Melbourne Cup Hopeful Suffers Setback Ahead of the Autumn Carnival

Tue, Feb 20, 2024
by CapperTek

Hall of Fame trainer Chris Waller has confirmed that 2023 Melbourne Cup runner-up Soulcombe will miss the upcoming Autumn Carnival due to swelling to his off-front leg.

The five-year-old was the second favourite for the prestigious Group 1 Sydney Cup at Randwick Racecourse in April, but has now been ruled out of the race.

The best betting sites in Australia listed Soulcombe as one of the favourites for this year’s Melbourne Cup following his fine run behind Without A Fight last season.

However, Waller has admitted that the horse may not be fit enough to participate in the event this year, which would be a massive blow to his connections.

Soulcombe looked in fine fettle earlier this month as he tuned up for the Group 1 Australian Cup with a gallop at Caulfield Racecourse alongside Victoria Derby winner Riff Rocket.

He quickened up nicely during the final 600 metres to overtake his talented three-year-old stablemate during the final stages.

Riff Rocket demonstrated the benefit of that run by storming to a hugely impressive win in the CS Hayes Stakes at Flemington Racecourse over the weekend.

While Waller faces a nervous wait to find out if Soulcombe can take his chance in the Melbourne Cup, several other trainers are weighing up a tilt at ‘race that stops the nation’.

They include Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Graeme Rogerson, who could have a couple of lively contenders in Sharp ‘N’ Smart and Infer.

Sharp ‘N’ Smart recently ran well to finish sixth behind Legarto in the Group 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes at Te Rapa, but Rogerson believes he will be seen to better effect over longer distances.

Infer also jumped into the Melbourne Cup conversation after recording an eye-catching victory at Matamata towards the end of end of January.

Rogerson is scheduled to run the horse in the Auckland Cup at Pukekohe Racecourse on March 9 – a race which is run over the same distance as the Melbourne Cup.

The trainer previously won the Melbourne Cup with Efficient in 2007, and could well have a couple of strong contenders for this year’s renewal.

Intriguingly, it is not beyond the realms of possibility for Legarto to emerge as a serious rival to Rogerson’s hopes of adding another Melbourne Cup success to his CV.

The four-year-old comfortably handled the step up to ten furlongs in the Herbie Dyke, leaving trainer Ken Kelso pondering whether she could stretch out even further.

“I’m elated,” Kelso said after the race. “It was a lovely ride by Ryan (Elliot). He got her off the rail early on. I thought he might have gone a bit early, but she won well.

“We never had a chance to try her over 2000m last year, because she had a big season and ended up winning the Guineas in Australia, but it was always the plan to go further.

“She can do things other horses can’t, and she has all the class, and today she showed the staying qualities to knuckle down and win.

“It’s onwards and upwards from here. It opens up a few avenues, knowing she can go over ground, so it’s very, very pleasing.”

Phillip Stokes is another trainer who has his sights set on the Melbourne Cup with Daqiansweet Junior, who has finished sixth and fifth in the race in the past two years.

The six-year-old is scheduled to run in the Australian Cup Prelude and Roy Higgins Quality during March, before tackling the Sydney Cup the following month.

“He’ll have a three-run prep and that will do him,” Stokes said. “He can then go for a break after the Sydney Cup, and we’ll get him ready for another shot at the Melbourne Cup.”