Defending Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) champion Twilight Payment (IRE) is the headline act of a trio of international gallopers who have joined second favourite Spanish Mission (USA) in quarantine overnight in the United Kingdom and Ireland ahead of their scheduled arrival in Melbourne on Saturday, 9 October.
Twilight Payment, whose all-the-way win under Jye McNeil in the 2020 Melbourne Cup delivered a second victory in the race for his trainer Joseph O’Brien, will spend the next fortnight in pre-export quarantine facilities in his native Ireland before boarding a flight to Australia where he will bid to become the first horse since Makybe Diva to defend his crown.
Having entered quarantine in the English town of Newmarket two weeks ago, Spanish Mission will spend a further fortnight in his temporary home after his trainer Andrew Balding elected not to send his star stayer on the first shipment of international raiders in order to give him further time to recuperate from a minor setback (muscle spasms in his flanks) and build residual fitness.
Spanish Mission now has company at Sidehill Stud in the form of Sir Lucan (IRE), Sir Dragonet’s full-brother who will join the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott stable upon arrival Down Under; and Away He Goes (IRE), a northern hemisphere five-year-old prepared by Newmarket trainer Ismail Mohammed, who is sending a runner to the Victorian Spring Racing Carnival for the first time.
Having been assigned 54.5kg, Away He Goes currently sits in 15th place in the Order of Entry and is therefore guaranteed a run in the Melbourne Cup, which returns to Flemington on Tuesday, 2 November. Two starts back, Away He Goes finished runner-up in the Group 1 Goodwood Cup Stakes, run over the Melbourne Cup distance of 3200m.
Sir Lucan, who like Sir Dragonet is by leading sire Camelot out of Sparrow, is a lightly-raced northern hemisphere three-year-old who will be transferred to the Waterhouse-Bott partnership from the famous Ballydoyle stables run by Aidan O’Brien.
Sir Lucan’s biggest win came in the Listed Yeats Stakes (2600m) in May this year, which was followed by a close runner-up finish on his next start in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes (2400m) at Goodwood, where he was ridden by Frankie Dettori.
Once they have completed their quarantine requirements, all four horses will board a flight which is due to depart on Friday, 8 October and touch down at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport on Neds Caulfield Guineas Day.
They will then begin their mandatory two-week post arrival quarantine period at the TAB international Horse Centre at Werribee, before ramping up their preparations for the ‘race that stops a nation’ and potentially other target races during the 2021 Spring Racing Carnival.
Having completed their pre-export quarantine, Twilight Payment’s stablemate State Of Rest (IRE) and his fellow Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) aspirant Gold Trip (FR) both boarded a flight overnight which is due to touch down in Melbourne this evening (Saturday, 25 September).
Gold Trip, who will join last year’s Cox Plate hero Sir Dragonet in the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace stable, is currently the third favourite for Australasia’s weight-for-age championship whilst State Of Rest, a last-start winner of the Group 1 Saratoga Derby (1900m) in New York last month, is rated a $15 chance with most bookmakers.
After completing their mandatory two-week post-arrival quarantine in Werribee, the pair will undergo a standing CT scan at the nearby U-Vet Equine Centre before being granted final approval to race in the Cox Plate on Saturday, 23 October at The Valley.
2021 Melbourne Cup, picture VRC