Kew Gardens has been assigned the top-weight of 58kg for the AU$8 million Lexus Melbourne Cup at Flemington in November.
Racing Victoria's (RV) Executive General Manager - Racing, Greg Carpenter, unveiled the weights on Tuesday morning for Australia's two richest handicap races, the Melbourne Cup and the AU$5.15 million Stella Artois Caulfield Cup, which was won last year by Godolphin's Best Solution.
With Kew Gardens not nominated for the 142nd Caulfield Cup, the joint top-weights for the world's richest turf handicap over a mile-and-a-half are instead Avilius and Hartnell. The James Cummings-trained pair were both imported from Europe to race in Australia, where they have registered a combined six wins at Group one level.
Cross Counter, who surged to victory in last year's Melbourne Cup for his trainer Charlie Appleby, will carry 57.5kg this year as he bids to become the first horse since Makybe Diva in 2005 to retain his crown.
The 6.5kg increase from last year's weight of 51kg is the joint second highest progression in the weight allocated to a Melbourne Cup winner since 1970, with only Gala Supreme - in 1974 - receiving a larger increase of 8.5kg.
With differing top-weights across the two Cups, the majority of dual entries have received 0.5kg less in the Melbourne Cup than the Caulfield Cup.
Avilius has been handed 57.5kg in the Melbourne Cup, with brilliant mare Lys Gracieux - trained in Japan by Yoshito Yahagi - next in the weight scale on 57kg.
"Kew Gardens was the world's joint highest-rated stayer alongside Stradivarius last year, he was a dominant winner of the 2018 St Leger at Doncaster and so is a worthy topweight among the 152 entries for this year's Melbourne Cup," said Carpenter.
"Cross Counter will carry 6.5kg more than when he won the Melbourne Cup, which is the same increase as Let's Elope in 1992; but given the nature of his victory last year and the natural progression in the weight-for-age benchmark from a three-year-old to a four-year-old, I felt it was an appropriate penalty to impose.
"In the Caulfield Cup, Avilius and Hartnell have both proven themselves at the highest level, and thus have been assigned equal topweight among the 145 entries. In the past 12 months, Avilius has won two Group 1 races at a mile-and-a-quarter or further and was Australia's highest-rated stayer, while Hartnell has maintained his place among the nation's elite performers.
"Inevitably the internationals will again pose a formidable challenge to the locally-trained stayers, with the first three home in the 2018 Melbourne Cup all set to return to Melbourne this year; but if the likes of Andrew Ramsden winner Steel Prince and Adelaide Cup winner Surprise Baby can maintain their form throughout the spring, I'm sure the visiting horses will have a real fight on their hands."
The weights allocated to other notable entries are as follows
- Marmelo and Prince Of Arran, both placed in last year's Lexus Melbourne Cup, carry the same weight as 12 months ago with 56kg and 53kg respectively. Prince of Arranhas 53.5kg in the Caulfield Cup.
- Northern Hemisphere three-year-olds have won the past two Melbourne Cups and the equal highest weighted on 52.5kg former Ballydoyle inmate Constantinople (now trained by the Lindsay Park team of David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig), German Derby runner-up Django Freeman (Robert Hickmott) and Lonsdale Cup third l Paradiso (Aidan O'Brien).
- Six-time Melbourne Cup-winning owner Lloyd Williams has multiple runners in contention for a start in the 2019 edition, including the Joseph O'Brien-trained trio of Master of Reality (55.5kg), Latrobe (55kg) and Twilight Payment (55kg); plus Homesman (56kg), Johannes Vermeer (55kg) and Yucatan (54.5kg).
- Danceteria (David Menuisier), one of two late entries for the Caulfield Cup alongside Constantinople, has been allocated 56kg for the 19 October feature;
- Soon-to-arrive imports Mirage Dancer (Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young) and Southern France (Ciaron Maher and David Eustace) have also been allocated 56kg in the Caulfield Cup - 0.5kg more than the Melbourne Cup;
- The Australian Bloodstock-owned Sky Bet Ebor winner Mustajeer (Kris Lees) has 55.5kg in the Caulfield Cup and 55kg in the Melbourne Cup, whilst York runner-up Red Galileo (Saeed bin Suroor) has 53kg and 52.5kg respectively;