Welcome to the new reality of Winx-free weight for age racing, where, it would seem, there are some very handy gallopers but no out-and-out champions.
All of which will bring a smile to the connections of those who have bought European horses that are just now settling in at the Werribee quarantine centre, having arrived for their assault on Melbourne’s ever growing spring riches.
All of the usual suspects – Saeed Bin Suroor, who won group 1s with Benbatl and Best Solution last year, Ed Dunlop (of Red Cadeaux fame), Charlie Fellowes (who saddled Prince of Arran to run third in the 2018 Melbourne Cup) and Wille Mullins, who went so close to winning the Cup with Max Dynamite – have sent contenders.
And a number of Australian trainers – Kris Lees, David Hayes and Mike Moroney – are also looking forward to taking charge of imported gallopers when they clear quarantine.
Add to that Natalie Young and Trent Busuttin, the Cranbourne-based training couple who can’t wait to take charge of the former Sir Michael Stoute trained, Prince Khaled Abdulla owned Mirage Dancer.
The five-year-old (to northern hemisphere time) son of Frankel arrived at the weekend and Busuttin has already been down to inspect him a couple of times.
He is hoping that the classy galloper will be the one that can put the expatriate New Zealand partners firmly on the map after moving to Australia three years ago.
His main aim is the Caulfield Cup, but there is a caveat.
If the training duo don’t think he will be seasoned enough for the world’s richest 2400-metre handicap they might change direction and aim him at the Caulfield Stakes and the Cox Plate.
”The next couple of weeks we will know a bit more about him but I am happy and excited,” says Busuttin.
”The Caulfield Cup is his first target unless we feel he’s not quite fit enough. It will be nine weeks between runs so that might be an issue. We will gauge his fitness and if he’s not we could change tack and go Caulfield Stakes into a Cox Plate.”
What about the Melbourne Cup?
”I have been told he’s a 2000 to 2400-metre horse but it’s an $8 million race and it’s a nice race to take the question. If he doesn’t get the two miles he can come back in trip next year.
”But there’s the Caulfield Cup, Caulfield Stakes and Cox Plate to be thinking about first.”
Mirage Dancer was a solid group 2 or group 3 horse in the UK but that should make him competitive in Australian group 1 contests beyond 1600-metres.
”A group 2 in England is good enough for our group 1s; that’s not being derogatory, it’s the reality over a staying trip,” he said.
”I went over there for two weeks when we first bought him. Jane Chapple Hyam [the UK-based racehorse trainer, who is the daughter of former Liberal leader Andrew Peacock] has been looking after him until he travelled here and has done a fantastic job.”
Michael Lynch is The Age’s chief soccer reporter and also reports on motor sport and horseracing