Melbourne Cup 2023 favourite a tricky one to weight

Racing Victoria Head of Handicapping David Hegan says he can only provide a weight for the Melbourne Cup on the evidence in front of him.

The $5 Unibet favourite Vauban has been allocated 55kg in the 2023 Melbourne Cup, a weight that may seem harsh given the stayer is a Listed Three-Year-Old winner in France before he joined the stable of Willie Mullins and registered a Group 3 win at his most recent outing.

“He is one of the most unusual horses you will ever get to handicap in a Melbourne Cup,” Hegan said.

“He’s only had the two flat runs in two years since winning a Listed Three-Year-Old race in France and that’s been supplemented by eight hurdle starts and three of those have been at Grade One level.

“He’s not dissimilar in terms of that form line to (1993 Cup winner) Vintage Crop, although Vintage Crop had the Group 1 flat form but didn’t have the Grade 1 hurdle form, although he was placed.

“When Vauban went to Royal Ascot and won, we knew he was a potential candidate to come to Australia, but I don’t think any of us expected him to win (by 7.5 lengths) like he did.”

Hegan said Vauban improved his handicap rating by 14 points, or 7kg, but that was in a non-Listed or Group race and the stayer was not qualified for the Cup.

But he passed that crucial ballot step winning the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes (2400m) at Naas at his last start which also confirmed his 114 British handicap rating.

“As a benchmark figure, 115 is recognised as a minimum for Group 1 level and he rocketed up to 114 as a handicapper,” Hegan said.

“You take a circumspect approach to a horse winning like that outside of Group and Listed form and theoretically you apply a slight discount to that.

“But he has then gone to the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes at 2400 metres, coming back 400 metres, and won that in hand and franked his rating at 114.

“He’s officially reached that level twice and we can only rate him on his flat form, what he has done.

“We note that he is a quality hurdle performer, but we can’t factor that into the weights, and it’s not factored into his international rating.”

Hegan said the Mullins-trained stablemate Absurde, (53kg in the Cup), which finished 7.5 lengths astern of Vauban at Royal Ascot, had conformed the form by winning the Ebor Handicap at York last month.

“Absurde wouldn’t have been beaten 7.5 lengths by him that day (with clear running), but he (Vauban) has only had six flat runs and I dare say, he might have room to improve,” Hegan said.

“But as handicappers go, we’re not handicapping on what he might do in the future.”

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