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Aussie handicapper's attempt to entice Order looks set to fail

Ballydoyle stayer would have to defy top weight of 58kg

Order Of St George is more likely to head to the Arc, says trainer Aidan O'Brien
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Emirates Melbourne Cup handicapper Greg Carpenter is set to be left "bitterly disappointed" after Aidan O'Brien indicated Sunday's runaway Irish St Leger hero Order Of St George is likely to forgo a trip to Australia.

In a double blow to southern hemisphere aspirations, Ballydoyle globetrotter Highland Reel has been taken out of the Ladbrokes Cox Plate, in which he could have met superstar Winx, and will instead head to the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, which is also now Order Of St George's favoured target.

More encouragingly, Nakeeta will attempt to turn Ebor success into Melbourne Cup glory after trainer Iain Jardine announced himself happy with an allocation of 53kg (8st 5lb) for his stable star.

The part Australian-owned Order Of St George, a nine-length winner at the Curragh on Sunday, was on Tuesday named Melbourne Cup topweight with 58kg, equivalent to 9st 2lb.

Carpenter had hoped that would be enough to entice O'Brien into a Flemington assault, but connections instead seem keener on the Arc, for which the top stayer, third at Chantilly last autumn, is a best-priced 16-1.

O'Brien said: "We haven't decided yet between the Arc and the Melbourne Cup for Order Of St George but it's probably more likely that he will go for the Arc.

"Johannes Vermeer will be going into quarantine shortly with a view to going to Australia for the Caulfield Cup.

"We're looking at the Arc for Highland Reel, who finished second to Found in the race last year."

Order Of St George demolishes his Irish St Leger rivals on Sunday

Racing Victoria's chief handicapper Carpenter said of Order Of St George: "He's been nominated the last three years and I'll be bitterly disappointed if he doesn't travel to Australia this year.

"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 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."

Johannes Vermeer is the next of O'Brien's entrants in the weights, on 54.5kg (8st 8lb). The Willie Mullins-trained pair of Max Dynamite, runner-up in 2015, and Wicklow Brave are both on 54kg (8st 7lb).

Weight converter
58kg = 9st 2lb
54kg = 8st 7lb
53kg = 8st 5lb

The Dumfries-based Jardine will be following in the footsteps of Luca Cumani and, most recently, Tony Martin, who have used victory in the Ebor as a springboard for the 'race that stops a nation'.

Nakeeta, should he end up carrying 53kg, would be racing off the same mark as Martin's Heartbreak City, who was beaten a head by Almandin in the 2016 Melbourne Cup but sadly suffered fatal injuries in a gallop in May.

Having consulted owners Alex and Janet Card, Jardine gave the green light on Tuesday morning.

Trainer Iain Jardine with Nakeeta after the horse's Ebor victory

"We had a good chat yesterday and I think we’ll have a crack," he said. "He has the same weight as Heartbreak City last year and a similar profile, so we’ll have a go.

"The Victoria Racing Club people are fairly sure he'll get a run off that mark. He's come out of York well and he'll go straight to the Cup."

With Big Orange missing out on the trip to Australia, Britain's next most high-profile contender after Nakeeta is the Sir Mark Prescott-trained St Michel, who has been allotted 54kg (8st 7lb).

Penalty structure change

Carpenter on Tuesday also announced a change to the penalty structure between the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.

If the winner of the Caulfield Cup should have less than 56kg to carry at Flemington, they will not be penalised to go over that weight. Any horse due to carry 56kg or more would not be penalised.

Carpenter said the change had been reached in consultation with the Victoria Racing Club, which hosts the Melbourne Cup, and Melbourne Racing Club, which holds the Caulfield Cup, and was designed to reinvigorate the link between Australia's two premier staying handicaps.

Viewed in 2008 is the only Melbourne Cup winner in the past ten years to have contested that year's Caulfield Cup compared to seven in the decade before.

Carpenter said the same logic would be applied to any other race where the winner was liable for a weight penalty after the release of Melbourne Cup handicaps. 

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E.W. Terms