Nakeeta is into the Melbourne Cup. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Nakeeta is into the Melbourne Cup. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Drama as Cup runner gets last-gasp entry

CONNECTIONS of fancied Melbourne Cup runner Nakeeta breathed an enormous sigh of relief after the seven-year-old gelding won a dramatic last-gasp entry into the 2018 Melbourne Cup.

The full field for the 2018 Melbourne Cup was confirmed at 4.30pm (AEDT) on Saturday with Scottish stayer Nakeeta being gifted a promotion up to No.24 in the Cup order of entry after connections of English stayer Red Verdon dramatically pulled the pin at the last minute.

The Ed Dunlop-trained Red Verdon was found to have a bruised heel on Thursday but passed a Racing Victoria inspection on Friday and another on Saturday morning.

A few hours later RV said the horse had again shown soreness in his off-fore heel when he cooled down after his work.

Nakeeta, who finished fifth in the 2017 Melbourne Cup behind winner Rekindling, was also re-examined on Saturday morning and passed suitable to accept for the Cup.

Nakeeta was bumped outside the cut-off number of 24 Cup runners when gelding A Prince of Arran jumped up on the order of entry with his stunning win in the Lexus Stakes earlier on Saturday at Flemington.

However, Dunlop's admission to stewards that Red Verdon was not fit to run in the $7.3 million race that stops a nation gifted Nakeeta a spot in Saturday night's barrier draw.

The barrier draw is scheduled to be held at 6.30pm (AEDT).

Earlier, A Prince Of Arran won his way into the Melbourne Cup with a stirring victory in the Lexus Stakes.

His trainer Charlie Fellowes would have preferred not to run A Prince Of Arran on Saturday but with the six-year-old just outside the 24-horse limit for the Cup, his hand was forced.

Fellowes and his rival trainers had a longer than usual wait with the race delayed because of a problem with the photo-finish camera.

The Chris Waller-trained $4.20 favourite Brimham Rocks had to be re-plated but even with a new shoe fell half a length short of A Prince Of Arran ($4.40) and missed a Cup start while recording his fourth consecutive second.

A Prince Of Arran has firmed from $34 to $15 for the Cup on Tuesday but 32-year-old Fellowes just as excited about what he describes at the biggest win of his career.

"That's the biggest win of my career to date. "It's the first Group win of my career," he said.

"To win at a massive day like today it's huge.

A Prince of Arran will be there on Cup day.
A Prince of Arran will be there on Cup day.

"Getting into the Cup is amazing and we'll now hopefully enjoy the next couple of days and the build-up as much as we can"

A Prince Of Arran was ridden by Michael Walker, who will ride him at 53kg on Tuesday after handicapper Greg Carpenter's decision not to penalise the horse for the win.

"I hit the front too early but nothing was taking me into the race, and in these staying races, these European horses keep going," Walker said.

"He was pretty strong at the finish and I'm looking forward to Tuesday."

Fellowes said the pre-race delay was nerve-racking.

"It was painful," he said.

"If you told me that we would be stood here back in January before we went to Dubai I would have laughed at you.

"He's always been the apple of my eye because he's a very good looking horse. He was very quirky as a young horse and I always worried that he wouldn't actually fulfil his potential.

"This year he really is doing what I hoped he would be able to do when he was younger." Waller was naturally disappointed Brimham Rocks did not manage the win after being held up at the top of the straight.

"I am allowed to say I'm disappointed. Obviously being a part of the big race on Tuesday would've been very special, and if he won today he gets in it," he said. "I shouldn't be complaining but I feel for the owners. We've come this far and come so close."

Likely Melbourne Cup field

1. Best Solution 57.5kg

2. The Cliffsofmoher 56.5kg

3. Magic Circle 56kg

4. Muntahaa 55.5kg

5. Sound Check 55.5kg

6. Chestnut Coat 55.5kg

7. Who Shot Thebarman 55.5kg

8. Marmelo 55kg

9. Yucatan 54.5kg

10. Avilius 54.5kg

11. Finche 54kg

12. Ventura Storm 54kg

13. Ace High 55kg

14. Vengeur Masque 54kg

15. Red Cardinal 54kg

16. Auvray 54kg

17. Price of Arran 53kg

18. Sir Charles Road 53kg

19. Zacada 53kg

20. Nakeeta 53kg

21. Runaway 52kg

22. Youngstar 51.5kg

23. Rostropovich 51kg

24. Cross Counter 51kg

- with AAP


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