The record overseas raid on the 2018 Spring Racing Carnival is taking shape with 27 horses from Europe now settled in at quarantine facilities in Ireland and Britain ahead of their trip to Victoria to compete in Australian racing’s most prestigious event.
Five horses, led by dual Group 1 placegetter and 2017 Epsom Derby runner-up Cliffs Of Moher, are in quarantine at Ballydoyle before boarding a flight to Melbourne which is due to touch down on Saturday, 29th September.
Cliffs Of Moher will have company in the form of his stablemate Yucatan, who holds Caulfield and Melbourne Cup entries, plus fellow Ballydoyle residents Fleet Review, Spirit of Valor and Intelligence Cross, who will all target sprint races across the Spring Racing Carnival.
In addition to the 27 arrivals from Europe, high-class Japanese stayers Chestnut Coat and Sole Impact have entered quarantine in their home country and are scheduled to land in Melbourne on Monday, 1st October.
The European contingent includes Saeed bin Suroor’s multiple Group 1 winner Benbatl, who has accepted The Valley’s invitation to take on the world’s highest-rated horse, Winx, in the $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2,040m) on Saturday, 27th October.
Benbatl’s stablemate Best Solution has been assigned the second highest weight (57.5kg) for the $5.15m Stella Artois Caulfield Cup (2,400m) and the $7.3m Lexus Melbourne Cup (3,200m).
Trainer Charlie Appleby is sending highly progressive stayers Cross Counter and Hamada from his Moulton Paddocks stable in the hope of securing a first win for Godolphin in the Melbourne Cup. They will be joined by stablemates Emotionless, a leading contender for the Caulfield Cup, and Comicas, who will target sprint races during the Spring Racing Carnival.
Other European raiders include Roger Charlton’s Northumberland Plate winner Withhold, currently the second favourite for the Melbourne Cup; Count Octave, trained by Andrew Balding, who won the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes with Side Glance in 2013; and his stablemate Duretto, whose last run produced a victory in the Listed Chester Stakes.
Red Verdon, whose trainer Ed Dunlop saddled Red Cadeaux to three runner-up finishes in the Melbourne Cup, will also be on the plane; as will Prince of Arran, the well-travelled galloper trained by Charlie Fellowes.