THE countdown to Victoria’s famous 2015 Spring Racing Carnival has officially begun today with nominations closing for two of the Carnival’s marquee races – the $3 million BMW Caulfield Cup and $3 million William Hill Cox Plate.

A total of 209 horses have been entered for the Caulfield Cup – the world’s richest 2400-metre handicap – to be run at Caulfield on 17 October, whilst 173 horses are in contention for a start in Australia’s weight-for-age championship, the 2040-metre Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on 24 October.

Internationally-trained horses were to the fore in both Group 1 features in 2014 with Admire Rakti delivering Japan’s first triumph in the Caulfield Cup and Irish colt Adelaide becoming the first international to win the Cox Plate.

Racing Victoria’s Executive General Manager – Racing, Greg Carpenter, said that international horses again figure prominently amongst the entries for the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate with a collective 45 entries across the two races. 

“We are delighted to receive entries across the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate from 22 international trainers representing the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Ireland and for the first time Qatar,” Mr Carpenter said.

“We have labelled this a year of transition when it comes to international participation in the Spring Racing Carnival and we have seen that reflected with entries from 12 international trainers who have yet to bring a runner to Melbourne.

“To complement this with entries from world class trainers like Aidan O’Brien, Andre Fabre, Mikel Delzangles, Ed Dunlop, Saeed bin Suroor and Sir Michael Stoute, who have all campaigned runners in the Spring Racing Carnival previously, is most pleasing.

“We are particularly pleased to see three Japanese horses, including the highly rated pair Fame Game and Hokko Brave, entered to defend Japan’s crown in the Caulfield Cup, as we are to receive three entries from Aidan O’Brien who claimed an historic Irish victory in last year’s Cox Plate.

“Hardwicke Stakes winner Snow Sky, Ascot Gold Cup winner Trip To Paris and his evergreen stablemate Red Cadeaux are among the high profile international entries for the Caulfield Cup, whilst invitees Arod and Gailo Chop are a step closer to contesting the Cox Plate with their entries today.”

Australia’s leading trainers figure prominently among the entries for both races, with 2014 Caulfield Cup placegetters Rising Romance (David Hayes and Tom Dabernig) and Lucia Valentina (Kris Lees) and 2014 Cox Plate runner-up Fawkner (Robert Hickmott) among the local entries to create interest.

Also featuring among the local entries for both races is the Ciaron Maher-trained 2014 VRC Oaks winner Set Square who paraded at Caulfield Racecourse today to mark the release of entries.

Nominations also close today for the $1 million BECK Caulfield Guineas (1600m) and $500,000 Schweppes Thousand Guineas (1600m) at Caulfield on 10 October with the latter attracting entries from a record 276 three-year-old fillies.

The summary of nominations for the four Group 1 races is as follows:

  • BMW Caulfield Cup –  209 entries (including 25 internationals)
  • William Hill Cox Plate – 173 entries (including 20 internationals)
  • BECK Caulfield Guineas – 289 entries
  • Schweppes Thousand Guineas – 276 entries

All three-year-olds nominated for either the Caulfield Guineas or the Thousand Guineas receive automatic entry into the $500,000 Caulfield Classic, which is run on Caulfield Cup Day and also carries up to $500,000 in bonuses.

BMW Caulfield Cup

The highlights among the nominations received for the BMW Caulfield Cup include;

  • Three Japanese-trained stayers, Fame Game, Hokko Brave and Hana’s Revenge, have been nominated to defend the 2014 Caulfield Cup crown won by compatriot Admire Rakti;
  • Last year’s Emirates Melbourne Cup-winning trainer, Andreas Wohler, has nominated Australian-owned six-year-old entire Singing and Italian Derby winner Goldstream, while Caulfield and Melbourne Cup-winning Frenchman Mikel Delzangles has two horses nominated, headlined by talented three-year-old colt Canndal;
  • The first nomination from a Qatar-based horse has been received, with the Jassim Al Ghazali-trained Dubday, who boasts a ballot exemption in the Cup, among those vying for a start;
  • Nomination of Juddmonte Farm-owned and Sir Michael Stoute-trained Snow Sky, an impressive winner of the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes (2400m) at the Royal Ascot Carnival; and
  • Champion Sydney trainer Chris Waller leads the local charge with 18 nominations including 2014 Doncaster Mile (1600m) winner Kermadec and dominant Queensland Oaks (2200m) winner Winx, while 2014 Caulfield Cup runner-up Rising Romance is one of 13 nominations from local trainers David Hayes and Tom Dabernig.

William Hill Cox Plate

The highlights among the nominations received for the William Hill Cox Plate include;

  • Premier Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien – who won the Cox Plate last year with Adelaide - has nominated exciting trio Cougar Mountain, Highland Reel and Ol’ Man River;
  • Two internationals issued invitations by the MVRC – OTI Racing’s Gailo Chop and last-start Group 1 Sussex Stakes (1600m) runner-up Arod – have been nominated by connections;
  • Leading Victorian trainers David Hayes and Tom Dabernig have nominated 12 horses; including Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) winner Criterion, Australian Cup (2000m) winner Spillway and exciting imports Dibayanai, Almoonqith and Bold Sniper, a horse owned by Her Majesty The Queen; and
  • Over 30 three-year-olds have been nominated including last season’s Group 1 juvenile winners Vancouver (Gai Waterhouse), Pride Of Dubai (Peter and Paul Snowden) and Press Statement (Chris Waller).

BECK Caulfield Guineas

The highlights among the nominations received for the BECK Caulfield Guineas include;

  • Group 1-winning colts Vancouver, Pride Of Dubai and Press Statement headline the entries for their respective trainers, Gai Waterhouse (5 nominations), Peter and Paul Snowden (2) and Chris Waller (14); and
  • Leading Victorian trainers David Hayes and Tom Dabernig boast 30 nominations, while Team Hawkes (20 nominations), Michael Moroney (15) and Bart and James Cummings (4) are also well represented.

Schweppes Thousand Guineas

The highlights among the nominations received for the Schweppes Thousand Guineas include;

  • The only filly to capture a Group 1 two-year-old race last season, the Peter Moody-trained Champagne Stakes (1600m) winner Pasadena Girl;
  • The powerful family training partnership of Michael, Wayne and John Hawkes have entered 12 fillies, including Blue Diamond Stakes and Golden Slipper placegetter Lake Geneva.

First acceptances for the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate, Caulfield Guineas and Thousand Guineas will be taken at 12 noon on Tuesday, 8 September.