Numbers are expected to be significantly down this year as a result of the added precautions, although RV is hopeful that last year’s Cup winner Twilight Payment and previous placegetter Master Of Reality, both owned by Team Williams and trained by Joseph O’Brien, will be coming back, along with one of Europe’s best-performed stayers this season, Spanish Mission.
However Joseph’s father Aidan has made it clear he would now be prioritising Sydney, where the rules are not so tough.
RV knew there would be some high-profile absentees when it brought in its new measures to try to avoid the deaths that have cast such a recent shadow over the Cup and the organisation’s executive general manager – integrity services, Jamie Stier, did not resile from their introduction.
They are, he said “aimed solely at ensuring the welfare of horses and riders as best as we are able to, and at reducing the unacceptable injury rate among international horses during the carnival over the past decade″.
“As part of our new safety benchmarks, horses must undergo an extensive pre-export veterinary examination, including mandatory scans, to determine their suitability to travel to Victoria,” Stier said.
“We have engaged an international panel of diagnostic imaging specialists to review the mandatory scans, whilst our veterinary team is overseeing the conduct and analysis of physical examinations, vision of horses and veterinary and training records.
“The decision not to endorse Prince Of Arran’s travel and quarantine for this year’s spring racing carnival was reached based on a cumulation of risk factors, including the analysis of his scans, the veterinary examinations conducted and his recent veterinary and training records.
“ It was not an easy decision nor one that was taken lightly.″
The VRC’s chief executive Steve Rosich backs up RV’s stance: “We have absolute confidence in the ability of the Racing Victoria team in assessing the risk profile of each international horse … and their diligence in applying the processes agreed earlier this year.
“We expected and are comfortable with a likely reduction on the recent average of international participants given the new safety measures and the current challenges with international travel.″
Sydney, where racing chiefs are hoping to attract headline horses from Aidan O’Brien, could be the beneficiary.
“It is difficult because I think when you go down there you can only run once – I stand to be corrected on that – and it’s a long way to go to have that restriction,” O’Brien said in a press call with the Irish media, subsequently reported in The Sydney Morning Herald.
“That’s in Victoria, it’s not in Sydney. In Melbourne it’s just the rules that they brought in, and they are 100 per cent entitled to do it, but it just makes it a little bit more difficult from this part of the world.”