Aidan O’Brien’s Yeats has been given top weight for November’s Emirates Melbourne Cup with the dual Ascot Gold Cup winner allotted 59kg, the same as carried when running seventh in Australia’s richest race last year.
O’Brien nominated five horses for the race, but doubts persist over whether the champion Irish trainer will bring any of them to Australia, with uncertainty over the equine influenza outbreak which has crippled Australian racing.
Melbourne racing resumed on Saturday, but Sydney racing remains cancelled with the outbreak spreading to 700 horses stabled at Randwick racecourse late last week.
Of O’Brien’s other nominations, Scorpion will carry 58kg, Septimus 57kg, Hitchcock 50kg and Mahler 50kg.
Racing Victoria’s chief handicapper Greg Carpenter said Yeats had held the same form as last year and warranted being treated at the same level.
“He was beaten with 59kg in last year’s Emirates Melbourne Cup and there’s no evidence Yeats is going any better than in 2006, therefore I’ve assessed him as the same horse and on the same weight,” he said.
Hong Kong galloper Viva Pataca was also allotted 59kg but will not be travelling to Australia with trainer John Moore playing it safe in view of the EI outbreak. Last year’s winner, Delta Blues from Japan, was allotted 58kg, but will not be travelling to Australia.
The other international horses near the top of the weights are Jambalaya (57.5kg) and Sky Conqueror (57.5kg) , as well as Godolphin’s Laverock (56.0kg) and Dermot Weld’s Bellamy Cay (55.0kg).
Of the local horses who are likely to run, ruling 10-1 favourite Efficient, the 2006 Victoria Derby winner, will carry 54kg, while 2006 Caulfield Cup winner Tawqeet has 56.5kg. David Hayes’ five-time Group 1 winning mare Miss Finland, the Cox Plate favourite, has been given 53kg in both Cups.
“The last four-year-old mare to carry 53kg and win the Emirates Melbourne Cup was Light Fingers in 1965, so Miss Finland has the challenge of equalling the weight-carrying record for a four-year-old mare,” Carpenter said.
There are 257 nominations for November’s race but that number will reduce dramatically after first declarations are taken on Tuesday September 11.