Newcastle Cup 2017: Pacodali makes the trip as contenders fall away

NEWCASTLE-BOUND: The Darren Weir-trained Pacodali beating 2016 Melbourne Cup winner Almandin to the line at Moonee Valley on August 26. Picture: AAP Image/Mal Fairclough
NEWCASTLE-BOUND: The Darren Weir-trained Pacodali beating 2016 Melbourne Cup winner Almandin to the line at Moonee Valley on August 26. Picture: AAP Image/Mal Fairclough

THE Darren Weir-trained Pacodali firmed as a serious contender for the Newcastle Cup (2300m) after news on Tuesday of several withdrawals ahead of acceptances on Wednesday.

Weir racing manager Jeremy Rogers confirmed that Pacodali, a winner at four of his past five starts, would accept for Newcastle’s $175,000 group 3 staying feature but a question mark remained over stablemate Master Zephyr.

Both were also nominated for the $120,000 JRA Trophy (2500m) at Flemington on Saturday.

“We’re not 100 per cent sure about Master Zephyr but at this stage Pacodali will come up,” Rogers said.

“He’s going really well and it’s a nice race for him.”

Pacodali defeated 2016 Melbourne Cup winner Almandin over 2040m at Moonee Valley last start on August 26 and twice won over 2000m at Flemington in July. Master Zephyr was in the placings both times.

Five-time Melbourne Cup-winning owner Lloyd Williams nominated the Robert Hickmott-trained Kilimanjaro, Hans Holbein and Crocodile Rock for the Newcastle Cup but Sky Sports Radio reported late Tuesday that none would race at Broadmeadow because of concerns about a firm track. All three were also entered for the JRA Trophy.

Also on Tuesday, Warwick Farm trainer Joe Pride informed Newcastle Jockey Club officials that Cup topweight Destiny’s Kiss, which was also nominated for the Kingston Town Stakes at Randwick on Saturday, would not be accepting for Friday’s race

Queensland trainer Brian Smith also told the NJC his nomination, My Diamantine, would not be accepting. 

Newcastle trainer Kris Lees, after his first Newcastle Cup, said Singing may not run. Seventh when injuring his hoof as favourite in 2016 edition, Singing was among four Lees nominations. 

“There’s a few little issues with his feet, which is typical of the horse, so we might have to keep his runs spaced,” Lees said.

Admiral Jello, Doukhan and Wahng Wah will carry Lees’ hopes.

Doukhan could have Hugh Bowman aboard after the champion jockey lost his ride with the withdrawal of Destiny's Kiss. Newcastle trainer Paul Perry’s The Getaway is the other local Cup chance.

AAP: Star Irish stayer Order Of St George has been given top weight for the Melbourne Cup for the second-straight year and the handicapper says he will be bitterly disappointed if the horse doesn't take up the challenge this time.

The Aidan O'Brien-trained Order Of St George has 58kg for the 3200m race at Flemington on November 7, half a kilo more than last year's third placegetter Hartnell.

Godolphin's Hartnell is the 58kg topweight for the Caulfield Cup (2400m) with Order Of St George only entered for Flemington.

Last year's Melbourne Cup winner Almandin has 56.5kg in both Cups, a rise of 4.5kg on his 2016 winning weight.

Two days after Order Of St George won the Irish St Leger by nine lengths, Racing Victoria's chief handicapper Greg Carpenter was comfortable with 58kg.

He said despite the big-margin win at the Curragh, Order Of St George would have only run to the same rating, or slightly less, as in this year's Ascot Gold Cup when runner-up to Big Orange.

"The challenge is always that the general public will look at a race where he wins by nine lengths and have an automatic reaction that he should be much higher in the weights," Carpenter said.

"But Makybe Diva is the only horse with 58 kilograms that's been able to win in the last 40 years and we've seen Vinnie Roe and Yeats and Septimus travel to Australia with that sort of weight and not be able to win."

The last original Melbourne Cup topweight to win was Comic Court in 1950. Order Of St George bypassed the 2016 Cup to instead run in the Arc in France, finishing third. That race is again an option.

"He's been nominated the last three years and I will be bitterly disappointed if he doesn't travel to Australia this year," Carpenter said.

"The reason I'm so keen to see Order Of St George travel to Australia is for the last three years he's been one of the powerhouses of European staying.

"I think that we would see a world class stayer if he came here. Aidan O'Brien has had eight runners in the Melbourne Cup now. His best finish was Mahler who ran third."

Carpenter said it was a straightforward decision to give Hartnell top weight in the Caulfield Cup but decided his 3200m-form warranted a reduction in the Melbourne Cup given he has not won in three attempts at the distance in Australia.

Almandin will try to become the sixth multiple winner of the Melbourne Cup. Japanese horse Admire Deus, who will join the Darren Weir stable, has 56kg in the Cups, the same as Australian Cup winner Humidor.