The connections of 45 gallopers still have their sights set on Flemington on the first Tuesday in November, with 10 internationally-trained stayers – including the pre-race favourite Tiger Moth – amongst that number. The overall figure represents an increase of three on last year's tally of 42, with seven fewer overseas raiders than in 2019 due largely to the travel restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Results from across the Ladbrokes Cox Plate Carnival weekend have had a significant impact on the Melbourne Cup market, with Sir Dragonet now considered amongst the leading chances after his ultra-impressive victory in the 100th edition of Australasia's weight-for-age championship on Saturday.
Ciaron Maher, who trains in partnership with Englishman David Eustace, is yet to win 'the race that stops a nation' but the pair could theoretically launch a five-pronged assault with Sir Dragonet's stablemates Persan , Etah James , Azuro and Lord Belvedere all amongst the third acceptors.
Not to be outdone, Flemington trainer Danny O'Brien also has five horses still in contention to land him a second straight Melbourne Cup win, with last year's hero Vow And Declare joined in the third acceptances list by Cox Plate placegetter Russian Camelot , last-start McCafe Moonee Valley Gold Cup (2600m) winner Miami Bound and the Lloyd Williams-owned pair King Of Leogrance and Saracen Knight.
Between them, Aidan and Joseph O'Brien could also have five chances of taking out the Melbourne Cup, with the former preparing live hopes Tiger Moth and Anthony Van Dyck as he goes in search of a first win in the $8 million showpiece.
So far this spring O'Brien Snr has just missed out on victory in both the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate, with Anthony Van Dyck and Armory going down by small margins respectively; but the master horseman could yet have the last laugh with many astute observers tipping northern hemisphere three-year-old Tiger Moth to deliver a fourth Melbourne Cup win for his jockey, Kerrin McEvoy.
Aidan's son Joseph could be represented by Master Of Reality and Twilight Payment, who finished fourth and 11th respectively in 2019, whilst Pondus will be ridden by Damian Lane in this Wednesday's Group 3 Bendigo Cup (2400m) where victory could see him climb up the Order Of Entry with a weight penalty.
Stella Artois Caulfield Cup (2400m) winner Verry Elleegant remains on course to become the 12th horse in history to complete the Cups double in the same year after she stood her ground for trainer Chris Waller. Her stablemate Finche, who ran seventh in last year's Melbourne Cup and fifth in this year's Caulfield Cup, is also primed for a return to Flemington next Tuesday.
Other notable third acceptors include the third favourite Surprise Baby , trained in Horsham by Paul Preusker; Charlie Fellowes' popular gelding Prince Of Arran , who will be ridden in the Melbourne Cup by in-form jockey Jamie Kah; and the Freedman Racing-trained Steel Prince, who shot into calculations after his tough victory in last week's Group 3 bet365 Geelong Cup (2400m). The horse he beat into second place that day, stablemate Le Don De Vie, is also amongst the third acceptors.
Mirage Dancer , the recent winner of the Group 1 Metropolitan (2400m), was amongst the more notable withdrawals at the third acceptances stage. In addition, the connections of Mugatoo (fourth in the Cox Plate), Master Of Wine (eighth) and Buckhurst (10th) have also decided against pressing on to the Melbourne Cup.
Final acceptances for the Melbourne Cup will close at 4.30pm (AEDT) this Saturday (31 October), with the barrier draw due to be broadcast live from 5.30pm on Channel 10 and Racing.com.
Last year's Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m) winner True Self has climbed into the all-important top 24 of the updated Melbourne Cup Order of Entry following today's third acceptances deadline.
The eight-year-old mare, who is trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins, had been in 27th place after second acceptances closed but moved up the Order of Entry following the withdrawals of Toffee Tongue (Chris Waller), Buckhurst (Joseph O'Brien), Mirage Dancer (Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young) and Santiago (Aidan O'Brien).
Other notable movers include the Danny O'Brien-trained King Of Leogrance , who after rising to 23rd is now is set to join his stablemates Vow And Declare (sixth), Russian Camelot (eighth) and Miami Bound (20th) on the starting line at Flemington next Tuesday; and Kiwi stayer The Chosen One (21st), who will aim to deliver a first Melbourne Cup win for the training partnership of Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman.
Anthony Freedman won five Melbourne Cups in partnership with his brothers Richard and Lee, but he could be celebrating a first success since linking up with his son Sam after last-start Geelong Cup winner Steel Prince (22nd) joined the 2019 AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) Warning (15th) in the top 24 of the updated Order Of Entry.
In contrast another training team, Michael, Wayne and John Hawkes, faces a nervous wait to see if Zebrowski – currently 25th in the Order of Entry – can force his way into the field. Similarly, Ballarat-based trainer Matt Cumani will be very keen for his recent import San Huberto (26th) to become his first runner in the Melbourne Cup.
The Lexus Hotham Stakes (2500m), which will be run on AAMI Victoria Derby Day this Saturday (31 October), is the final chance for horses to force their way into the Melbourne Cup field, with the winner guaranteed a start in the great race three days later.