Thursday, 14 September 2017 – Overseas raiders enter quarantine ahead of trip to Melbourne.

The international invasion on the Spring Racing Carnival is underway, with 21 thoroughbreds from across Europe and Asia now settled in at quarantine facilities ahead of their trip down under for Australia’s premier racing event.

Sixteen horses have tonight entered their temporary home, a pre-export quarantine facility in the English town of Newmarket where they will spend the next two weeks, before boarding a flight to Melbourne which touches down on Saturday, 30 September. Another four have been quarantined at Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle stable in Ireland under the watchful eye of their master trainer. 

Admire Deus, who will be prepared by Darren Weir for his intended runs in the BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) and Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m), has already been in quarantine in his native Japan for four days and will arrive ahead of the first European shipment on Tuesday, 26 September.  

All will complete two weeks’ post-arrival quarantine at the Werribee International Horse Centre, before being cleared to chase Spring Racing Carnival riches.

The European contingent is headed by Red Cardinal, trained by German maestro Andreas Wohler, who masterminded the last international victory in the Melbourne Cup when Protectionist triumphed in 2014. This year, Wohler is pinning his hopes on Red Cardinal, the son of Montjeu who shot to prominence with an impressive victory in the 3200m Belmont Gold Cup in the United States.

Red Cardinal is set to be joined on the first shipment by another first-class European stayer in Tiberian, part-owned by the Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock syndicate and trained by Frenchman Alain Couetil.

Tiberian, entered in the Melbourne Cup, has won four of his past five starts. His most recent victory came last month in the Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville over 2500m at Deauville, in his native France.  

Marmelo, entered for both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups, only had a short journey to the quarantine facility. Stabled in Newmarket, the winner of the Group 2 Prix Kergorlay in France – the race won by Americain en route to his 2010 Melbourne Cup triumph – will embark on a maiden visit to Australia for trainer Hughie Morrison.

Willie Mullins, meanwhile, has sent Wicklow Brave and Riven Light into quarantine. Dual purpose nine-year-old Wicklow Brave has won high-profile races over hurdles and on the flat, including the Grade 1 Punchestown Champion Hurdle earlier this year and the 2016 Group 1 Irish St Leger, where he beat odds-on favourite Order of St George. That win prompted Mullins to send him to the Melbourne Cup, and he is set to return for a second run in ‘the race that stops the nation’.

Riven Light, bred in France but switched to Mullins for a career on the flat, is being aimed at the Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) but is likely to run first on Caulfield Guineas Day. On Wednesday, he bolstered his chances of qualifying for Australasia’s weight-for-age championship with a smooth Listed win over 1600m at Ireland’s Harvest Festival.

Perhaps the most notable of O’Brien’s quartet is Johannes Vermeer. Named after a 17th Century Dutch painter, Johannes Vermeer won the Group 1 Criterium International in France as a two-year-old and will be targeted at both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.

His stablemate Taj Mahal, who finished runner-up in this year’s Group 1 Secretariat Stakes in America, will attempt to deliver a second Cox Plate win for arguably the world’s pre-eminent trainer. As with Riven Light, he is also likely to have a lead-up race on Caulfield Guineas Day. 

Godolphin UK’s head trainer Charlie Appleby, one of the overseas stars of the 2016 Spring Racing Carnival, has entered four horses into quarantine. They include Francis of Assisi, who claimed last year’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m) at Flemington and is prominent in the early betting markets for both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups, for which he has been allocated 54kg in weight. 

Francis of Assisi is joined in quarantine by his stablemate Qewy, another horse who sparkled for the Godolphin stable last year. Having won the Geelong Cup (2400m), Qewy ran a mighty race to finish fourth in the Melbourne Cup, and could return for the Flemington showpiece after being handed 53kg by Racing Victoria’s Handicapping Panel.

Folkswood, entered by Godolphin for the Cox Plate and a likely Caulfield Stakes (2000m) contender, is another globetrotter hoping to make an impact over the Carnival. He is yet to get off the mark in Stakes races, but suffered narrow defeats earlier in the year in the Group 3 Earl of Sefton Stakes at Newmarket and the Group 1 Jebel Hatta in Dubai.   

Another notable horse to have entered quarantine in preparation for the long trip to Melbourne is Kaspersky, who is trained by Jane Chapple-Hyam. Michelle Payne’s intended ride, the Cox Plate nominee bounced back to form last week with a runner-up finish in the Group 3 Superior Mile Stakes at Haydock (UK), and will aim to continue his fine form in the Toorak Handicap, his first assignment on Australian soil.

The full list of international horses (and their trainers) now in quarantine is as follows:

Admire Deus, Darren Weir (Aus)
Red Cardinal, Andreas Wohler (Ger)
Wicklow Brave, Willie Mullins (Ire)
Tiberian, Alain Couetil (Fra)
Francis of Assisi, Charlie Appleby (UK)
Kaspersky, Jane Chapple-Hyam (UK)
Steel of Madrid, Tony McEvoy (Aus)
Folkswood, Charlie Appleby (UK)
Johannes Vermeer, Aidan O’Brien (Ire)
Marmelo, Hughie Morrison (UK)
Taj Mahal, Aidan O’Brien (Ire)
Qewy, Charlie Appleby (UK)
Wall of Fire, Hugo Palmer (UK)
Riven Light, Willie Mullins (Ire)
Kidmenever, Charlie Appleby (UK)
Mask of Time, Ciaron Maher (Aus)
Claudio Monteverdi, Aidan O’Brien (Ire)
Sixties Groove, Andreas Wohler (Ger)
Fastnet Tempest, William Haggas (UK)
Utah, Aidan O’Brien (Ire)
Garcia, Darren Weir (Aus)

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