AIDAN O’BRIEN’S Adelaide might have won the A$3 million Cox Plate in Melbourne at the weekend, but the result has gone down like a lead balloon with local trainers worried about “foreign” raids on Australia’s top silverware.
Adelaide’s win came a week after Japanese-trained stayer Admire Rakti won the Caulfield Cup, the first of the two key lead-up races to the $6.2m Melbourne Cup, Australia’s richest and most famous race.
Admire Rakti was quickly installed a 4-1 favourite to win the gruelling two-mile handicap at Flemington on 4 November, despite carrying the top weight of 58.5 kgs. If the Tomoyuki Umeda-trained stallion fails to prosper – no entrant has won carrying more than 58 kg in nearly 40 years – German stayer Protectionist, currently second favourite at 5-1, might well.
Twice runner-up Red Cadeaux is also among the nine other international runners expected to make up the 24 entrants, leaving barely half the field reserved for local horses – “local” meaning Australian or New Zealand-trained entrants in the domestic industry’s neighbourly definition of the term.
With up to 11 foreign-prepared entrants, a record for a race dating back to 1861, the possibility of all three of Australia’s biggest Spring racing trophies going overseas has sparked protectionist calls.
Local trainer David Hayes, a Melbourne Cup winner with Jeune in 1994, believes organisers should consider capping the number of “foreign raiders” allowed in the Melbourne Cup field. “It’s worked very successfully in Hong Kong,” said Hayes. “And this could also be implemented here for the Melbourne Cup. I’m not talking silly figures, what I’m saying is that people like (handicapper) Greg Carpenter and the club could work out the balance so it’s just right between internationals and locals,” he added.
The last two Melbourne Cups were won by locally trained Fiorente (2013) and Green Moon (2012), but three of the previous six were won by a pair of French stayers in Dunaden (2011) and Americain (2010), and Japanese runner Delta Blues (2006). Until Adelaide’s triumph on Saturday, no other foreign-trained entrant had ever won the big race at Moonee Valley, regarded the toughest for international runners to win.