
Last year’s winner Twilight Payment is among four Joseph O’Brien-trained horses who have been engaged in a total international entry of 15 horses, down from 30 in 2020 and a high of 50 in 2018.
The drop has been attributed to the introduction of stringent new pre-race veterinary checks, brought in following the death of Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck last year, and COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Perennial visitor Prince Of Arran, who has finished third, second and third in the last three years, is also among 174 total Melbourne Cup entries as is the Martyn Meade-trained three-year-old Lone Eagle, runner-up in the Irish Derby.
Greg Carpenter, Racing Victoria’s executive general manager for racing, said: “We’re very pleased with the nominations received today across all the feature races and whilst the international contingent is down on quantity as expected, the nominations from abroad remain high on quality and their journey in the weeks and months ahead will create plenty of interest.
“The challenges presented by the COVID pandemic both internationally and domestically in terms of travel cannot be underestimated and in setting a new global safety benchmark for the Spring Racing Carnival additional challenges have emerged, but we make no apology for that.”
Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet and seven-time G1 winner Verry Elleegant, who landed the Caulfield Cup last year, headline the 153 nominations for the Cox Plate and 170 for the Caulfield Cup respectively.
As well as the previous champions, two of the most talked about horses in Australia former Queensland galloper Incentivise, now with Peter Moody and favourite for both Cups, is entered across all three feature prizes, while Annabel Neasham’s stable star Zaaki is in the Cox Plate, for which he is favourite.
Carpenter said: “Today’s release of nominations officially begins the countdown to the 2021 Victorian Spring Racing Carnival, and represents an exciting time for racing fans and punters who will begin poring over the entries and choosing their horses to follow this spring.
“It is always pleasing to see the defending champions headline the entries for the Lexus Melbourne Cup, Carlton Draught Caulfield Cup and Ladbrokes Cox Plate which are Australia’s most iconic races and will again provide a beacon for the nation in these challenging times.
“The Cups and Cox Plate always generate amazing storylines and while defending champions Verry Elleegant, Sir Dragonet and Twilight Payment are familiar names among the entries, we know that opportunities will arise for new heroes to be born and that is what makes the countdown so exciting.”
• View the entries for the Lexus Melbourne Cup