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Will any three year olds nominate for the Melbourne Cup tomorrow?

August 31, 2011

Tomorrow’s nominations for the Melbourne Cup will be interesting on so many levels, but one notable angle is whether any three year olds will be amongst the entries.

Once a common occurrence, three year olds have become increasingly sparse in Australia’s greatest race.

The last three year old to run was Arena in 1998, while Efficient was an acceptor in 2006 but was withdrawn on race morning.

Nothin’ Leica Dane ran second as a three year old to Doriemus in 1995, while Stylish Century failed when heavily fancied in 1989.

You have to go back seventy years to find the last three year old to win the Melbourne Cup – that being Skipton in 1941.

The later taking of nominations (pushed back from the start of August to the start of September) will either encourage or discourage nominations from three year olds.

For a three year old that is running over 1600m at this stage of its preparation, it is obvious that eyes will be on the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) on October 29.

The winner of the Victoria Derby is exempt from the ballot for the Melbourne Cup, as long as they are amongst nominations tomorrow.

Therefore, for an owner like Lloyd Williams (who has the likes of Collar, Salter and Roll heading towards the Derby), it makes sense to throw in a nomination in case they emerge victorious on Derby Day.

The extra month will have allowed owners to distinguish their Derby horses slightly more, and perhaps it will encourage them to enter for the Melbourne Cup.

On the downside, the extra month also means that it is highly unlikely owners will throw in a speculative entry for an unraced commidity, as occured last year.

Last year, the two three year old entries were both unraced – Sugar Bush and (the unfortunately named) Try Pickle.

Three years ago, the VRC removed the condition which allowed for the Derby winner to pay a late entry fee.

This means that any chance a three year old runs in the Melbourne Cup hinges on nominations tomorrow.

It raises the question, is 3200m too much of an ask for an early spring three year old? Why has the thoroughbred seemingly become weaker, given it was normal a couple of generations ago? Is it better to capitalise on their good three year old form, or to be patient?

In recent times, I have changed my stance on three year olds.

While I love the idea of a three year old running in the Melbourne Cup, I accept it is unlikely to happen again in the future.

These days, it is more acceptable to keep a horse to 2000m in the spring and then step them out to 2400m in the autumn.

Eventually it wouldn’t surprise me if the Derby is reduced in distance.

That would once and for all spell the end of 3YOs in the Melbourne Cup.

Anyway, I will be interested to see if there are any three year olds nominated tomorrow – I reckon, if any, there might be a couple thrown in by Lloyd Williams and Robert Hickmott.

We shall see.

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