Arlington finishers target Australia

Profile Picture:

TwinSpires Staff

August 14th, 2016


Arlington Heights, Illinois – It turns out there may have been three “win and you’re in” races Saturday at Arlington Park.

Yes, invitations to the Breeders’ Cup automatically went to Mondialiste for winning the Arlington Million (G1) and Sea Calisi for finishing first in the Beverly D. (G1). 

But by winning the American St. Leger (G3), did Da Big Hoss get a de facto version of such an invitation to go to the Melbourne Cup (G1) in Australia?

Owner Harvey Diamond said he has had an entrée from Down Under to gauge his interest in having the first trainer to bring a U.S.-based horse to the $4.75 million event that Australians call “The Race That Stops a Nation.”

“It’s in the back of my mind,” Diamond said. “I’ve heard from a trainer who’s very interested in him coming over and had proposed a few different ideas, all of which sound interesting but not enough to tempt us over there.”

Diamond did not divulge the trainer’s name, but he said there was a more important need before he would entertain the notion of traveling to Melbourne for the two-mile handicap November 1.

“Money,” he said. “And it would take the right person making the right invitation with the right plans. It’s a long way. If we took him over there, we’d probably leave him for a year and hopefully find a syndication or a stud job over there.”

With a $1,262 entry fee due August 30 and then the cost of shipping a horse 10,000 miles, it seems a long shot for Diamond, especially since Da Big Hoss would be a borderline case to be among the field of 24 horses that get invitations based on graded and group results that are converted into handicap weight assignments next month.

Where Diamond’s Australian dream may be wanderlust, it is much more of a reality for owners like Coolmore, which used a win in the 2014 Secretariat S. (G1) to springboard Adelaide to a win in the $2.3 million Cox Plate (G1), the top weight-for-age race in the Southern Hemisphere. It along with the $2 million Caulfield Cup (G1) and the Melbourne Cup are the nucleus of the Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne, a month-and-a-half bacchanal that gives the sport its own distinct and enormously popular season in Australia.

The Coolmore team is always close to the vest with its intentions, but it had to be feeling good about Deauville’s third-place finish in the Million and Long Island Sound’s runner-up result in the Secretariat. Both are nominated for the 1 1/4-mile Cox Plate; Deauville also for the 1 1/2-mile Caulfield Cup the week before.

“My horse had a pretty good run,” jockey Seamie Heffernan said of Deauville. “He was the only 3-year-old in the race.  Solid performance.” And of Long Island Sound he said, “I was very happy with him. He could (go to Australia). Good, fast ground is his thing. I also don’t see anything wrong with running him on fast ground in America.”

Fast ground is more frequently the case than it is not in the Melbourne spring. That and the big purses have for years made it an attractive target for European owners. It is certainly that for connections of Irish-bred Clondaw Warrior, a 9-year-old workhorse of a gelding that continues to compete in flat and hurdle races. His second-place finish in the American St. Leger got trainer Willie Mullins off the fence and onto a campaign to make the Melbourne Cup.

“I’m hoping that,” Mullins said. “He looked fantastic today even with all his travels this year. He jumped very slowly (at the start) but with another 5/16ths to get up to two miles, he looked like he wanted every bit of it there. When he’s closing on the Belmont Gold Cup winner (Da Big Hoss) that has to mean he’s good enough to go Melbourne. He might have one more run (in England or Ireland). We’ll see. He’ll have to improve a little in the weights to get into the race, but we’d love to go if we can.”