Europe eyes the prize Down Under
THE high Australian dollar, extremely generous – by European standards – prizemoney and the status of the Melbourne Cup as the world’s premier staying race are all continuing to make the Victorian spring carnival an ever more attractive target for foreign raiders.
But, says Racing Victoria’s international racing scout Leigh Jordon, European trainers are beginning to cotton on that there are riches other than the Melbourne Cup to plunder Down Under during the spring, with the $2.5 million Caulfield Cup starting to loom larger in their plans.
Jordon, who yesterday returned from his annual trip to Europe where he spent much of July soliciting high-class entries for Australia’s most prestigious races, concedes that the country’s weight-for-age championship, the Cox Plate, will always find it difficult to attract high-class international entries.
Not because the race, with its $3 million purse, isn’t worth winning: it simply falls at the wrong time of the year to attract the best of the overseas brigade as the northern hemisphere championship events, such as England’s newly established Champions Day at Ascot and the Breeders’ Cup in the US, take place around the same time.
But, says Jordon, his trip to the UK, France and Germany proved productive as a number of trainers are beginning to see the wisdom of targeting a race like the 2400-metre Caulfield Cup as an end in itself, not merely as preparation for the 3200-metre Melbourne Cup.
And Jordon is hopeful that French handler Alain de Royer-Dupre, who saddled Americain to win the 2010 Melbourne Cup, could have two in the race this time, with the former champion (who ran a close-up fourth behind countryman Dunaden last year) accompanied by Reliable Man, who ran fourth (two places ahead of Dunaden) in a hotly contested King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes on Saturday at Ascot.
”I saw him run a good race on Saturday and he strikes me as a good Cup type of horse, so I was asking Alain about the chance of him coming out too,” Jordon said yesterday of the colt who won the Prix du Jockey Club, or French Derby, last year.
”There is definitely strong interest. As we know racing is getting more international and the Cup has helped promote Australia a lot. So has Black Caviar, with her trip to England this year. That, and our very good prizemoney and the fact that the Australian dollar is so strong, are all making people more aware of the opportunities.
”The Caulfield Cup is often seen as part of the build-up to a Melbourne Cup run, but that sort of prizemoney is not available much in Europe and people are starting to realise that its very much a race worth winning for its own sake.
”I spoke to Aidan O’Brien about possibly looking at that for a horse like Treasure Beach [who won the Irish Derby last year]. I also met with Roger Varian, who has Sri Putra, who has run in some high class middle distance races in Europe. Marco Botti is also seriously considering the Cox Plate invite for Planteur.”
The latter is a European group one winner who finished just in front of former Australian champion So You Think when the pair were third and fourth in the Dubai World Cup behind Godolphin’s Monterosso in March, although So You Think reversed the form when he beat the ex-French trained Planteur by more than five lengths at Royal Ascot in June.
Godolphin has won the Caulfield Cup with the European trained All The Good in 2008, while Lady Herries also scored with the English trained outsider Taufan’s Melody in 1998.