Darren Weir’s 11th hour 2014 Melbourne Cup hope Signoff may have drawn awkwardly for next Tuesday’s ‘race that stops a nation’ but he is far from writing off the lightweight hope.
On Saturday a capacity final field of 24 stayers for the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) was rounded out when Authorized gelding Signoff secured the last spot with his smart 2.5 length Group 3 Lexus Stakes (2500m) win on Derby Day.
The victory earned the five-year-old a Melbourne Cup ballot exemption, Signoff penalised one kilogram for the Lexus.
He is still allocated the 51kg minimum in the world’s richest handicap meaning he would meet the Caulfield Cup winning top weight from Japan Admire Rakti (58.5kg) 7.5kg better in the weights.
Signoff would also drop 5.5kg from the 56.5kg he carried to victory at Flemington over the weekend when ridden by ‘The Magic Man’ Joao Moreira.
The flying Brazilian hoop, who also rode the Chris Waller-trained Brazen Beau to victory in the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) on Saturday, retains the ride in the Melbourne Cup this week.
Moreira told Weir however he would struggle to get right down to the 51kg for the Melbourne Cup mount, but connections were more than happy to go up half a kilo to 51.5kg.
“The owners were happy with that,” Weir said.
“So we’re going with that.
“The plan all along was to try and win the Lexus and go into the Cup without getting too much of a penalty.
“So we’re happy with 51 and a half.”
The first blow for Signoff came in the Melbourne Cup barrier draw with the horse coming up with an outside barrier 16 allocation.
Barrier 16 hasn’t produced a Melbourne Cup winner since the Chris Munce-ridden mare Jezabeel (1998) who is the only one in the past 31 years to do so from the gate.
While the Wangoom-based Weir admitted post-draw that a better gate would have been preferable, he’s still confident Moreira can get Signofff up into the first half of the Melbourne Cup field and be there in the finish in the famous Flemington Race 7.
“Would have liked to draw inside a bit,” Weir said.
“He’ll probably roll forward and try to be in the first half a dozen and make his own luck from there.”
Weir also said he was thrilled the Hong Kong-based Moreira was staying on Signoff for the Melbourne Cup ride after such a gun ride in the Lexus Stakes.
“Terrific ride from Joao,” he said.
“Hopefully he can do it again on Tuesday.”
As for Signoff, he came through the commanding Lexus Stakes win without issue.
“Everything’s good,” Weir said.
“He just had a nice healthy blow after the race and recovered really quick.
“It’s just nice to have one back in it (the Melbourne Cup) and now we just need a bit of luck from the gate.”
The latest Melbourne Cup odds at Ladbrokes.com.au are led by Admire Rakti on $5 while Signoff is also at single figures paying $8 to carry the lightest weight to victory since Shocking (51kg in 2009).
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