The international invasion on the 2018 Victorian Spring Racing Carnival has begun early, with confirmation that high-class Japanese horses Chestnut Coat and Sole Impact have both been entered for the $5 million Stella Artois Caulfield Cup (2400m) and the $7.3 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m).
The duo, who between them have won four Stakes races in their native Japan, will hope to emulate the achievements of Delta Blues (2006) and Admire Rakti (2014), the only Japanese horses to have won the Melbourne Cup and Caulfield Cup respectively.
The news comes just days after Godolphin accepted the Moonee Valley Racing Club’s invitation to compete in the $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) with Benbatl, making it increasingly likely that all three of the Spring Racing Carnival’s major races will feature international representation this year.
Since Irish stayer Vintage Crop paved the way for overseas raiders with his groundbreaking victory in the 1993 Melbourne Cup, a grand total of 227 internationally-trained horses have competed in the Spring Racing Carnival, winning 14 Group 1 races between them.
Judging by their impressive performances on home soil, Chestnut Coat and Sole Impact – trained respectively by Yoshiti Yahagi and Hirofumi Toda – look capable of enhancing that record.
Chestnut Coat has four wins from 17 starts, including two Stakes races earlier this year. The northern hemisphere four-year-old narrowly missed out on victory in the Group 2 Nikkei Sho (2500m) in March, finishing three-quarters of a length behind the winner.
His trainer, Mr Yahagi, is a renowned horseman whose stable includes star miler Mozu Ascot, one of four Japanese horses invited to contest the 2018 Ladbrokes Cox Plate.
Sole Impact, who was sired by the world’s most valuable stallion Deep Impact, boasts four wins from 37 starts. The northern hemisphere six-year-old has recorded placings at Group level over the past six months and finished a highly creditable fifth in the recent Group 2 Meguro Kinen (2500m), a Caulfield Cup ballot exemption race.
Paul Bloodworth, Racing Victoria’s General Manager, International and Racing Operations, is delighted that with more than seven weeks to go before it starts, several international horses have already signalled their intent to compete in Australia’s most prestigious and historic racing carnival.
“Chestnut Coat and Sole Impact are both quality horses and we identified them as potential Cups horses some time ago, so it’s very pleasing that their connections have already announced that they will be sending them to Melbourne for the Spring Racing Carnival,” said Bloodworth.
“With the likes of Magic Circle, Marmelo and Red Verdon also committed to travelling from the UK, and with record prizemoney on offer for the three major races, we’re set to celebrate 25 years of international competition in style. It’s an exciting time, and we’ll be announcing many more international runners over the coming weeks.”
Ryusei Sakai, one of Japan’s leading apprentices, has been provisionally booked as Sole Impact’s jockey for the Stella Artois Caulfield Cup, the world’s richest turf handicap over 2400m which this year takes place at Caulfield on Saturday, 20 October 2018.
The 21-year-old is currently serving his apprenticeship under South Australian trainer Ryan Balfour, having previously been on loan to Leon and Troy Corstens at Flemington.
“I was so excited and very surprised when I received the offer to ride Sole Impact in the Caulfield Cup, which will be my first start in a Group 1 race,” said Sakai.
“It will be a great experience for me to ride in such a time-honoured race, and I’m really grateful to all the connections for giving me this opportunity.”
Multiple Group 1 winner Yuichi Fukunaga has been earmarked for the Melbourne Cup ride on Sole Impact, whilst Chestnut Coat’s connections have identified experienced jockey Yuga Kawada, who came to Australia in 2006 to help prepare Melbourne Cup runner-up Pop Rock, as the man to guide their galloper to glory in both Cups.
This year, the Spring Racing Carnival’s three feature races – the $5 million Stella Artois Caulfield Cup (Saturday, 20 October), $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate (Saturday, 27 October) and $7.3 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (Tuesday, 6 November) – will each carry record prizemoney.