A total of 94 horses remain in contention for a start in the 2020 Melbourne Cup, the highest number of first acceptances in ten years.
Racing Victoria announced that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia’s most famous race had 82 locally-trained horses and 12 international horses paid up as first acceptors on Tuesday.
Over the past five years there has been an average of 16 overseas horses still in the mix at the same stage, but that number is down due to the additional restrictions imposed on travelling horses and their handlers due to the pandemic.
The biggest names to drop out of Melbourne Cup contention are smart stayer Mr Quickie, top Perth mare Arcadia Queen and Australian Oaks winner Colette.
There were 80 first acceptances at the corresponding time last year.
Chris Waller has the most in the running with nine, including Verry Elleegant and Finche .
Last year’s Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Danny O’Brien has six first acceptors, including reigning champion Vow And Declare and boom galloper Russian Camelot.
O’Brien also has Adelaide Cup winner King Of Leogrance, VRC Oaks winner Miami Bound and recent winners Orderofthegarter and Saracen Knight.
With an international rating of 121, Aidan O’Brien’s Anthony Van Dyck is the headline act among the shipment of international horses due to land in Melbourne on Friday night.
Hugh Bowman will ride him in the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.
His stablemate Santiago, set to be ridden by Irishman John Allen, is also among first acceptors alongside another highly-progressive horse from O’Brien’s world-renowned Ballydoyle stable in Tiger Moth.
A victory by the latter would give Kerrin McEvoy a fourth Melbourne Cup win if successful on November 3.
The pair were the first two home in this year’s Group One Irish Derby (2400m), with Santiago just getting the better of his stable companion in an epic duel.