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Cup fancies face nervous quarantine wait

For the second-consecutive year a horse raced by Lloyd Williams could be left stranded in Europe and miss this year's Melbourne Cup as the competition for spots at Werribee quarantine centre intensifies.

2018 Irish Derby winner Latrobe is precariously positioned to gain approval for a return visit to Australia from Racing Victoria officials.

Latrobe has an official rating of 112, which places him behind several higher-rating rivals whose connections have indicated their interest to travel on the second shipment of horses before racing in Melbourne.

It's the second time Latrobe has been embroiled in a quarantine crisis as last year Williams threatened to bypass Melbourne with the horse if he couldn't travel with stablemate and companion Master Of Reality.

Master Of Reality was left behind while Latrobe raced once in Melbourne, finishing second in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m).

And the shortage of spots at Werribee could lead to Sydney's equivalent facility at Canterbury Racecourse opening its doors for overseas arrivals.

THE SQUEEZE

The quarantine centre at Werribee Racecourse has a capacity of 32 horses on the first shipment and just eight for the second batch of arrivals.

The first shipment enters quarantine in Newmarket on Thursday (8pm Melbourne time). The horses which enter quarantine through this first period will arrive in Melbourne on September 28 and be eligible to race from October 12 onwards.

The second shipment enters quarantine two weeks after that and will be allowed to race from Cox Plate Day onwards.

This weekend is significant on the European racing calendar with the English St Leger at Doncaster and Irish Champions Weekend meeting featuring the Irish St Leger at The Curragh on Sunday.

A cluster of Northern Hemisphere three-year-olds, led by the Aidan O'Brien-trained Il Paradiso, will contest the English St Leger before any decision is made to run in the Melbourne Cup.

Similarly, at least six older horses - Cross Counter, Ispolini, Southern France, Master Of Reality, Twilight Payment and Latrobe - are expected to use the Irish St Leger as their final lead-up start before the Melbourne Cup.

Horses who race this weekend can only arrive in Melbourne on the second shipment. Consequently, there's a logjam of quality horses attempting to squeeze into those final eight spots.

The goal - the Melbourne Cup, picture VRC

THE UNCERTAINY

RV's General Manager of International and Racing Operations, Paul Bloodworth, told After The Last on Tuesday night that it was likely the 'full house' sign would go up but it was contingent on how many horses O'Brien wished to bring to Melbourne.

"Aidan is notoriously late in advising us which horses he'll be bringing. For example, I'm still not 100 per cent sure who he is bringing on the first shipment," Bloodworth said.

Racing.com understands that O'Brien will have at least two, possibly more, highly-rated horses on the second flight to Melbourne.

Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby intends to bring Cross Counter (rating 118) and Ispolini (rating 115) while the Hughie Morrison-trained Marmelo (rating 114) and Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained Southern France (rating 113) are also booked for the second flight, along with the Joseph O'Brien-trained trio Master Of Reality (rating 118), Twilight Payment (rating 113) and Latrobe (rating 112).

Latrobe would miss out as things stand on the basis Aidan O'Brien wishes to bring two horses to Melbourne with a higher rating than 112.

The result of the English and Irish St Legers therefore will be pivotal in determining whether ratings fluctuate from their existing marks.

However, It's understood that there's some room on the first shipment that would accommodate many of the English and Irish St Leger competitors who wish to sacrifice their Group 1 commitment this weekend to arrive in Australia earlier and be assured of a quarantine spot at Werribee.

THE SECOND SHIPMENT LOGJAM (On the basis Aidan O'Brien has two higher-rated horses on the shipment)

118: Cross Counter (Charlie Appleby), Master of Reality (Joseph O'Brien)

115: Ispolini (Charlie Appleby)

114: Marmelo (Hughie Morrison)

113: Southern France (Ciaron Maher & David Eustace), Twilight Payment (Joseph O'Brien)

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112: Latrobe (Joseph O'Brien)

SYDNEY TO THE RESCUE?

Canterbury Racecourse in Sydney will be used as a quarantine facility during the Spring Carnival, with the Aidan O'Brien-trained pair of Fairyland and Ten Sovereigns set to travel from Ireland later this week and arrive into Sydney on the weekend of September 28 and 29.

Both Fairyland and Ten Sovereigns are Coolmore-owned sprinters that could fill Coolmore's slot in the $14m Everest (1200m) at Randwick on October 19.

"There could be a couple of extra horses coming (from Aidan O'Brien), they're just working through if they've got any potential runners for support races and have until Friday to finalise," said James Ross, the Australian Turf Club's General Manager of Racing, Wagering and International affairs.

Ross explained that an additional shipment could be chartered to Sydney with horses able to exit Canterbury's quarantine facility from November 2 - the same day as the Golden Eagle and Victoria Derby with the Melbourne Cup just three days later.

Ross said he had not been approached by RV or an individual set of connections about using Canterbury Racecourse as a spill-over quarantine option.

"We always talk to connections about their potential plans to bring horses for the Sydney Carnival and campaign here," Ross said.

"In the past we've cooperated pretty strongly with Racing Victoria. We took in a horse for Godolphin that raced in the Mornington Cup (The Gold Trail) and we also had U S Navy Flag pass through here last year so we've got a pretty strong history of cooperation in that space.

"We haven't had any specific requests at this stage, but we treat every request as we find it."

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