The $6.2 million Emirates Melbourne Cup is a handicap which features a maximum of 24 runners. Being the richest handicap run anywhere in the world, there is hot competition for spots in the final field. The VRC, in consultation with Racing Victoria, has ultimate choice about the make-up of the field, but these spots are usually determined by two factors:
1) The weight a horse is allotted to carry in the race by handicappers; and
2) Whether that horse has won a ballot-free race in the lead-up.
How does the handicapping system work?
All horses must be entered for the Melbourne Cup by Tuesday September 1 (in 2015), then Racing Victoria assess each entrant for a handicap and release this by Tuesday September 15. As with all handicaps, in general a horse with the best form/success will attract a higher weight and emerging horses with lesser form will attract a lower weight.
International ratings play a role in shaping these weights as well as the age and gender of the horse. There is no set maximum weight a horse can receive, but the minimum weight is 50kg.
What is the ballot order?
While the initial release of weights determines a rough ranking of horses according to ability, the ballot order, which is the entry ranking for the race, is determined by two factors. They are:
1) Whether the horse previously delivered a race performance which qualifies it for the Melbourne Cup (passing the ballot clause); and
2) The weight it has been allotted in relation to the weight it would be given in a weight-for-age race.
There are five races which ensure its winners direct passage into the Melbourne Cup of that same year. The winners of the Lexus Stakes and Mackinnon Stakes, run three days before the Cup, as well as the Caulfield Cup, the Cox Plate and as of 2015, The Bart Cummings (a 2500m Group 3 race run in early October) receive a ‘free pass’ to the Melbourne Cup. They are automatically included at the top of the ballot order, regardless of what weight they are allotted.
When is the final field determined?
Final acceptances for the Melbourne Cup are taken around 5pm on the Saturday before the Cup (Derby Day). Ballot order is used to determine who makes the field, but the VRC committee, in consultation with Racing Victoria, have final discretion. The field is confirmed and the barriers are drawn that evening, usually around 6:30pm.
If so many horses wish to run, why is there only room for 24 starters?
The pari-mutuel (TAB/Tote) set-up only allows for a maximum 24 runners in any Australian horse race, so the field size is restricted.
There are no emergencies in the Melbourne Cup as the pari-mutuel system can not currently handle more than 24 horses, and the cost to upgrade this system would vastly outweigh any wagering benefit. The VRC will review this again ahead of the 2017 Melbourne Cup. In recent years, there are compulsory vet checks ahead of final acceptances to help minimise scratchings ahead of the race.
you can draw a nag for me if you like.
I do watch the race. I think I may have mentioned once before I used to have to work at Randwick sometimes.
They gave me a dollar to bet with and a meal voucher.
I used to put the dollar in my pocked and have a fine meal with entrée at their restaurant.
Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves, even those who lost their shirt off their back until they actually lost the shirt.
The young kids who collected the cans for scrap used to go to the Police box and collect all the cans that built up in the roof through the open man hole.