Vigor sweats on VRC

The Victorian Racing Club may have to use its discretionary powers to ensure highly-rated pair Vigor and Leica Ding earn a start in this year's Melbourne Cup.

Despite the number of Cup hopefuls being slashed from 84 to 42 on Monday, following third declarations, Vigor and Leica Ding are still outside the top 24 in ballot order.

The VRC released its updated order of entry for this year's Melbourne Cup on Monday afternoon which showed Vigor at number 29 and Leica Ding slightly better off at number 26 for what is a maximum 24 horse field with no emergencies.

And the pair could fall even lower in entry order on Saturday if a horse currently below them in the ballot order were to win the Group 3 Lexus Stakes (formerly the SAAB) over 2500 metres which guarantees the winner automatic entry into the Melbourne Cup field.

And included in that group of horses are two Bart Cummings' runners in Think Money and Dandaad, which are currently numbers 35 and 36 in order of entry.

Both Vigor and Leica Ding are nominated for the Lexus Stakes but the preference of their respective trainers Danny O'Brien and Darren Weir is to go straight into the Melbourne Cup without subjecting their horses to another gut-busting run.

However by doing that they run the risk of their horses not making the field unless the VRC uses its discretionary powers to lift Vigor and Leica Ding into the field at the expense of lesser performed horses currently above them in the ballot order.

Those powers were last used in 2004 when Moonee Valley Cup winner Another Warrior was promoted into the final field despite being 26th in order at the expense of the 24th ranked runner Free At Last.

But given that Vigor ran a superb third in the Caulfield Cup behind the Cummings' pair of Viewed and Roman Emperor at his last run and was a winner at Group Two weight-for-age level earlier this spring in winning the 1600 metre Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington in September, it seems inconceivable that Vigor would be excluded from the final Melbourne Cup field.

However Vigor's problem is that he has not won a race where he would be subject to a re-handicap since being allocated his initial Melbourne Cup weight of 51kg, meaning the lightly raced five-year-old remains eight and a half kgs below the weight-for-age scale, which determines the Melbourne Cup ballot order.

Leica Ding is slightly better off in that the five-year-old mare and recent Geelong Cup winner is only seven and a half kgs below the weight-for-age scale - equal with the current 24th ranked runner in Spin Around - which has won more prizemoney than the promising Ballarat galloper.

However Leica Ding's superb win in the Geelong Cup - a race which has proven an excellent Melbourne Cup form guide in recent years with Media Puzzle completing the double in 2002 before Bauer went within a whisker of doing likewise last year when just beaten by Viewed in the Melbourne Cup - gives her a strong case of being elevated into the field.

And her trainer in Darren Weir also supplied the 2003 Geelong Cup runner-up in She's Archie which then went on to run a magnificent second to champion Makybe Diva in the first of her record three Melbourne Cup wins that same year.

However the VRC committee could yet be spared a difficult decision as several horses currently ahead of Leica Ding and Vigor are no certainties to line up on the first Tuesday in November.

Those in doubt include Zipping (currently 13th in ballot order) which has run unplaced in the past three Melbourne Cups and could instead be saved for the Sandown Classic on November 14 following his gallant third in Saturday's Cox Plate as well as Fiumicino and Speed Gifted (currently fourth and 16th in ballot order) which prefer the kind of wet tracks unlikely to be prevalent in Cup week given the forecast of warm conditions all week.

But the highly rated pair of Alcopop and Shocking, which ran the quinella in the Herbert Power Stakes (2400 metres) on Caulfield Guineas Day, are now all but assured of a run having risen to numbers 21 and 22 respectively in the ballot order following Monday's third declarations.

Story by Paul Gough, to view Sportal website click here

Photo by Bruno Cannatelli, to view Bruno's website click here