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Melbourne Cup balloting conditions often confuse punters and spectators, so lets take a closer look at why some horses are excluded or made exempt from the Melbourne Cup ballot. The race that stops a nation enjoys more attention than any other horse race in Australia, with trainers from all over the world keen to get a run on the big day. However, the Melbourne Cup field is limited to 24 horses, with horses balloted out based on a number of factors.

While the race directors have absolute discretion regarding the exclusion of individual horses or their exemption from the ballot, their are a number of well known factors that decide which horses line up on the big day. Of these, the three most important factors include the prize money earned by each horse in the last two years, the number of wins and placings in particular lead-up events, and the allocated handicap weight attributed to the entry.

While it is these three factors that mostly decide who makes it to the Melbourne Cup field, there are also a number of other important races that play a crucial role in deciding the Melbourne Cup field. The winners of the following events are exempt from the Melbourne Cup ballot, which gives many of these races more importance than they would otherwise have.

  • Andrew Ramsden Stakes
  • The Bart Cummings
  • Lexus Stakes (formerly known as the Saab Quality and registered as The Hotham Handicap)
  • Cox Plate
  • Caulfield Cup
  • Irish St. Leger (IRE)
  • Tenno Sho (Spring) (JPN)
Previous ballot exempt races included (but have been removed due to being proven irrelevant):
  • Sankei Sho All Comers (JPN)
  • Arlington Million (USA)
  • San Juan Capistrano Handicap (USA)
  • Australian Stayers Challenge

The above are the only ballot exempt races allowing a horse a start in the Melbourne Cup.

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