Racing Victoria’s lucrative $600,000 bonus has not been enough to draw Singapore flyer Rocket Man down under for the 2011 Patinack Farm Classic, trainer Patrick Shaw ruling the galloper out of contention for what would have been the sprint showdown of the century with Black Caviar.
Shaw reluctantly announced last week that plans for Viscount five-year-old Rocket Man to travel to Victoria for the coveted Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival had been shelved due to unsuitable quarantine regulations in Australia.
It was an agonising decision process for connections of the triple Group 1 winner including owner Crabbia Alfredo Leonardo Arnaldo who had given serious consideration to the $1 million Group 1 Patinack Farm Classic (1200m) at Flemington on Emirates Stakes Day, Saturday November 5.
Rocket Man not only would have had the chance to prove himself against Australia’s fastest racehorse, Peter Moody’s glamour mare Black Caviar, but as the winner of the third leg of the Global Sprint Challenge, the Group 1 Krisflyer International Sprint (1200m) at Singapore in May, was also eligible for VRC’s Global Sprint Challenge bonus.
Having earlier saluted in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen (1206m) and then the Group 1 Lion City Cup (1200m) in Singapore, the Patinack Farm Classic 2011 down the straight at Flemington Racecourse was not only a viable but enticing option for Rocket Man.
Shaw, however, is keen for Rocket Man to take part in the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin in December, a race he came within a nose of winning when second to South African champion JJ The Jetplane last year.
To shoot for both the Patinack Farm Classic in Australia and then Hong Kong’s International Sprint, Rocket Man would be forced to spend more than two months overseas to meet Australia’s quarantine protocols and requirements.
“If he is to go to Australia, he would have to be there a month before the race,” Shaw said.
“Then he would have to go straight to Hong Kong form Melbourne, meaning he would have to be outstationed for his preparation towards the Hong Kong Sprint.
“All in all, he would spend more than 60 days overseas, which means he would have to return to Singapore as a newcomer and be quarantined for two weeks at the SEQS (Singapore Equine Quarantine Station) which has no training facilities.
“That would then affect his preparation towards his main target – the Golden Shaheen in March.
“This is a race he should have won twice already, but I still want him to become the first horse to win that race back-to-back.”
Although a win by Rocket Man in the Melbourne Cup Carnival’s Patinack Farm Classic would see him earn A$1 million in prize money, Shaw believes that the prestige of scoring successive Golden Shaheen victories in Dubai outweighs what Australia and Racing Victoria have to offer.
With the eighth leg of the Global Sprint Challenge – the Patianck Farm Classic – now off the programme, Shaw intends to target the seventh race of the series instead, setting Rocket Man towards the Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) at Japan’s Nakayama Racecourse on October 2.
“Japan is my first choice now,” Shaw said.
“He can get there 10 days before the race and he can come straight back to isolation at Kranji after the race, and be trained almost immediately for Hong Kong.”
Shaw’s decision not to bring Rocket Man to Australia is a big blow for Racing Victoria and for the racing fans down under who would have relished now only the face-off with Black Caviar, but seeing Rocket Man race on the Aussie turf being an Australian-born gelding by top sire Viscount.
“As we all know, he has a huge following in Australia and it’s a pity he won’t be running in Australia,” Shaw said.
“A lot has been said about the match-race with Black Caviar, but to be honest, it’s not all about the mare.
“He’s Australian-bred and it would have meant the world to me to just take him back to his country of birth to compete against the best there.”
There is still a chance in the future for the Rocket Man v Black Caviar contest, with the Krisflyer International Sprint in Singapore next May a possibility for Black Caviar on her way to the winter riches of the 2012 Royal Ascot Carnival in England.
“As for the race with Black Caviar, who knows, it might happen in Kranji in May 2012 now that she is targeted at Royal Ascot next year,” Shaw said.
“The KrisFlyer in May 2012 could possibly be part of her lead-up for that.”
Racing Victoria’s international recruiter Leigh Jordan admitted that while the loss of Rocket Man from the Melbourne Spring Carnival line-up was a big one, there would still be a strong presence of international stars during this year’s festival.
One horse on way to the 2011 Patinack Farm Classic was James Fanshawe’s exciting four-year-old Society Rock, winner of the Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes (1207m) at Ascot in June.
“His trainer, James Fanshaw, and his owner’s agent have made contact with me about the Patinack Farm Classic,” Jordan confirmed.