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The Spring Racing Carnival is a step closer with first acceptors taken for the three majors

Last year’s winners of the three major Melbourne Spring Carnival races remain in the hunt to defend their titles after first declarations have closed.

First acceptances were taken for the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup last month while on Tuesday those numbers were whittled down.

A total of 109 horses are still in contention for the Caulfield Cup, up from 87 last year, and include last year’s winner Verry Elleegant.

The Chris Waller-trained mare also remains among first acceptors in the 2021 Cox Plate and 2021 Melbourne Cup.

Of the 2021 Caulfield Cup acceptors, the Team Hakes-trained Mount Popa is guaranteed a start having won a ballot exemption through his success the Mornington Cup (2400m) earlier in the year.

Two internationally trained horses, Rodrigo Diaz and Spanish Mission remain in contention, although their participation is subject to suitable travel arrangements.

Sir Dragonet is among acceptors to defend his Cox Plate crown which has seen numbers reduced to 79, down from 109 at the same stage last year.

Only one international, State Of Rest, from the Joseph O’Brien stable, remains in contention.

Early talk on this year’s Cox Plate has centred around Zaaki and Verry Elleegant, although European four-year-old Gold Trip can be added to the mix having been purchased by Australian Bloodstock and will join the stable of Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.

The Melbourne Cup saw 124 horses paid up for on Tuesday, up from 94 last year, with last year’s winner Twilight Payment among six internationally trained first acceptors.

Internationals among the first acceptances are Twilight Payment’s stablemate and two-time Melbourne Cup starter Master of Reality, Rodrigo Diaz, Spanish Mission, Away He Goes and Sonnyboyliston .

Of the local contingent, Chris Waller, chasing a first Cup win, is well represented with 13 horses.

The 2019 Melbourne Cup hero Vow And Declare is one of five first acceptances from Danny O’Brien’s stable while Realm of Flowers, exempt from the ballot courtesy of her win in May’s Andrew Ramsden, are among the other local acceptors.

Weights for the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups will be released next Tuesday.

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