UNITED STATES—The lockdown in Melbourne due to the pandemic has not had a negative effect on the 2020 Melbourne Cup with entries up for the race that stops a nation.

The $8 million Melbourne Cup looks set to be run behind closed doors at Flemington Racecourse on November 3, but despite the city as well as the state of Victoria being in a lockdown situation due to the global pandemic, things are looking bright for the Spring Carnival feature race.

Only a limited number of international trainers will be permitted to enter horses for the Spring Carnival due to quarantine issues, but the entries haven’t been hit. In fact, they have jumped from 152 to 174 for this year’s Melbourne Cup.

There are 30 internationals in the entries and set to make the trip from Europe, including a number of contenders representing Joseph O’Brien, who the Melbourne Cup in 2017 with Rekindling, and father Aidan.

Defending champion Vow And Declare will bid to join an elite band of horses to go back-to-back in the world famous race having become the first Australian-bred horse to win the race since 1993 when he triumphed last year.

The weights have been released for the 160th Melbourne Cup and Vow And Declare, Godolphin’s three-time Group 1 winner Avilius and Sovereign, the 2019 Irish Derby winner trained by Aidan O’Brien, will all carry 57kg.

Only another O’Brien-trained runner Anthony Van Dyck will carry more weight have been allotted 58.5kg. The 2019 Epsom Derby winner is set to have a welter-burden of a challenge on his hands at Flemington, after stablemates Japan and Magic Wand weren’t entered in the race.

Among the favorites for the Melbourne Cup, Surprise Baby will shoulder 54.5kg in this year’s race – 1kg more than when fifth in 2019. Having topped the betting for much of the winter, Russian Camelot gets 53.5kg and has the benefit of a light weight.

Other notable runners include Verry Elleegant (55kg), who will have to follow in the footsteps of the great Makybe Diva, Master Of Wine (53.5kg), Quick Thinker (53.5kg), Warning (53kg), two-time place-getter Prince Of Arran (54.5kg) and last year’s fourth Master Of Reality (56kg)

Racing Victoria’s Greg Carpenter said: “Aidan’s O’Brien’s entries are the standouts on performances over the past 18 months and have been handicapped accordingly. Anthony Van Dyck holds the honor of sole topweight in the Melbourne Cup with Japan not nominated.

“There’s a challenge been set for talented local mare Verry Elleegant. Makybe Diva is the only mare to carry more than 55kg to victory in the Melbourne Cup having done so in 2004 (55.5kg) and 2005 (58kg), the latter being the last time a mare has placed in our most famous race.

“There is always great interest in what weight is given to the defending Melbourne Cup champion and this year that is Vow And Declare who rises to 57kg having won the race with 52kg last year for Australia with Craig Williams in the saddle for Danny O’Brien.”