Defending Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) champion Twilight Payment
and current second favourite Spanish Mission
were part of a team of four international gallopers which touched down at Melbourne airport late last night ahead of their raid on the 2021 Victorian Spring Racing Carnival.
Twilight Payment and Spanish Mission, trained respectively by Joseph O’Brien and Andrew Balding, were joined on the flight by fellow passengers Away He Goes
and Sir Lucan
, with all four horses now settling in at the TAB International Horse Centre in Werribee.
The quartet arrived just before midnight and will spend the next two weeks completing their mandatory post-arrival quarantine period, before ramping up their preparations for the 161st running of ‘the race that stops a nation’ at Flemington on Tuesday, 2 November.
Twilight Payment (fourth in the Melbourne Cup Order of Entry), Spanish Mission (seventh) and Away He Goes (14th) are all guaranteed a start in Flemington’s flagship event but Sir Lucan (47th) is reliant on attrition to gain a run in the 24-runner field.
In 2020 Twilight Payment delivered a second victory in the $8 million Melbourne Cup for his trainer Joseph O’Brien, and the northern hemisphere eight-year-old arguably enters this year’s contest in even better form, having won the Group 3 Irish St Leger Trial before running second in the Group 1 Irish St Leger last start.
Spanish Mission has also been in excellent form this year, with his win in the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup Stakes followed by placings in both the Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup and the Group 2 Londsale Cup Stakes, where he finished a head behind superstar stayer Stradivarius.
On his penultimate start, Away He Goes (trained by Ismail Mohammed) finished runner-up in the Group 1 Goodwood Cup Stakes over the Melbourne Cup distance of 3200m; whilst Sir Lucan, who will join the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott stable, is a lightly-raced northern hemisphere three-year-old whose biggest win came in the Listed Yeats Stakes in May.
After completing their mandatory two-week post-arrival quarantine in the International Horse Centre, the quartet will undergo a standing CT scan at the nearby U-Vet Equine Centre before being granted approval to race.
Their arrival brings the number of Werribee residents to six, with Twilight Payment’s stablemate State Of Rest
and his fellow Cox Plate hopeful Gold Trip
having touched down on the first shipment on Saturday, September 25.