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The Group 1 $8 million Melbourne Cup field will be confirmed on Saturday afternoon following the running of the 2019 Hotham Stakes, betting for which is led by the Joseph O’Brien-trained raider Downdraft.
A ballot free ride into next Tuesday’s iconic Melbourne Cup (3200m) is on offer to the winner of the Group 3 $300,000 Lexus Hotham Stakes (2500m), which is always a key feature on the Victoria Derby Day race card.
Following the early scratching of Youngstar, the Hotham Stakes 2019 field features a dozen Melbourne Cup hopefuls led in betting at Ladbrokes.com.au by the rails-drawn Camelot entire Downdraft.
Youngstar’s trainer Chris Waller opted to withdraw his High Chaparral mare from the race following a number of notable Melbourne Cup withdrawals that pushed her up to 20th on the ballot, guaranteed a run in the world’s richest handicap.
On Wednesday night international raiders Marmelo and Ispolini were officially withdrawn from Melbourne Cup contention, while Thursday saw roughie chance Angel Of Truth scratched from the two-mile classic.
Irish horseman O’Brien won the Melbourne Cup two years ago with Rekindling (2017).
Downdraft is already looking likely to fill one of the spots in the 24-horse Melbourne Cup field for a shot at this year’s Loving Trophy.
Downdraft currently sits 24th on the Melbourne Cup order of entry but could be pushed out of the starting line-up should a horse below him on the ballot win the Hotham Stakes.
Hotham Stakes odds have Downdraft as the $4.20 favourite through Ladbrokes.com.au despite the horse carrying the 59kg topweight.
In pre-field Melbourne Cup betting the visitor is a $34 chance after the eye-catching third in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500m) on Cox Plate Day.
O’Brien and connections are also considering scratching Downdraft from the race however as he is likely to get into the Cup field with the natural attrition rate.
If Downdraft comes out it will push Hush Writer ($5) to the top of Hotham Stakes betting, the Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott-trained Japanese-bred import coming off a 2.3 length win in Randwick’s St Leger (2600m).
The other best in the Hotham Stakes odds at $5.50 is the Murray Baker & Andrew Forsman-trained Kiwi The Chosen One.
He too could be a withdrawn however having been elevated to 23rd on the Melbourne Cup order of entry after the scratchings earlier in the week.
The Chosen One remains an $81 outsider in all-in Melbourne Cup betting, the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes winner having run ninth behind Mer De Glace in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) last time out.
The Lindsay Park-trained Neufbosc (21st) and the Michael Moroney-trained Sound (22nd) are the other Hotham Stakes horses looking likely to get a Melbourne Cup run win or loose on Saturday.
Team Snowden’s St Leger runner-up Carif is the only Lexus Stakes runner not nominated for the Melbourne Cup.
Hotham Stakes Field: Where They Sit on 2019 Melbourne Cup Ballot
Hush Writer: 33rd
Patrick Erin: 25th
Sir Charles Road: 27th
The Chosen One: 23rd
Wall Of Fire: 36th
Carif: Not Nominated
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