Over the last 20 years or so there has been an ever-increasing interest in the international scene by those involved in the Australian thoroughbred industry
The driving influences behind this trend have been the importation of high quality stallions into Australia for the breeding season and the internationalisation of the Melbourne Cup as well as other major races around the world.
Among those now following the global scene closely is Melbourne-based form analyst Peter Ellis, who already this year has been to South Africa, Dubai, the United States and Singapore as well as being at the major race meetings in Australia.
With Black Caviar’s assault on Royal Ascot fast approaching Stallions spoke to Peter about her recent efforts at Morphettville, feature races in Singapore, the U.S. Triple Crown and other matters.
Q.: How important has Black Caviar been for Australian racing
A.: She has probably been the most exciting horse in the last 20 or 30 years and there is no doubt her achievements have captured the imagination of the Australian public, not just the racegoers. Anywhere I’ve been people want to know about Black Caviar. The United States is a classic case. Makybe Diva was known over there but she wasn’t a big name but when I was at the Kentucky Derby everyone seemed to know about Black Caviar. And, of course, there were sell-out crowds of 30,000 at the days she raced at Morphettville where normally there would have been 5,000.
Q.: Can she maintain her unbeaten record at Royal Ascot
A.: Obviously she won’t make the trip or start if Peter Moody is not 100 per cent satisfied with her condition and fitness . . . if she runs she wins.
Q.: What other international opposition is she likely to meet
A.: There is really nothing of note at present. Krypton Factor, who had been second favourite for the Diamond Jubilee, only ran fifth in the Kris Flyer in Singapore so you couldn’t imagine him troubling her.
Q.: Do you think the Diamond Jubilee will be Black Caviar’s swansong from racing
A.: I wouldn’t think so. If the trip to England goes according to plan I wouldn’t be surprised if she goes to Hong Kong for the Sprint in December. It is a disappointment, from my point of view, that she wasn’t in Hong Kong in 2010 when Rocket Man, JJ The Jet Plane and Sacred Kingdom ran. They were three of the best sprinters in the world, who were at the top of their game at that stage.
Q.: Do you feel Rocket Man is nearing the end of his racing career
A.: He has had problems with his forelegs for quite a while but he won the Lion City Cup, a Singapore Group 1, on April 29 to take his career record to 22 wins and five seconds from 27 starts. Although he was withdrawn from the Kris Flyer and is probably not as good as he was I think he will remain highly competitive for at least another year or so.
Q.: What were your impressions of the Kris Flyer
A.: It was down on previous years and more like a Group 3 race than a Group 1. Patrick Shaw, who trains Rocket Man, won the race with the local horse ATO. I think Patrick would rate him about six of eight lengths inferior to Rocket Man. Krypton Flyer, who was sent out an odds on favourite, didn’t seem to handle the wet track.
Q.: How would the Singapore Airlines International Cup rate on the international stage
A.: I think the difficulty involved in putting together fields of high quality horses is a world wide problem and will be for the next 12 months or more. Singapore officials were hoping to attract quite a few top class sprinters for the Kris Flyer but that didn’t eventuate and it was a similar story with the International Cup. Cirrus des Aigles, who has scored Group 1 wins in England, Dubai and France at three of his last five starts, was a late cancellation. So was the John Moore-trained Xtension, who had won the Group 1 Champions Mile in Hong Kong. Incidentally Moore is now aiming Xtension, who is by Xaar, for the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley in October. In their absence the Cup went to Chinchon, who was a Group 3 at Saint-Cloud in March and has a Group 1 win in the U.S. to his credit.
Q.: What were your impressions of the Kentucky Derby
A.: In contrast to other parts of the world where administrators are having trouble finding genuine Group 1 horses the Kentucky Derby had one of the strongest fields in years. The fact that I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister, who were the first two home went on to finish one-two in the Preakness, in which they beat the others by nine lengths, confirms that.
Q.: How do you expect the Belmont Stakes to shape up
A.: Obviously most people would like to see I’ll Have Another continue on and complete the U.S. Triple Crown. There have been 11 winners but no three-year-old has been able to complete the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978 so it will be quite a feat if I’ll Have Another can do it but it won’t be easy. Dullahan, who ran third in the Derby, and Union Rags, who ran an unlucky seventh, both indicated to me that they will be well suited over the 12 furlongs at Belmont.
Q.: Was Churchill Downs able to cope with the record Derby crowd of 165,307
A.: It was quite comfortable at the course and given the enormous crowd there didn’t seem to be too many complaints. Overall I think the day went very well.
Q.: Given the record attendance how would you rate general interest in U.S. racing
A.: It has been in the doldrums for a while but there was a good buzz around at the Derby and I understand that continued into the Preakness. The betting turnover on Derby Day was up about 12 per cent and it was also up at the Preakness. That indicates a lot of people are focussing on horse racing at the present and hopefully that’s just not a Triple Crown phenomena.