Steel Prince

Steel Prince (Image: Racing Photos)

24 in race for Lexus Melbourne Cup berth

The lure of a ballot-free run into next November’s Lexus Melbourne Cup has proven irresistible for the connections of a number of the country’s middle-ranked stayers with 24 nominations received on Monday for Saturday’s $400,000 Andrew Ramsden Stakes at Flemington.

For the first time, a guaranteed Lexus Melbourne Cup start awaits the winner of the 2800 metre race, which is restricted to three, four and five-year-olds with the intention of promoting local young stayers into the country’s most famous race.

Last spring, just three Australian-bred horses of that age bracket contested the Lexus Melbourne Cup – Youngstar (sixth), Runaway (19th) and Ace High (20th).

The age restrictions of the Andrew Ramsden meant many of the older proven stayers were unable to nominate, leaving just three of the entries boasting a domestic rating of 100 or more – the Adelaide Cup winner Surprise Baby (100), the Geelong Cup winner Runaway (101) and the multiple Cups winner from Tasmania in Eastender.

Just a trio of three-year-olds are among the entries headed by VRC St Leger winner Transact along with Symon Wilde’s pair of American in Paris and Skyway Star.

The likely favourite is the former Irish horse Steel Prince, who’s rating has risen to 99 on the back of four impressive staying wins in a row.