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The Grey Wizard secures golden ticket into 2024 Lexus Melbourne Cup

The Grey Wizard has won his way into the 2024 $8.4 million, Group 1 Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) for trainer Graham Motion after an impressive win in the Belmont Gold Cup at Saratoga Race Course on Thursday in front of a record crowd of more than 20,000 racegoers.

The Belmont Gold Cup was contested as part of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, which will be highlighted by the 156th edition of the Grade 1, USD$2 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday, June 8. 

In a thrilling three-way finish, The Grey Wizard secured his spot in this year’s Lexus Melbourne Cup with two-time United States Champion Jockey John R Velazquez onboard. Originally beginning his career in Ireland for Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Joseph O’Brien, The Grey Wizard could be on his way to Flemington and trainer Graham Motion said he was already looking toward the first Tuesday in November.

“We are going to Melbourne I guess!” Mr Motion said.

"I did think about this [the Melbourne Cup] with a horse I won the Breeders Cup with Better Talk Now a long time ago...it’s a tall order but it’s fun to think about it.

“I have spent some time in Sydney when I was quite young...but I have never been to the Melbourne Cup. I am a big fan of Australian racing, and I am a big fan of international racing.”

Brothers John and Christopher Frassetto were trackside representing their late father Albert Frassetto who was an owner of The Grey Wizard.

“My father owns the horse and he passed away about three weeks ago so we raced under the estate for him and he won today,” Mr Frassetto said.
"We will have to talk to our connections, with Eclipse and the trainer and we will make our decision then.”

Also in the ownership are syndication company Eclipse Racing Thoroughbreds who have tasted success at Cup Week before in 2017 with VRC Oaks winner Pinot.

The Grey Wizard gets up for a trip to Flemington, picture VRC

The Belmont Gold Cup is the third race to offer ballot exemption into the Lexus Melbourne Cup with The Grey Wizard joining Australasian gallopers Mark Twain and The Map as horses who have booked their spot in this year’s race. 

Victoria Racing Club (VRC) Chairman Neil Wilson said the Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour’s visit to New York was a great opportunity for American racing fans to share in the excitement of Australia’s great race.

“The Lexus Melbourne Cup was a star attraction at Saratoga and we were delighted to have been able to share the iconic trophy and raise awareness about our great race in America,” Mr Wilson said.

“The Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour received a warm welcome from American racing fans, and we’re pleased that Australian race caller Matt Hill was trackside to call the Belmont Gold Cup, which saw The Grey Wizard win a golden ticket into this year’s race that stops a nation.”

New York Racing Association (NYRA) Vice-President of Racing and Operations Andrew Offerman said the partnership with the VRC was well received and was another drawcard to the festival.

“NYRA looks forward to building the relationship with the Victoria Racing Club in the years ahead,” Mr Offerman said. 

“This collaboration was an exciting first step, and we thank the VRC for their efforts at highlighting both of these world-class events.”

The voice of the Lexus Melbourne Cup Matt Hill was at Saratoga to call the Belmont Gold Cup for the American Fox Sports audience.

“It was a bit nerve wracking because it is all very foreign being in a strange broadcast box and a country that I have only been in for one day. And a photo finish, you couldn’t script it,” Mr Hill said.

“The trophy itself means so much to most Australians, it belongs everywhere from the rich company sitting in an office to a little school in an outpost near the Northern Territory, it means something to everybody and to bring it to the most iconic American racecourse, it just fits.

“I am very proud to be an Australian and be a Melburnian and bring our greatest sporting trophy to the states and show it off because it’s worth showing off.”

While at Saratoga, the Lexus Melbourne Cup caught up with 2024 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks winning trainer Kenny McPeek who will be attending this year’s Melbourne Cup Carnival.

“A big influence on me, believe it or not, was Lee Freedman. When I went to Australia years ago, I met Lee at a horse sale at Magic Millions, he and I got to talking about horse properties and he gave me a little advice and I took it,” Mr McPeek said.

“I think what they do with Australian racing, we really need to do here as well. In many ways Australia may lead the world in the promotion and connecting fans to the sport.

“I have spent mornings with Bart Cummings and Gai Waterhouse so I would love to get a horse over there at some point.”

The AUD$750,000 Lexus Melbourne Cup trophy will continue its tour around New York visiting some of the city’s biggest landmarks and tourist attractions.

It will return home next week to visit Cowes in Phillip Island before jetting off to New Zealand where it will visit some of the country’s most famous racing regions in Cambridge and Auckland.

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