Late drama as top contender Cleveland is suddenly pulled from Melbourne Cup on eve of big race

There has been late drama on the eve of the Melbourne Cup with a top contender suddenly scratched from the $8.4 million race.

Cleveland was a $30 shot but had been building nicely for the Cup, finishing second in the St Leger at Randwick over 2600m and following that with a win in the Moonee Valley Gold Cup (over 2500m) at the end of October.

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But at 5.40pm AEDT on the eve of the race, Racing Victoria stewards revealed Cleveland had been scratched from the Cup on the advice of vets after they noticed the horse had an “elevated temperature”.

The disappointing news was released just hours after Cleveland was passed fit.

Cleveland is a former Irish stayer who was brought to Australia by ‘Cups King’ Lloyd Williams.

Cleveland was entering the big race in good form. Credit: Getty Images.

The six-year-old stallion is trained by Kris Lees and was set to be ridden by quality jockey Michael Dee.

“Veterinarians today completed their second round of pre-race physical veterinary inspections of all starters in tomorrow’s $8.4 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington,” RV said.

With no emergencies for the race, it means the field has been reduced to 23 runners and there is a good chance that could drop to 22.

Veteran jockey Damien Oliver is also sweating on the fitness of his ride Alenquer after a stone bruise was discovered following trackwork on Sunday.

Oliver – who is racing in his 32nd and final Melbourne Cup – won’t know if he is a chance to add to his three Cup wins until the the morning of the prestigious race.

“As communicated earlier, when inspected today the Mike Moroney-trained Alenquer continued to show signs of soreness in the near fore foot as a result of the stone bruise reported yesterday,” RV said.

“The horse will be re-examined by RV veterinarians tomorrow morning prior to final scratching time (7.30am) to determine its suitability to race. The remaining 23 horses have been passed as suitable to race tomorrow.”

Oliver was philosophical about his chances on Monday but said Moroney was “confident”.

“With feet it’s a day to day thing, it’s not like a tendon or a bone injury, one day they’re not so good and next day they can be OK,” he said.

“It’s all timing, if I’m going to have a ride I want to be riding on a fit, healthy horse, if the horse isn’t right it’s not right.

“I’ve ridden in enough Melbourne Cups to not just have a ride for the sake of having a ride, I know it’s my last, but you want the horse to be right if he’s going to go there.

“Pretty philosophical about, I’ve been in it long enough to see the ups and downs and what will be will be.”

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