A flight containing 29 high-class international horses has touched down at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport overnight heralding the official start of the overseas raid on the 2020 Victorian Spring Racing Carnival.
Having been acquired by local connections, 13 of the 29 will remain on Australian soil after competing across the carnival, whilst the remaining 16 will embark on a hit-and-run mission in a bid to add another chapter to the success story of international raiders on Victoria’s marquee races.
The 29 gallopers boarded the flight after completing their mandatory two-week quarantine period at facilities in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and will spend the next fortnight at the TAB International Horse Centre in Werribee before being unleashed on Victorian racetracks from Stella Artois Caulfield Cup Day (Saturday, 17 October) onwards.
In 2019, internationally-trained horses left Melbourne with two of the Spring Racing Carnival’s major prizes, courtesy of Mer De Glace in the Caulfield Cup (2400m) and Lys Gracieux in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m), and this year’s well-credentialled crop appears primed to provide another major challenge to the local contingent.
Paul Bloodworth, Racing Victoria’s General Manager – International and Racing Operations, said: “It’s very pleasing to see such a high-quality group of horses arrive here in Melbourne to contest some of Australia’s greatest races.
“Despite the additional challenges that 2020 has presented, the show of support from some of the world’s leading stables once again proves what tremendous value they place on Victoria’s Spring Racing Carnival, and the high esteem in which it is held across the globe.
“With no spectators currently allowed on racetracks in Victoria, it is vitally important that the quality of our racing remains extremely high for TV audiences here. and indeed across the world, to enjoy.
“I’m confident that the combination of an elite international presence and a very strong local contingent will ensure that this year’s Spring Racing Carnival commands great interest for racing fans and punters alike.”
Runners from the stables of Irishmen Aidan and Joseph O’Brien make up the bulk of the travelling party, with O’Brien Snr sending six horses to contest a variety of races during the Spring Racing Carnival, and O’Brien Jnr bringing four as he bids to add another Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) win to the one he claimed with Rekindling in 2017.
Aidan O’Brien will be hoping to achieve his first victory in either a Caulfield or Melbourne Cup with Anthony Van Dyck, arguably the most high-profile horse he has sent to Australian shores with an English Derby win and victory over Stradivarius on his resumé. The northern hemisphere four-year-old is in line to contest both Cups, in which he will carry the topweight of 58.5kg.
Progressive pair Santiago and Tiger Moth, who fought out the finish in this year’s Irish Derby (2400m), will concentrate on the Melbourne Cup whilst their stablemates Armory and globetrotting mare Magic Wand will target the 100th running of the Cox Plate, a race their master trainer won in 2014 with Adelaide.
The pair could also line up in the Group 1 Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington – enabling Magic Wand, who will be ridden in Australia by Mark Zahra, to defend her crown – whilst the final member of the Ballydoyle six, last-start Group 2 winner Wichita, will also be in action over the Melbourne Cup Carnival with the Group 1 Kennedy Cantala (1600m) the colt’s primary goal.
Half of Joseph O’Brien’s travelling party are already familiar to Australian audiences, with Master Of Reality (fourth) and Twilight Payment (10th) having both contested last year’s Melbourne Cup. The pair clashed earlier this year in the Group 2 Curragh Cup, where Twilight Payment trounced his rivals to win by eight lengths.
Like that pair, the other two passengers from Joseph O’Brien’s stable, Buckhurst and Pondus, are also owned by Lloyd and Nick Williams. Buckhurst, who is being set for the Caulfield Cup, is a three-time Group 3 winner in his native Ireland.
He looks likely to be joined in Caulfield’s $5.15 million marquee race on 17 October by Prince Of Arran, who will have two runs in Victoria this year as he seeks to extend his remarkable record down under. The popular gelding has never finished outside the top three in six outings in Australia, and his trainer Charlie Fellowes has indicated his stable star will contest the Caulfield Cup before his third tilt at the $8 million Melbourne Cup on 3 November.
The long-range target for Aspetar has always been the Cox Plate, and the Roger Charlton-trained galloper has improved his chances of winning the centenary edition following the booking of Damian Lane, who won Australia’s weight-for-age championship at a canter 12 months ago. A Group 1 winner in Germany last year and successful in the Group 2 York Stakes on his last start, Aspetar could also progress to the Mackinnon Stakes before returning home.
The set of internationally trained raiders is completed by German-trained, Australian-owned Ashrun, Andrew Balding’s Dashing Willoughby and two from the Irish stable of Willie Mullins in True Self and Stratum Albion.
A last start runner-up in the Group 2 Prix Kergorlay in France, Ashrun reunites the 2014 Melbourne Cup (Protectionist) winning combination of German trainer Andreas Wohler and owners Australian Bloodstock as they pursue another victory on the first Tuesday in November at Flemington.
Dashing Willoughby won last year’s Group 2 Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and was recently purchased by leviathan New Zealand owner Sir Owen Glenn, who has charged his fellow Kiwi Michael Walker with the task of riding the northern hemisphere four-year-old.
True Self, who will again be raced in Australia by the OTI Racing syndicate, missed out on a run in last year’s Melbourne Cup but made some amends four days later with her victory in the Group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m) at Flemington. Her stablemate Stratum Albion is owned by prominent English businessman Tony Bloom, who will be hoping for a change in fortunes after a luckless time with another galloper, Withhold, two years ago.
With an international rating of 117, perhaps the most prominent horse on a one-way ticket is Sir Dragonet, who will join the stable of Ciaron Maher and David Eustace on completion of his quarantine. Property magnate Ozzie Kheir is amongst the ownership group who purchased the son of Camelot from Coolmore, having previously been trained by Aidan O’Brien.
The 2019 Chester Vase winner started favourite for the 2019 English Derby won by his former stablemate Anthony Van Dyck and will now be prepared by the Maher-Eustace partnership for a possible tilt at both the Cox Plate and the Melbourne Cup.
Among the other imported horses set to generate plenty of interest are grey galloper Nickajack Cave – an impressive winner of his last two starts in Ireland who joins the stables of Peter Moody; Northern Hemisphere three-year-old Port Guillaume (Lindsay Park) who arrives from France with four wins from just six starts; and another talented French import, Skyward, who is bound for Cranbourne duo Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young.
The list of horses that have arrived in Melbourne overnight and are now in quarantine at the TAB International Horse Centre are:
- Anthony Van Dyck - Aidan O’Brien (Ireland)
- Armory - Aidan O’Brien (Ireland)
- Magic Wand – Aidan O’Brien (Ireland)
- Tiger Moth – Aidan O’Brien (Ireland)
- Santiago – Aidan O’Brien (Ireland)
- Wichita – Aidan O’Brien (Ireland)
- Buckhurst – Joseph O’Brien (Ireland)
- Master of Reality - Joseph O’Brien (Ireland)
- Pondus - Joseph O’Brien (Ireland)
- Twilight Payment - Joseph O’Brien (Ireland)
- Stratum Albion – Willie Mullins (Ireland)
- True Self – Willie Mullins (Ireland)
- Ashrun – Andreas Wohler (Germany)
- Aspetar – Roger Charlton (UK)
- Dashing Willoughby* – Andrew Balding (UK)
- Prince of Arran – Charlie Fellowes (UK)
- Involved* – Ciaron Maher & David Eustace
- Sir Dragonet* – Ciaron Maher & David Eustace
- Tinandali* – Ciaron Maher & David Eustace
- Mr Satchmo* – Chris Waller
- Selino* – Chris Waller
- Almania* – Kris Lees
- Collide* – Kris Lees
- Le Don De Vie* – Anthony & Sam Freedman
- Nickajack Cave* – Peter Moody
- Port Guillaume* – Tom Dabernig & Ben Hayes
- San Huberto – Matt Cumani
- Skyward* – Trent Busuttin & Natalie Young
- Sound of Cannons* – John O’Shea
(*Horses that have been purchased by local connections and will remain in Australia after the Spring Racing Carnival)