A third Cox Plate is a possibility for dual winner So You Think…but any genuine hope of the champion’s return is likely to depend on the vagaries of Australia’s quarantine regulations.
So You Think’s Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien has nominated the five-year-old for the race he has won for the past two years and has expressed an interest in bringing the horse back for what would probably be his final campaign.
But O’Brien has also expressed annoyance at the stringent quarantine rules that would apply even before he left his Ballydoyle stables in Ireland.
“Aidan has said he’d definitely come back if the quarantine is right,” Racing Victoria’s Leigh Jordon said.
“Things are progressing in that area, but there are still a few things to be sorted.”
Australian quarantine officials have previously cleared Ballydoyle, but only for a limited period which has now expired.
A recent inspection of the famous training complex found some issues that needed to be rectified before Ballydoyle could again be approved.
Jordon said the issue had peeved O’Brien whose most recent trip to Australia ended acrimoniously when his three runners finished near the tail of the field in the 2008 Melbourne Cup and he was summoned to a stewards’ inquiry into their performances.
It is understood one of the main sticking points identified by the quarantine service was the separation of horses destined for Australia from the rest of those at Ballydoyle.
“It’s basically about small things, but Aidan’s attitude is that it was OK before so it should be OK now – and he’s not keen to change anything,” Jordon said.
Australian regulations require horses to spend two weeks in quarantine before leaving for Australia, and two more weeks when they arrive.
There is no doubt the Cox Plate is on O’Brien’s mind, as demonstrated by his nomination of a second entry, Cape Blanco, a last-start Group I winner in America.
Both horses are among 189 entries for the $3 million Cox Plate (2040m) and are part of a 13-strong international entry.
Also on the list is last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Americain who is one of two French entries and Dangerous Midge, the English-trained winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf in the US.
Caulfield Cup entries, which also closed on Tuesday, included the English stayer Tactician who is owned by the Queen and the 2008 Melbourne Cup runner-up Bauer.
The staying feature has also attracted five entries from Japan, two from Germany and one from Hong Kong.
by Buford Balony