Three highly-credentialled international horses have entered quarantine in the United Kingdom and Ireland overnight ahead of their pursuit of a share in the $110 million in prizemoney and bonuses on offer at the 2021 Victorian Spring Racing Carnival.
The trio are Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) aspirants State Of Rest and Gold Trip, and highly touted stayer Spanish Mission who is second favourite for the Carlton Draught Caulfield Cup (2400m) and Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m).
Last-start Group 1 winner State Of Rest will serve his pre-export quarantine period in his native Ireland under the watchful eye of his two-time Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Joseph O’Brien.
Andrew Balding’s cups contender Spanish Mission will be accompanied at Sidehill Stud in the English town of Newmarket by French-bred Gold Trip, who is set to join the stables of Victoria’s leading trainers, Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.
The trio will spend the next fortnight training in their respective quarantine facilities and undergo a further pre-export veterinary examination before boarding a flight which is scheduled to touch down at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport on AFL Grand Final Day (Saturday, 25 September).
After completing their mandatory two-week post-arrival quarantine at the TAB International Horse Centre at Werribee, the trio will undergo a standing CT scan at the nearby U-Vet Equine Centre before being granted approval to race from Caulfield Cup Day onwards.
Among their collective targets is a quartet of Group 1 races in the $5 million Caulfield Cup on 16 October; the $5 million Cox Plate on 23 October at The Valley; the $8 million Melbourne Cup at Flemington on 2 November and the $2 million Seppelt Wines Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on 6 November.
Having triumphed in ‘the race that stops a nation’ in both 2017 (Rekindling) and 2020 (Twilight Payment), O’Brien will now bid to follow in the footsteps of his famous father by adding the Cox Plate trophy to his mantelpiece. Aidan O’Brien celebrated victory in the 2014 edition of Australasia’s weight-for-age championship with Adelaide, and son Joseph now has his sights set firmly on The Valley’s showpiece event before a possible tilt at the Mackinnon Stakes in Cup Week.
Like Adelaide, State Of Rest is a northern hemisphere three-year-old and his victory in the Group 1 Saratoga Derby (1900m) in New York last month shows that he’s very capable of becoming the second Irish-bred horse in as many years to win the Cox Plate, following Sir Dragonet’s triumph in 2020.
Spanish Mission will bring even stronger form lines with him on the plane to Australia, having finished within a head of arguably the world’s greatest stayer of recent times, Stradivarius, at his most recent start.
Spanish Mission’s runner-up finish in last month’s Group 2 Lonsdale Cup (3300m) was the perfect preparation for his trip to Australia and followed a placing in the famous Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup (4000m) and a win in the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup (2800m) in May.
Owned by USA-based racing syndicate Team Valor, the northern hemisphere five-year-old boasts an impressive record with six wins – four at Stakes level – and seven minor placings from 18 career starts.
Gold Trip, who arrives on a one-way ticket off the back of consecutive Group 1 placings in France, is also a prodigiously talented galloper with a fourth in one of the world’s great races, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m), on his CV in 2020.
The northern hemisphere four-year-old holds an entry for the Melbourne Cup, but he’ll initially be aimed at the Cox Plate, where he will be out to deliver back-to-back wins for the Maher and Eustace training team.
A second shipment of international horses targeting the Melbourne Cup is currently scheduled to arrive in Victoria on Saturday, 9 October, with details of those horses that enter pre-export quarantine to be published by RV later this month.