Peter Ellis

published: 27 Dec 2013 in Q&A

The last 12 months have been quite enthralling as far as the Australian racing scene is concerned.

In the opening months of the year the feats of Black Caviar captured the attention and imagination of the Australian public and people around the world.

Then, in the closing months, Gai Waterhouse further enhanced her standing as the First Lady of Australian Racing by capturing the Emirates Melbourne Cup with the import Fiorente.

With 2013 coming to a conclusion Stallions sought the opinion of international form analyst Peter Ellis on a variety of subjects.

In the first of a two-part series Stallions questioned Peter about his assessment of the year, his most vivid impressions at home and overseas as well as other matters.


Q.: How do you rate the 2013 racing year in Australia

A.: I would describe the year as being a mixed bag. There were a number of stand out performances but my view is that overall the year lacked quality. I would say that unquestionably the high point of the year was the fact that capacity crowds flocked to watch Black Caviar as she raced her way into immortality with her three autumn runs in the Lightning Stakes, the William Reid and the T.J.Smith. Her exceptional feat was followed up by Gai Waterhouse when a plan she had developed the previous year resulted in Fiorente’s win in the Emirates Melbourne Cup. It was a heart warming achievement that she finally succeeded in winning the Cup after a number of previous disappointments.


Q.: Can you pinpoint other highlights

A.: I would have to say the Damien Oliver’s ride on Fiorente was right up there. It was a 10 out of 10 ride by Damien which made the difference between winning and losing. The ride also showed that an enforced spell of 10 months on the sidelines had not detracted from his ability as a jockey. Another highlight was Atlantic Jewel’s return from a 70-week break, which enabled her to be retired just before the Cox Plate with a record of 10 wins and a second from her 11 starts. Also worth mentioning was the training performance of Robert Hickmont in transforming Fawkner from a classy miler into a Caulfield Cup winner. He continued on run particularly well in the Melbourne Cup. And, when talking about trainers Chris Waller must be congratulated. Over recent years he has put together a record that is little short of amazing. Waller’s talent was very clearly illustrated with Boban. The gelding was twice unplaced during the 2012 Melbourne Spring Carnival but this spring he won at each of his five outings featuring Group 1 victories in the Epsom Handicap and the Emirates Stakes. Buffering was another notable performer with his three Group 1 victories after having 10 previous placings at the elite level along with Happy Trails who won the Turnbull Stakes before being narrowly beaten in the Cox Plate.


Q.: What have been your most vivid impressions internationally

A.: There were some really outstanding performances. The best of these would have been the unbeaten French filly Treve, who is trained by Christiane Head. Treve absolutely demolished her rivals in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and plans are for her to stay in training so we can expect some spectacular displays from her in 2014. The German stayer Novelist smashed the course record with an effortless win in the  King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.  Another topliner was Moonlight Cloud who, in the space of eight days, broke the course record at Deauville on two occasions. Her first record-making run was in the Prix Maurice de Gheest over 1300m and the second came up in the Prix  Jacques le Marois over 1600m.  On both occasions she defeated quality fields. Another to distinguish himself was the Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, who was dynamic in winning the Dubai World Cup. The year was capped of by the brilliant win of the Japanese horse Lord Kanaloa in the Hong Kong Sprint. He was sensational and has now retired with a record of 19 starts for 13 wins, five seconds and a third. Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien also showed his skill by taking Irish Guineas winner Magician from a ninth in the St. James’s Palace Stakes over 1600 at Ascot on June 18 to a victory over the star filly The Fugue in the Breeders’ Cup Turf over 2400m at Santa Anita on November 2.


Q.: What is your assessment of the international racing year

A.: It was a good, competitive year in Europe. A lot of people felt that racing would fall away with the retirement of Frankel but that wasn’t the case. The three year olds were a quality lot with Treve the Arc winner and Intello the French Derby being outstanding while in England such as Toranado, Dawn Approach, Olympic Glory and Magician. A lot of the classy three-year-olds of 2013 are staying in training which is a definite plus.


Q.: Were there any low points on the Australian scene

A.: I feel that the early retirements of the brilliant three-year-olds All Too Hard, Pierro, Epaulette and Your Song left something to be desired from a racing viewpoint. They, almost certainly, could have continued on to improve their records as four year olds at a time when our racing needs class horses. Away from the racetrack the news that BC3 Thoroughbreds has gone into administration and the failure of the failure of a punting club run by Bill Vlahos means the year is ending in a most unfortunate way.








The 2013 calendar year was an interesting one for racing in Australia and around the globe.

In Australia we had the unbeaten Black Caviar notching up her 23rd, 24th and 25th wins in front of capacity crowds while Gai Waterhouse confirmed her title of Australian Racing’s First Lady by winning the Emirates Melbourne Cup with Fiorente. 

On the international scene the likes of Treve, Novelist, Moonlight Cloud, Animal Kingdom and Lord Kanaloa were performing with distinction.

As the year was ending in the second of a two-part piece Stallions questioned international form analyst Peter Ellis about trends in Australian racing, the influence of imported stayers on the Melbourne Cup, the likely impact of the increased prize money for the Sydney Autumn Carnival and other matters.


Q.: Can you see any trends developing in Australia

A.: One example staring everyone in the face is the impact imported horses are having on our feature racing these days. As an example we had the imported Fiorente beating four northern hemisphere trained stayers in the Melbourne Cup. Others which come quickly to mind are Foreteller winning the Ranvet, Reliable Man the Queen Elizabeth, Beaten Up the Doomben Cup and Side Glance taking the Mackinnon Stakes.


Q.: Does this disturb you

A.: Yes. A  lot of the leading stables and bloodstock agents in Australia are now targeting Ireland, England, France, Germany and Italy for imports to race here. I think about 100 imports have been brought into Australia in the last 12 months so therefore the buyers are shying away from the local product to some degree, which is disturbing.


Q.: Is the Melbourne Cup a better race for the northern hemisphere participation

A.: I think it is. At present we are basically dependent on the overseas horses, the European horses in particular. This year second, third, fourth and fifth in the 2013 Cup were trained in that part of the world and, of course, the winner was an import. I certainly think the race is better for having runners from the northern hemisphere but they are pushing Australian stayers into the background.


Q.: Is it fair to say the Melbourne Cup attracts the second and third tier stayers from overseas

A.: They are the sort of horses suited by a 3200m handicap. The  best Group 1 winners of 2400m in Europe have plenty of alternatives such as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Breeders Cup Turf. I think the situation is clearly demonstrated by the French horse Duneden. He has been competitive in Group 1s, particularly in 2013, but he has only won four races in the last two-and-a-half years. They have been the Geelong Cup, the Melbourne Cup, the Hong Kong Vase, in which he beat an ordinary field, and the Caulfield Cup in 2012.  Another illustration can be gained from Red Cadeaux. He has been runner up in the 2011 and 2013 Melbourne Cups but has struggled for success in Europe with his sole victory in the last 30 months coming against seven opponents in the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup. That gives you an idea of where we stand and that is just a bit below the top level in Europe.



Q.: How do you feel about the increased prize money for the Sydney autumn carnival

A.: I think the increases will prove to be beneficial for Australian racing. The concern I have is whether the Australian Turf Club will be able to sustain the new level of prize money. The New South Wales Government has contributed $10 million with the aim of lifting the profile of the carnival but given the state of the economy my worry is about whether the N.S.W. government will be able to make similar contributions in the years to come. It would be most disappointing if this proves to be just a one-off gesture.


Q.: Do you think the A.T.C. will be able entice top class performers from overseas

A.: I think there is a possibility they will be able to attract at least several highly rated horses. When I was in Hong Kong for the International Race Day there was talk Akeed Mofeed, who won the Hong Kong Derby on his way to winning the Hong Kong Cup, will come for the Queen Elizabeth and that Red Cadeaux would possibly contest The BMW and the Queen Elizabeth. However, there are problems associated with bringing horses down to Australia at that time of the year. One is the quarantine regulations because imported horses would have to be quarantined at Werribee before going up to Sydney. Another problem is all the other options available. You have an 1800m grass race worth $5 million in Dubai in March; a 2400m metre grass race in Dubai worth $5 million as well as the $10 million Dubai World Cup. And, of course there are plenty of incentives to race horses in Dubai because all the accommodation and travelling costs are paid for. There is also the QEII Cup in Hong Kong in April and the Singapore Airlines Gold Cup at Kranji in May with good prize money and easier quarantine regulations.


Q.: Will the Golden Slipper suffer from no longer being Sydney’s richest race with a $4 million Doncaster Handicap

A.: I don’t think so because it will still be the world’s richest two-year-old race. And, obviously if the whole profile of the Sydney Autumn Carnival is lifted that will benefit the Golden Slipper as well as all the other races.


Q.: Which overseas meetings will you be attending in 2014

A.: The first will be the Dubai World Cup in March and I will be going to France, England, Ireland, Germany and Italy for the feature summer racing. Other possibilities are the QEII Cup at Sha Tin in April, the Singapore Airlines Gold Cup at Kranji in May and the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita in November.