Marmelo competes in York - (Steven Cargill)
Milestone awaits as final fleet of international horses sets sail for Melbourne
Victoria will tomorrow welcome its 250th internationally-trained competitor in the 25-year history of the Spring Racing Carnival with the final UK and Irish contenders for the 2018 Carnival set to touch down in Melbourne.
Eight overseas raiders departed London at 8.50am (AEST) this morning bound for Melbourne and a shot at the riches on offer, after completing their mandatory two-week pre-export quarantine period at facilities in the UK and Ireland.
The octet, who will bring to 256 the number of internationally-trained horses to have travelled down under for Victoria’s Spring Racing Carnival, are due to land at Tullamarine Airport at approximately 12.30pm (AEST) tomorrow (13 October).
They are scheduled to complete the Australian leg of their quarantine period at the Werribee International Horse Centre (WIHC) on Saturday, 27 October upon which they’ll be cleared to compete from Ladbrokes Cox Plate Day onwards.
All eight horses are nominated for the $7.3 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) on 6 November at Flemington, with northern hemisphere three-year-old Rostropovich also entered for the $5 million Cox Plate (2040m) where a showdown with Australia’s champion Winx awaits.
The new arrivals will bring to 29 the number of internationally-trained horses in Melbourne for this year’s Spring Racing Carnival, in addition to 11 imported horses who arrived on 30 September and will exit quarantine at WIHC over the coming days.
Of the impending arrivals, the colours carried by Magic Circle will be familiar to Australian audiences, with his enigmatic owner Marwan Koukash having raced Mount Athos, who finished third behind Fiorente in the 2013 Melbourne Cup after a fifth placing in the Cup 12 months prior.
Two-time Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Corey Brown will be in the saddle of the Ian Williams-trained stayer, who jets into Melbourne in fine form having trounced his rivals in both the Chester Cup (3700m) and the Group 3 Henry II Stakes (3200m) earlier this year.
Muntahaa will also aim to continue his rich vein of form for his trainer John Gosden, who scored back-to-back triumphs in France’s famous Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with Enable last weekend.
Muntahaa, the runaway winner of the prestigious Ebor Handicap (2800m) at York (UK), will be accompanied to Australia by Gosden’s son Thady, whose apprenticeship included a stint working at David Hayes’ Lindsay Park stable.
Hall of Famer owner Lloyd Williams has won the Melbourne Cup a record six times, including the past two years with Rekindling (2017) and Almandin (2016), and he has again teamed up with reigning champion trainer Joseph O’Brien to bring Irish Derby winner Latrobe to Australian shores.
Having attempted the Cups double in 2017, English trainer Hughie Morrison has decided to bypass the Caulfield showpiece this year and will instead focus exclusively on the first Tuesday in November with Marmelo.
Part-owned by Australian connections, Marmelo’s impressive season has featured victories in the Listed Grand Cup Stakes (2700m) and the Group 2 Prix Maurice de Nieuil (2800m) in France.
Already well-represented with five horses in quarantine at WIHC, Aidan O’Brien has bolstered his arsenal with three more passengers sent today from his famed Ballydoyle stable in Ireland.
Irish Derby runner-up Rostropovich was joined on board by his stable companions Idaho and The Pentagon, who both hold nominations for the Melbourne Cup.
Idaho, a brother to globetrotting star and 2015 Cox Plate placegetter Highland Reel, has raced at the highest level in seven countries since his victory in the coveted Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes (2400m) at Royal Ascot in June 2017, while The Pentagon is a Group 1 placed northern hemisphere three-year-old.
Nakeeta returns for another crack at the Melbourne Cup after finishing fifth for trainer Iain Jardine last year, in the process becoming the first Scottish-trained horse to compete during the Spring Racing Carnival.
The eight-year-old, who is part-owned by Darren Dance’s Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock syndicate, is yet to rediscover his best form so far this season, but showed some encouraging signs when finishing seventh behind Muntahaa in the Ebor Handicap.
To accommodate tomorrow’s international arrivals, eight horses that are joining the stables of Australian trainers will vacate the WIHC in the morning. Included among them are Lord Langley (Darren Weir) and Dal Harraild (Ciaron Maher and David Eustace) who will make their Australian debuts at Caulfield tomorrow afternoon.
Following the arrival of the final eight internationally-trained contenders for the 2018 Spring Racing Carnival, the horses stabled at the WIHC will be as follows:
Vintage Crop Stables
• Latrobe (Joseph O’Brien)
• Magic Circle (Ian Williams)
• Marmelo (Hughie Morrison)
• Muntahaa (John Gosden)
• Nakeeta (Iain Jardine)
• Idaho (Aidan O’Brien)
• Rostropovich (Aidan O’Brien)
• The Pentagon (Aidan O’Brien)
• Blair House (Charlie Appleby)
• Comicas (Charlie Appleby)
• Cross Counter (Charlie Appleby)
• Emotionless (Charlie Appleby)
• Folkswood (Charlie Appleby)
• Jungle Cat (Charlie Appleby)
• My Hamada (Charlie Appleby)
• Benbatl (Saeed bin Suroor)
• Best Solution (Saeed bin Suroor)
• Prize Money (Saeed bin Suroor)
• A Prince Of Arran (Charlie Fellowes)
• Fleet Review (Aidan O’Brien)
• Intelligence Cross (Aidan O’Brien)
• Spirit of Valor (Aidan O’Brien)
• The Cliffsofmoher (Aidan O’Brien)
• Yucatan (Aidan O’Brien)
• Chestnut Coat (Yoshito Yahagi)
• Duretto (Andrew Balding)
• Red Verdon (Ed Dunlop)
• Sole Impact (Hirofumi Toda)
• Withhold (Roger Charlton)
• Count Octave (Chris Waller)*
• Shraaoh (Chris Waller)*
• Gustavus Vassa (Team Hayes)*
(* Depart WIHC on Monday, 15 October for Australian stable after completing quarantine)