Australia: strength of home team staying division looks weak

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 15: Nick Hall riding Jameka celebrates on the line to win Race 8, BMW Caulfield Cup during Caulfield Cup Day at Caulfield Racecourse on October 15, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images)

Jameka is flying the flag for Australian stayers in the Spring Carnival

  PICTURE: Getty Images  

 By Mark Scully in Melbourne 12:00pM 26 OCT 2016 

Our man Down Under ponders the strength of the Australian staying division following some high-profile victories for the international raiders

WITH the Melbourne Cup now less than a week away, one question is quietly rumbling away in the background: where are all the Australia stayers?

As the build-up to the race continues, there appear to be precious few local horses making the kind of late bids for glory via the country cups and other pattern races that was traditional in years gone by.

Indeed, last week’s Geelong Cup saw Britain’s Qewy defeat French import Grey Lion and his own stablemate Oceanographer in a field of only eight runners.

Francis Of Assisi laughed at his eight rivals in the Bendigo Cup on Wednesday and Saturday’s Lexus Stakes, which carries automatic Melbourne Cup entry for any winner still engaged in the big race itself, had to be re-opened earlier this week.

Speaking of Cup entries, they were down to 122 in total this year, an all-time low, while only 32 remained after this week’s second acceptance stage, compared to 42 last year.

Of this year’s 32, a whopping 24 were bred outside Australia and New Zealand, with Victoria-bred-and-trained Caulfield Cup winner Jameka the only truly domestic hope anywhere near the business end of the betting.

It is not news that Australia’s breeding industry is geared towards producing precocious, speedy two-year-olds but there appears to be a lack of patience on behalf of all in the industry to allow a stayer to develop, perhaps because the riches of the breeding industry are unlikely to be waiting at the end of years of endeavour.

Instead, owners are happy to pay large amounts to import ready-made prospects such as Hartnell, Exospheric and Our Ivanhowe and while their short-term gains may be great, the long-term implications for Australia’s great staying prizes will be considerable.

Scottish doing the Winx shuffle

The only thing we know for certain about Scottish is that, so long as he remains healthy, he is going to run again at Flemington next week. What we do not yet know is in which race.

In the immediate aftermath of his Caulfield Cup second, trainer Charlie Appleby was lukewarm about going on to the Melbourne Cup, with the Group 1 Emirates Stakes over 1m2f the Saturday after the more likely option.

Last week, the vibes were that there had been a change of heart and the Cup was back on the agenda but now, it appears likely the original position will prevail, with the shorter option seemingly being favoured again.

The indecision is an example of the powerful repelling force possessed by Winx, as those vibes from the Scottish camp have coincided with Winx first seeming to be Emirates Stakes bound before subsequently being ruled out.

Appleby and his team will not be the only ones adjusting their plans accordingly before time is called on the great mare’s career.

MCG a sight to see

I have been keen for this regular feature not to turn into a diary of things I have done during the trip but I have to make mention of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which I visited on Tuesday.

Every bit as imposing as it looks on the television, the MCG is not only a magnificent stadium but a shrine to great Australian sporting achievement and a fascinating place to explore.

Unfortunately, as is the case for our own County Championship, the masses were not on hand to see Victoria pour on the runs against Tasmania on the first day/night (this was a bit different) of their Sheffield Shield encounter.

Not to worry though as it is always a treat to tick off a world famous sporting venue and I can only hope to be back one day to sample an Ashes atmosphere.

Horse Racing News | Racing Post

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