Reigning Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) champion Twilight Payment (IRE) and last-start Group 1 Irish St Leger (2800m) winner Sonnyboyliston (IRE) share the topweight of 58kg for the 2021 renewal of Australia’s most famous race, whilst last year’s Ladbrokes Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet (IRE) will be asked to carry the topweight of 58kg should he choose to contest the Carlton Draught Caulfield Cup (2400m).
Tuesday's release of weights by Racing Victoria’s (RV) Executive General Manager – Racing, Greg Carpenter, continues the countdown to two of the crown jewels of Australian racing, with the $5 million Caulfield Cup set to take place at Caulfield on Saturday, 16 October and Flemington’s flagship occasion, the $8 million Melbourne Cup, occupying its traditional date on the first Tuesday in November.
There is a distinctly Irish theme to this year’s cups announcement, with the topweights for the respective contests all bred in the Emerald Isle. It comes after Sunday’s Irish St Leger at The Curragh, in which Johnny Murtagh’s Ebor Handicap winner Sonnyboyliston – named after former heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Liston – landed a knockout blow over Twilight Payment.
Last year Twilight Payment, who like Sonnyboyliston only holds an entry for the Melbourne Cup, carried 55.5kg to victory for his Irish trainer Joseph O’Brien and part-owner Lloyd Williams. His 2.5kg weight increase mirrors that of the last Melbourne Cup winner to successfully defend their crown, Makybe Diva in 2005.
Sir Dragonet, who has been allocated 57.5kg in the Melbourne Cup, made an eye-catching return to action for his co-trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace in the Group 1 contest named in honour of the mighty mare, the Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m).
The winner of that race, Peter Moody’s Incentivise, arrived from Queensland with a reputation ahead of the 2021 Victorian Spring Racing Carnival. That reputation was only enhanced by his victory at Flemington last Saturday, and he will be asked to carry 55.5kg in both cups as he aims to deliver a first major for Moody, who of course made his name through Black Caviar’s extraordinary feats.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given his run of seven straight wins, Incentivise is the warm pre-weights favourite for both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups, with Andrew Balding’s raider Spanish Mission (USA) on the second line of betting with most bookmakers.
Spanish Mission is currently in quarantine in England ahead of his impending arrival in Australia on Saturday, 25 September, and the northern hemisphere five-year-old has been allocated 57kg for both cups. Fellow Melbourne Cup aspirant Gold Trip (FR), who is also due to arrive on the first international shipment, has been assigned the same weight for the Flemington feature.
Last year’s Caulfield Cup heroine and the reigning Victorian Racehorse of the Year, Chris Waller’s Verry Elleegant (NZ), will have to shoulder 57.5kg in her bid to become the first horse since Rising Fast in 1955 to go back-to-back in the world’s richest turf handicap over 2400m. The Zed mare, who has eight Group 1 wins to her name, has been allocated half-a-kilo less in the Melbourne Cup, having finished seventh in 2020.
“As always there is plenty of debate over the weights scale for the cups which will no doubt continue over the coming weeks, but after his all-the-way win in last year’s Melbourne Cup there is little doubt that Twilight Payment deserves to be at the top of the weights for the 2021 edition of Australia’s greatest race,” said Carpenter.
“In his fascinating duel with Twilight Payment in the Irish St Leger in the early hours of Monday morning, Sonnyboyliston again showed that he is a rapidly progressing stayer having won what is considered Europe’s biggest staying handicap on his previous start, and so he is worthy of carrying the joint topweight of 58kg.
“Neither horse holds an entry for the Caulfield Cup and so the topweight of 58kg for Caulfield’s showpiece occasion has been allocated to Sir Dragonet, who was such a dominant winner of the 2020 Cox Plate and showed he will again be a force this spring with his fast-finishing third in the Makybe Diva Stakes.
“The winner of that race, Incentivise, is one of the most exciting horses to burst onto the scene in recent times and also one of the most challenging to assess after his performances in Queensland over their winter carnival, which culminated in a 12-length romp in the Group 3 Tattersall’s Cup.
“He beat some quality opposition in the Makybe Diva Stakes, with Group 1 winners filling the next four places, and only time will tell whether we have been too harsh or too kind in allocating him 55.5kg in both cups.
“With today’s release of weights for the Caulfield Cup and the Melbourne Cup, connections can now start plotting a path towards their respective targets whilst form analysts and punters can keep an even closer eye on how their fancied runners fare as they build towards securing a start in two of Australia’s marquee races,” he said.
Other notable cups contenders include the Maher and Eustace trained Explosive Jack (NZ) (54kg in both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups), who burst onto the scene with victory in three Derbies last season.
Another Derby winner, Denis Pagan’s Victoria Derby (2500m) hero Johnny Get Angry (NZ), has been assigned 53kg for both cups. That is the same weight handed to Waller’s Queensland Derby (2400m) victor Kukeracha (NZ); whilst the winner of the Queensland Oaks (2200m), Duais, has been allocated 51kg in both cups as she bids to deliver a first win in either contest for her trainer Edward Cummings, whose grandfather Bart became synonymous with the Melbourne Cup courtesy of his 12 wins.
Edward’s brother, James Cummings, will be hoping to upstage his sibling with 2020 ATC Oaks (2400m) heroine Colette, who caught the eye late in the Makybe Diva Stakes. She has been allocated 53.5kg in both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.
The Anthony and Sam Freedman-trained Realm of Flowers, who is exempt from the ballot in the Melbourne Cup after her Andrew Ramsden (2800m) win at Flemington in May, has 51kg; whilst Mount Popa (IRE), who is the only horse currently exempt from the Caulfield Cup ballot, has 52.5kg for Team Hawkes.
Second acceptances for the Caulfield Cup will be taken at 12 noon (AET) on Tuesday, 21 September, whilst the deadline for the Melbourne Cup is seven days later on Tuesday, 28 September.
Knockout performance 🥊— Racing TV (@RacingTV) September 12, 2021
Sonnyboyliston is all heart as he powers home to land the Group 1 Comer Group International Irish St. Leger, handing Classic success to @BenCoen2 and @JohnnyMurtagh 🏆@curraghrace | #LICW21 @LonginesEq | @IrishChampsWknd pic.twitter.com/COB4K2o5XN