While Pat Carey’s Australian Derby winning gelding Ethiopia made a miserable one-run return in the autumn, the Mornington-based horseman is confident they can return to form this spring as they travel down the traditional path to the 2013 Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday of November.
The now four-year-old son of Helenus hit the big time last autumn when the narrow winner at just their fourth career start of the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) which capped off a very exciting first campaign.
Their spring form however was a little faulty.
Signs looked good for them third-up when they were a brave fourth to Ocean Park in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) but Ethiopia failed to step up to the two miles for the iconic Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) when beaten 64 lengths to finish last behind Green Moon.
Having broken down in the run they were sent out for a lengthy break to recover and resumed five and a half months later for a shot at the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) in Sydney.
Despite the hype Ethiopia was disappointing again when failing to handle the Heavy (10) track at Randwick to run 12 lengths away 17th to the Chris Waller-trained winner Sacred Falls beating home just one other runner in doing so.
Carey has long forgiven his horse that run however saying there were plenty of excuses and remains confident the old Ethiopia will be back on show this Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.
“The one run was unfortunately on a heavy track which didn’t agree with him and we didn’t see the best of him that day,” Carey said.
“He was outstanding in the Cox Plate last year running fourth in what I would consider a vintage Cox Plate.
“It has set a standard for the horse.
“Ocean Park won it and beat All Too Hard and Pierro who were the dominant three-year-olds in a year of outstanding three-year-olds. Then Ethiopia was the next horse home.
“He just tells you that he fits in well with the form line of that season.”
Having spent the past few months in Western Australia enjoying a break as well as pre-training consisting of lots of beach work, Ethiopia is showing all the right kind of signs for a positive return to racing.
“He came through the autumn in Sydney in good order,” Carey said.
“He has come through it despite some minor troubles with his feet and that is being monitored during his pre-training in Perth.”
At this stage Carey expects Ethiopia to join him back at Mornington in July ahead of a first-up run in $300,000 Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) on September 7, a nice target after being upgraded to elite level for the first time in 2013.
“All being well he’ll go on a traditional Cups path,” Carey said.
“I’ve always been of the opinion that his time would be as a five-year-old. .
While their effort in the world’s richest handicap was a horror one last year Ethiopia will get their chance to atone in 2013 with Carey keen to target the $6.2 million Emirates Melbourne Cup for a second year.
They may have the confidence of their trainer but the bookies and punters still need convincing Ethiopia is a genuine two miler with the galloper currently at $31 in the ante-post Melbourne Cup betting markets.
Stay tuned to Races.com.au over the coming weeks for all the spring updates.
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