Melbourne Cup hit by 'devastating' news as second favourite scratched

James McDonald, pictured here after a trackwork session with Loft at Flemington ahead of the Melbourne Cup.
James McDonald looks on after a trackwork session with Loft at Flemington ahead of the Melbourne Cup. Image: Getty

The Melbourne Cup has been thrown into chaos after the withdrawal of a second high-profile horse in the space of 24 hours.

News emerged on Friday afternoon that the pre-race second-favourite Loft had been ruled out after Racing Victoria vets discovered an injured tendon.

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It means jockey James McDonald, who won the Melbourne Cup last year aboard Verry Elleegant, is without a ride.

“He’s gutted and disappointed like we all are," Loft’s managing owner Ozzie Kheir told The Age.

James McDonald, pictured here riding Loft during trackwork at Flemington Racecourse.
James McDonald rides Loft during trackwork at Flemington Racecourse. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Racing Photos via Getty Images)

"He, too, thought he was a very big chance of going back-to-back. Unfortunately for James, I don’t know if he’ll have a ride in the race. I feel for him.

“We don’t know [when it happened]. It was done anytime between Tuesday and today.

“We lost Le Don De Vie last week, who was already in the Cup, and now Loft three days out, who we were very, very confident would go close to winning, so it’s pretty devastating to lose him this close to the race.”

James McDonald, pictured here with the trophy after winning the Melbourne Cup in 2021.
James McDonald celebrates with the trophy after winning the Melbourne Cup in 2021. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Khier told News Corp: “I don’t want to be a sook. I am just disappointed for the trainer and the fellow owners – and for racing – as we were very confident he would be hard to beat.

“But there has been swelling around his tendon.

“There is no blue with the (vet) process. It’s been a tough time because we also lost Le Don De Vie from the Cup.

"But we have had a lot of successes, so it can’t always be smooth sailing.”

Kheir confirmed that Loft would remain in Australia and join the stable of Ben and JD Hayes ahead of a tilt at the Cup next year.

Durston and Loft both out of Melbourne Cup

The crushing news about Loft comes just 24 hours after Durston - another of the pre-race favourites - was also scratched.

A mandatory pre-race scan revealed the $13 equal-third favourite had a “grey area” in his left hind leg.

“The specialists cannot determine whether it is old or new, or whether it is even something to be concerned about, but we must respect this,” trainer Chris Waller said.

“It is all about safety, for the horse, and for the rider and the longevity of the horses. It is very disappointing for all connections of the horse, as well as my stable, because so much time and effort goes into these horses. It’s just heartbreaking.

Damien Oliver, pictured here riding Durston during the a trackwork session at Flemington Racecourse.
Damien Oliver rides Durston during the a trackwork session at Flemington Racecourse. (Photo by Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images)

“Durston is sound, he galloped well on Tuesday morning and my vet trotted him up following this however we must respect modern science and learn from this.

"The horse will undergo an MRI scan to investigate further.”

Durston had firmed from $51 to the third tier of Melbourne Cup betting after landing the first leg of Australian racing's famous spring double with the Caulfield Cup earlier this month.

Deauville Legend was the $6 pre-race favourite on Thursday, with English trainer James Ferguson daring to dream of lifting the Melbourne Cup at his first attempt.

"He's travelled down here well and if you want to give him the Cup now, that would be great, but it's an incredibly tough ask," Ferguson said.

"Everything has to go your way."

with AAP

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