ASCOT, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Lord North ridden by James Doyle heads to the finish line to win the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes during Day 2 of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse on June 17, 2020 in Ascot, England. (Photo by Edward Whitaker/Pool via Getty Images)
ASCOT, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Lord North ridden by James Doyle heads to the finish line to win the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes during Day 2 of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse on June 17, 2020 in Ascot, England. (Photo by Edward Whitaker/Pool via Getty Images)

Carnival hope for Spring raiders

Racing Victoria is working closely with the state and federal government to secure travel exemptions for the international stables targeting Melbourne's Spring Carnival.

Under current rules, the Werribee quarantine station will only be accepting of "one-way ticket" horses to be prepared by Australian trainers.

But keen and continued interest from the world-class operations of Aidan O'Brien, John Gosden and Godolphin has Racing Victoria exploring all options.

Royal Ascot winners Lord North and Circus Maximum could be aimed at the Cox Plate, while Racing Victoria International and Racing Operations general manager Paul Bloodworth will again sound out Gosden for the brilliant three-time Ascot Gold Cup winner Stradivarius.

A decision on the travel exemptions, which hinges on the suppression of COVID-19 in Victoria, would need to be made by early August.

Bloodworth worked the phones as the Royal Ascot meeting unfolded last week.

"It's difficult to have too many direct conversations with European trainers at the moment," Bloodworth said.

"It's a tricky situation but there's definitely interest there from leading stables to come for the spring.

"Aiden would want to send (travelling foreman) T J (Comerford) with his horses plus all his work riders, now if Aiden can't do that, he's not going to send horses.

"We need to work out a way to enable people like T J and Chris Connett (Appleby's foreman) permission to enter the country, and other members of their team.

"It's very difficult to say come to Melbourne if we don't know it's possible."

Ascot Gold Cup runner-up Nayef Road and 2018 Melbourne Cup-winner Cross Counter, who finished third some 18 lengths behind Stradivarius, are realistic Cup draw cards.

"There's plenty to work with across the week from a Melbourne spring perspective," Bloodworth said.

 

Nayef Road and Jockey Ben Curtis after winning the Group 3 Sagaro Stakes earlier this month.
Nayef Road and Jockey Ben Curtis after winning the Group 3 Sagaro Stakes earlier this month.

 

"Once we have a clear answer to the problems we've got around international competition I can start having more serious conversations with the trainers concerned."

The first four past the post in the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes last Wednesday - Lord North, Addeybb, Barney Roy and Japan - will be sounded out as potential Cox Plate invitees.

"A lot of the times horses win these sort of races and the (trainers and owners) start casting their eyes towards maximising that stallion value through races in Europe," Bloodworth said.

"But with Lord North I would imagine it would be maximising his earning potential given he's a gelding.

"Barney Roy was basically on the plane last year … he's another horse I know Charlie is earmarking for the Cox Plate."

The spring bolter could be Group 1 hurdler Verdana Blue, who was runner up in the Ascot Stakes (4014m) last Monday.

"Interestingly for a jumper he prefers firm ground and after winning a hurdle Group 1 the owners were very vocal … we'd love to win a Melbourne Cup," Bloodworth said.

"His rating is nowhere near high enough, needs to go and do something to get the rating up … it'd be great to see a great trainer like Nicky Henderson bring a horse out."

Originally published as Carnival hope for Spring raiders


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