By Andrew Eddy
(Sydney Morning Herald) – AN INTERNATIONAL won last week’s Caulfield Cup and star New Zealand galloper Ocean Park took yesterday’s Cox Plate, but local hopes of winning the Melbourne Cup in nine days are not yet dashed, with the Cox Plate’s eye-catching runner Ethiopia firmly in contention for the greatest prize of all.
Connections of the West Australian-bred Ethiopia were staying tight-lipped about their next move before tomorrow’s second declaration payment for the Melbourne Cup, but trainer Pat Carey confirmed last night that the $6.2 million race now beckoned.
Ethiopia to carry local Cup hopes
”We thought he ran really well today, but it’s the owner’s decision. If he’s happy to run then that’s what will happen,” Carey said.
Ethiopia was last night all alone as far as locals were concerned for the Melbourne Cup as he sat among a host of internationals at $11. Asked if the horse could win a Melbourne Cup at only his eighth start, Carey said: ”Potentially he could. Whether it’s too early or not is the question but we take a lot out of today’s run.”
thiopia sprang a surprise when he took on an unfamiliar role near the head of the field as he and three-year-old Proisir led out of the straight. But while the leaders were dropping off him, Ethiopia stuck to his task with only Ocean Park – a four-time weight-for-age winner this spring – and two $20 million colts in All Too Hard and Pierro, who got eight kilograms off Ethiopia, able to get past him.None of the first three home are likely to be seen again this spring with Ocean Park’s trainer Gary Hennessy saying he is most likely to spell the horse for autumn, although he said Saturday’s Mackinnon Stakes was not out of the picture. Hennessy put paid to any theories the horse may go to Hong Kong to race in the future.”This is where he can make his name as a stallion and I’d love to come back next year and try to win this race again,” he said.Southern Speed started one of the outsiders yesterday at $41 but she also put herself in the picture for a tilt at the Melbourne Cup after finishing fastest. Last year’s Caulfield Cup winner recorded the best final 200 metres of the Cox Plate, her 12.46 seconds eclipsing the winner’s final sectional of 12.70 after she was allowed to drift back to the tail of the field before unleashing her final sprint.Her trainer Leon Macdonald, who has long held the belief that the mare, out of a Zabeel mare, would manage 3200 metres, was not getting ahead of himself yesterday.”You never make decisions on a racetrack, but it will certainly give us something to think about overnight,” he said. ”The last bit of her race was really strong.”Green Moon’s part-owner Nick Williams was struggling to comprehend the run of his $5 favourite. Although he was trapped wide early, the import showed none of the dash that secured him the Turnbull Stakes at his last start, finishing seventh.”I really don’t know why he ran the way he did because he was well-trained up for the race,” Williams said. ”Something must have happened. He must have got a bump or something. We’ll know a lot more tomorrow when he pulls up but if he’s fine, the Melbourne Cup is still on.”It was a horror day for the Williams’ horses. Earlier Midas Touch was $4.20 favourite in the Drake International Cup but finished last. ”He might have choked down so that explains that run at least,” he said.
Team Williams’ push for a Melbourne Cup continues on Saturday when they try to qualify Excluded and Tanby at the 11th hour in the Lexus, which ensures the winner a start.
Mourayan, who is already qualified, will go though the Mackinnon Stakes.
After running beaten favourites in the Caulfield Guineas and Caulfield Cup, Gai Waterhouse was still confident despite her failed attempt yesterday. Pierro ran third in the Cox Plate, Proisir finished eighth and More Joyous was trapped off the track for much of the journey before finishing 11th. Waterhouse said her luck might change at Flemington where she will run imports Glencadam Gold and Fiorente in the Melbourne Cup.