Melbourne Cup icon says $600k mistake could cost race favourite

·5-min read
Incentivise is carrying 57kg in the Melbourne Cup off the back of three wins in the Spring Carnival. Pic: Getty
Incentivise is carrying 57kg in the Melbourne Cup off the back of three wins in the Spring Carnival. Pic: Getty

Incentivise may be the shortest-priced Melbourne Cup favourite since Phar Lap, but legendary owner Lloyd Williams reckons a mistake from the horse's connections could come back to bite them in Tuesday's race.

Drama rocked Flemington on race day as Future Score was scratched from the field, following a check-up with vets after lameness issues.

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There have been no such concerns for raging favourite Incentivise, which is undefeated in his past nine starts in a sequence of victories that started in obscurity and continued on one of the turf's biggest stages in the Caulfield Cup.

However Williams - who holds the Melbourne Cup record with seven wins as an owner - believes connections for Incentivise made a major error by racing him in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes in September.

Victory in that race for the Peter Moody-trained horse saw Incentivise whacked with one of the top weights for the Melbourne Cup.

The five-year-old gelding will carry 57kg into the great race, off the back of his three Group 1 wins this Spring Carnival.

It's only 1kg lighter than last year's champion Twilight Payment, which unlike Incentivise, has experience winning the great race.

Twilight Payment will be looking to join an elite club by winning back-to-back Melbourne Cups. Pic: Getty
Twilight Payment will be looking to join an elite club by winning back-to-back Melbourne Cups. Pic: Getty

While the prizemoney for taking out the Makybe Diva Stakes may have been too good for Incentivise's owners to ignore, Williams fears it could prove to be a $600,000 mistake.

“The big thing about him, with great respect to them (connections), I think they handled him very badly running him in the Craiglee (Makybe Diva Stakes) and getting his weight up too soon,” Williams said, according to punters.com.au.

“They could have run him in a 1700m race that day and he wouldn’t be carrying the weight he’s carrying, he’d probably have 55.5kg or 55kg. 

"He’s 2.5kg under the scale at 57kg, it’s a serious weight for two miles. If you look at Twilight Payment, he’s won the Cup at two miles and he’s giving him [only] 1kg. 

"Now this horse hasn’t won a Melbourne Cup and he’s only getting 1kg off. But I think he might be something very special.”

Williams still thinks Incentivise's class makes him hard to beat and trainer Peter Moody says he couldn't do more in terms of preparation for Tuesday's great race.

"I just hope he gets his chance ... and I believe if he holds his form, and from what I've seen at home it tells me he will hold his form, he should just about win the race," the trainer said on his Moody on the Mic podcast.

"He's a deserved favourite on form.

On the strength of his Caulfield Cup win, the consensus is that nothing out of the race can turn the tables on Incentivise at Flemington.

That leaves the two international horses and perhaps a handful of in-form lightweights with the best chance of spoiling what has been a meteoric rise for the horse and a renaissance for jockey Brett Prebble.

International pair loom as big Melbourne Cup threats

Last year's Irish-trained Melbourne Cup winner Twilight Payment and the UK stayer Spanish Mission will offer a new challenge but Moody is certain the bookmakers have got it right with his stable star.

"Going (into the Melbourne Cup) I've just tried to maintain him and hold him together and I've been able to do that quite comfortably through his resilience and the way he's done around the stables."

Incentivise will be trying to become the 12th horse to complete the famous Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup double in the same year.

It hasn't been done for two decades but even jockeys riding against Incentivise agree it will be hard to stop the latest boom horse in Australian racing from emulating some of the turf's greats.

Craig Williams will search for his second win in the nation's greatest race when he links with Spanish Mission and the jockey admits he was in awe of Incentivise's Caulfield Cup triumph.

Jockey Damian Lane is seen here on Verry Elleegant at the 2021 Cox Plate.
Verry Elleegant is one of the top local hopes for the 161st Melbourne Cup.

"Straight after the race, I felt if he got (to the Melbourne Cup) in the same healthy condition, then we won't beat him at Flemington," Williams said.

"My horse has got form from a different angle and that's what I am banking on."

Chris Waller will have four runners in his bid to win the Melbourne Cup for the first time although Australia's champion trainer concedes Incentivise has most bases covered.

But in the reigning Australian horse of the year Verry Elleegant, Waller is adamant the racemare can make up for luckless seventh placing in 2020 if nothing goes to plan for Incentivise.

"It would be no surprise to see her win but she probably needs Incentivise to fail," Waller said.

with AAP

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