The Melbourne Cup qualification system qualifies horses based on a handicap. The minimum weight for the field is 49 kilograms. Although there is no maximum weight for the race, the highest allocated weight for the field should not be less than 57 kilograms. Before the race, the required weight handicap of participating horses is declared by the VRC Handicapper.
Melbourne Cup Weights
The horse’s weight is the biggest qualifier in the Melbourne Cup. In the past, the cup adopted a system to give horses an equal chance to win the race by adding more weight to older horses compared to younger ones. But in recent years, the cup committee used a “quality handicap” formula where superior horses are given less severe weight penalties.
Melbourne Cup Nominations System
The selected entries for the Melbourne Cup are nominated in the first week of August. From an initial Melbourne Cup field of 300 to 400 horses, the committee will select the final 24 starters. However, after nominations, the owner of the runner must confirm their intention to run four more times leading to the race.
This system allows owners to gauge the competition as the selection process moves forward. This way, they are given four times to decide to whether they want to continue with the selection process by paying a fee, or to back out. Thus, the owners are essentially betting that their horse will be selected in the final field with every fee that they pay.
Melbourne Cup Balloting Out Rules
In the final selection, the last group of Melbourne Cup horses will be trimmed to 24 starters. To do that, each horse is evaluated and may be “balloted out” based on factors like prize money earned in the last two years, wins and placing, and allocated handicap.
Horses that won prestigious races around the world are exempted from the balloting process. These races include the Victoria Derby, Lexus Stakes, Cox Plate, LKS Mackinnon Stakes, Caulfield Cup, Irish St. Leger (IRE), and the Tenno Sho (Spring) (JPN).
With the increasing number of foreign-trained horses entering the selection process, the Australian government ruled that international horses, except horses from New Zealand, must undergo 14-day quarantine within the approved locations in their own country before coming to Australia. Each horse will undergo physical examinations as a requirement in the selection process.