Kris Lees’s Kalapour has booked a place in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup by winning the Lexus Archer Stakes at Flemington.
Ridden by legendary jockey Damien Oliver, Kalapour led from start to finish in the 2500m Group 3 contest at Flemington on Saturday.
The John O’Shea-trained Athabascan and Gan Teorainn, for Chris Waller, filled the minor placings.
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It was retiring great Oliver’s 86th Melbourne Cup carnival winner, in just the second race of what will be his last appearance.
“It’s great to get one under the belt early, good for the confidence,” Oliver said.
“This horse has been running really consistently all season and it’s great that he could win a nice race today.
“He jumped well and I wasn’t really planning to lead but the more I got closer to the gates, I thought it was an option.
“I just didn’t want to hand it up to United Nations … they were going pretty pedestrian out of the straight and I thought, ‘Bugger it, why not me?’
“He was so comfortable and relaxed and just in a beautiful rhythm for the whole race and gave me a great kick.”
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Damien Oliver riding Kalapour returns to scale after winning race two, the Lexus Archer Stakes during Derby Day. Credit: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images
Kalapour is slated to carry 50kg in the Melbourne Cup but could face a weight penalty for the Lexus Archer Stakes win.
Newcastle trainer Lees is set to have two runners in the Cup, with Kalapour lining up alongside Moonee Valley Cup winner Cleveland.
“Especially having that style of run, it wasn’t a tough run and we’ll see how he pulls up, but I’d expect he’ll back up,” Lees said of Kalapour.
Oliver will not be onboard Kalapour on Tuesday though, having already secured his Melbourne Cup ride with Alenquer.
Eight winners of the Lexus Archer Stakes have gone on to win the Melbourne Cup — most recently Shocking in 2009 — though recent results have not been good for runners on the quick back-up.
Damien Oliver on board Kalapour. Credit: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images
English stayer Prince Of Arran went close when he finished third in the Cup after winning the Archer in 2018.
The Joseph O’Brien-trained Valiant King won’t be among the Cup final declarations ahead of Saturday evening’s barrier draw.
The four-year-old has been withdrawn on veterinary advice.
All other runners were cleared to accept.
A second pre-race inspection of all horses in the final field will be conducted on Monday.
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