The logjam for Melbourne Cup berths will go to the wire - and to Saturday's Lexus Stakes - when 32 horses remained in Cup contention after second declarations yesterday.
With a field limit of 24, there's a possibility of 10 internationally-trained raiders starting, reports the Herald Sun.
Eight of the internationals are inside the top 24, after 19 horses were withdrawn yesterday.
Weights will be raised by 1kg at final acceptances after Chris Waller withdrew Preferment, leaving England's Big Orange as topweight.
Originally handicapped on 56kg, Big Orange will carry 57kg to meet race conditions stipulating a minimum top-weight of 57kg.
TAB pre-race favourite Hartnell, second behind Winx in Saturday's Cox Plate (2040m), remains in the field - and is one of seven horses representing the powerful Godolphin operation.
Charlie Appleby has declared Caulfield Cup runner-up Scottish, Geelong Cup winner and third-placegetter Qewy and Oceanographer, John O'Shea has Scottish and Tally and Saeed bin Suroor will saddle Secret Number and Beautiful Romance for Godolphin.
Qewy (25th) and Oceanographer (29th) are borderline contenders and could be pushed further down the order by results of the Bendigo Cup tomorrow and the Lexus at Flemington on Saturday.
Ireland's Wicklow Brave, Heartbreak City and Bondi Beach, along with Japan's Curren Mirotic are safely inside the top 20.
Lloyd Williams could have as many as four runners as he chases a fifth Melbourne Cup: Almandin, Assign, Gallante and Bondi Beach.
Geelong Cup runner-up Grey Lion sits at 24th and will need to rely on the Lexus winner not being among the final acceptors to gain a start.
From a New Zealand angle, Taranaki horseman John Wheeler will be hoping a couple drop out as his past New Zealand Cup winner Pentathlon is in 26th position.
Final acceptances for the Cup are taken at 6.30pm on Saturday.
Third declarations (in order and with all runners to carry an extra 1kg): Jameka 53.5kg, Almandin 51kg, Big Orange, Our Ivanhowe 56kg; Curren Mirotic 55.5kg; Hartnell, Who Shot Thebarman, Wicklow Brave, Bondi Beach, Exospheric 55kg; Scottish 54.5kg; Tally 52.5kg, Grand Marshal, Gallante, Almoonqith 53.5kg; Real Love 52kg, Sir John Hawkwood, Heartbreak City 53kg; Howard Be Thy Name, Beautiful Romance 51.5kg; Excess Knowledge 52.5kg; Assign, Secret Number, Grey Lion 51kg; Qewy, Pentathlon 50.5kg; Rose Of Virginia, Vengeur Masque, Oceanographer 50kg. Not passed ballot: De Little Engine, The Bandit, Tom Melbourne 50kg.
Sportsbet market: $4.60 Hartnell, $6.50 Jameka, $10 Bondi Beach, $12: Almandin, $13 Scottish, $15 Big Orange, Heartbreak City; $17 Almoonqith, Exospheric, Oceanographer, Who Shot Thebarman, Wicklow Brave; $26 Curren Mirotic, Real Love, Secret Number; $34 Excess Knowledge, Grand Marshal, Grey Lion, Qewy, Sir John Hawkwood, Tally; $41 Our Ivanhowe, Tom Melbourne; $50 Assign, De Little Engine, Gallante; $67 Howard Be Thy Name, $101 Beautiful Romance, Pentathlon, Vengeur Masque; $201 The Bandit, $301 Rose Of Virginia.
• International jockey Zac Purton will be reunited with Cambridge 3-year-old Sacred Elixir in Saturday's VRC Derby at Flemington on Saturday. The gelding won Saturday's Moonee Valley Vase in the hands of Damian Lane, but Purton has always had first call on the Derby mount.
Pike said Sacred Elixir would be much better-suited by the Flemington course and he was confident the Derby trip would also present no problem.
"He's got a real New Zealand staying pedigree behind him. It all bodes well for the Derby against his own age group. He was strong on Saturday and I can't see the 2500m being a problem."