The Ben, Will & JD Hayes-trained Cox...
There will be no more than four international raiders in Tuesday’s 2023 Lexus Melbourne Cup field following the official withdrawal of the Joseph O’Brien-trained Valiant King on Friday evening.
The Roaring Lion grey was one of two in the Top 24 on the order of entry for the 163rd Group 1 $8.41 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) for two-time winning trainer O’Brien.
Valiant King was put under a cloud of doubt on Friday morning when failing a vet check following a concerning piece of trackwork by the Irish raider.
The official report from Racing Victoria stewards was that the horse was “lame in the left front” and was to be re-examined on Saturday morning before Melbourne Cup final acceptances at 4:30pm (AEDT).
However, an early decision by connections has seen the stable confirm the galloper’s non-acceptances on Saturday afternoon with the team opting to consider the long-term future of the valuable import.
Part-owner Ozzie Kheir confirmed the four-year-old would be sent for a spell.
“After this morning’s RV inspections where Valiant King was found to be mildly lame post his work, we had our own vets this evening come back and inspect him and agree with RV’s assessment as he remained slightly lame in the front left fore,” Kheir told Racing.com.
“He was due to be inspected tomorrow morning by RV, but regardless of the outcome, we have decided that we will withdraw him from the Melbourne Cup now to allow other connections on the cusp of getting into the race to make plans.
“Unfortunately for the ownership group, Joseph O’Brien and his travelling team its obviously very disappointing to get so close and stumble at this last hurdle.”
Valiant King was last seen running a solid sixth in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) in his Australian race debut on October 21 behind Without A Fight.
Young jockey Zac Lloyd was booked for the ride after jumping ship from Athabascan who was also declared a non-acceptor for the ‘race that stops a nation’ in 2023.
Lloyd subsequently picked-up an eleventh-hour ride on Kris Lees’ Lexus Archer Stakes winner from Saturday, Kalapour, on 50kg.
Following his recovery and time in the paddock Valiant King is expected to return in 2024 and will be trained in Australia by Chris Waller targeting the Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington in the autumn.
“We have always said we believe he will be a talented horse in the future and by looking after him now, we will get the rewards in the autumn and sprint next year,” Kheir added.
“We hope to target the Australian Cup back at Flemington provided he acclimatizes well in the capable hands of Chris Waller.
“RV communication and handling of the matter has been very professional and supportive.”
O’Brien is still in with a shot at a third Melbourne Cup trophy represented by Okita Soushi to be ridden by Dylan Gibbons.
Okita Soushi is currently paying $51 in the pre-field Melbourne Cup odds at Ladbrokes.com.au.
Markets are led by fellow Irish visitor, the Willie Mullins-trained Vauban at $3.70.
Mullins also saddles-up Absurde ($21), while Japanese galloper Breakup ($15) is the other Melbourne Cup contender trained from outside of Australia or New Zealand this season.
The official withdrawal of Valiant King from the Melbourne Cup field sees the Ciaron Maher & David Eustace-trained Interpretation cement his spot after he sat 24th on the ballot following his narrow but impressive Group 3 Bendigo Cup (2400m) win on Wednesday.
The Allan Sharrock-trained Kiwi galloper Ladies Man, last seen winning the Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings in mid-October, moves into the 24th position and is right on the cusp of a shot at the world’s richest handicap.
Dean Yendall is booked for the ride should he make the final field.
Ladies Man is paying $51 and will chase a ballot exemption in the Group 3 Lexus Archer Stakes (2500m) in the second at Flemington on Derby Day.
United Nations for the Maher/Eustace stable, the Kris Lees-trained Kalapour, and Mostly Cloudy prepared by Trent Busuttin & Natalie Young are the other Lexus Archer Stakes runners looking to win and gain their entry into the Melbourne Cup three days’ later.
John O’Shea-trained Athabascan will run in the Lexus but won’t acceptor for the Melbourne Cup win or lose.
Latest 2023 Melbourne Cup Field (According to Order of Entry)
1 – GOLD TRIP (Ciaron Maher/Dave Eustace) James McDonald 58.5kg
2 – ALENQUER (Mike Moroney) Damien Oliver 56.5kg
3 – WITHOUT A FIGHT (Anthony and Sam Freedman) Mark Zahra 56.5kg
4 – BREAKUP (Tatsuya Yoshioka) Kohei Matsuyama 55kg
5 – VAUBAN (Willie Mullins) Ryan Moore 55kg
6 – SOULCOMBE (Chris Waller) Joao Moreira 53.5kg
7 – ABSURDE (Willie Mullins) Zac Purton 53kg
8 – RIGHT YOU ARE (Ciaron Maher/Dave Eustace) John Allen 53kg
9 – VOW AND DECLARE (Danny O’Brien) Billy Egan 53kg
10 – CLEVELAND (Kris Lees) Michael Dee 52kg
11 – ASHRUN (Ciaron Maher/Dave Eustace) Kerrin McEvoy 51.5kg
12 – DAQIANSWEET JUNIOR (Phillip Stokes) Daniel Stackhouse 51.5kg
13 – OKITA SOUSHI (Joseph O’Brien) Dylan Gibbons 51.5kg
14 – SHERAZ (Chris Waller) TBC 51.5kg
15 – LASTOTCHKA (Mick Price/Micheal Kent Jnr) Craig Williams 51kg
16 – MAGICAL LAGOON (Chris Waller) Beau Mertens 51kg
17 – MILITARY MISSION (Gai Waterhouse/Adrian Bott) Rachel King 51kg
18 – SERPENTINE (Gai Waterhouse/Adrian Bott) Jye McNeil 51kg
19 – VIRTUOUS CIRCLE (Liam Howley) Craig Newitt 51kg
20 – MORE FELONS (Chris Waller) Jamie Kah 50.5kg
21 – FUTURE HISTORY (Ciaron Maher/Dave Eustace) Hollie Doyle 50kg
22 – INTERPRETATION (Ciaron Maher/Dave Eustace) Teo Nugent 50kg
23 – LADIES MAN (Allan Sharrock) Dean Yendall 50kg
24 – TRUE MARVEL (Matthews Smith) Ben Thompson 50kg
Others listed in ballot order:
25 – ATHABASCAN (John O’Shea) TBC (was Zac Lloyd) 50kg (Non-Acceptor)
26 – UNITED NATIONS (Ciaron Maher/Dave Eustace) TBC 50kg
27 – KALAPOUR (Kris Lees) TBC 50kg
28 – MOSTLY CLOUDY (Trent Busuttin/Natalie Young) TBC 50kg
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