On Saturday the first fleet of international competitors touched down in Victoria ahead of their Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival raids including the Melbourne Cup 2014 bound Japanese duo of Admire Rakti and Bande.
The dynamite pair eyes a run in the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington Racecourse on Tuesday November 4 and could also make an appearance earlier in next month’s $3 million Group 1 Crown Golden Ale Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 18.
The duo are already well fancied in the futures markets for the ‘race that stops a nation’ at Ladbrokes.com.au too and feature prominently in Caulfield Cup betting.
If either makes it to Melbourne Cup Day and lines up as one of a capacity 24 starters in the world’s richest handicap they will be the first Japanese-trained Melbourne Cup runner since Tokai Trick ran 12th to Americain back in 2010.
Currently the Yoshito Yahagi-trained Authorzied stallion Bande, who will be his trainer’s maiden runner in Australia, is installed as equal $13 favourite in Melbourne Cup betting with Gai Waterhouse’s Sydney Cup champ The Offer.
Waterhouse won the Melbourne Cup last year with Fiorente becoming the first Australian female trainer to take out the ‘Loving Trophy’.
Her best shot at going back-to-back then lies in Montjeu six-year-old The Offer who ran a somewhat disappointing 9th when beating home just one runner to the line in last Saturday’s Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) won by Foreteller.
Bande meanwhile was last seen running away to win the Listed Japan Sapporo Nikkei (2600m) back home on August 10 by an impressive five lengths in an all-the-way effort that caught the eye of Melbourne Cup form stars.
He is also the $13 second pick behind Kris Lee’s talented mare Lucia Valentina ($11), sixth in the weekend’s Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) in Sydney, in the Caulfield Cup odds at Ladbrokes.com.au.
Admire Rakti meanwhile currently occupies the second line of Melbourne Cup futures odds at $15, Tomoyuki Umeda’s son of Heart’s Cry also heading the Melbourne Cup weights with 58kg.
The veteran seven-year-old was an impressive second to one of the world’s best horses Gold Ship in the Group 2 Hanshin Daishoten Stakes (3000m) back in March and earlier was a close fourth to Gentildonna in last year’s Group 1 Japan Cup (2400m).
Last time out though he could only manage to run 13th in the Group 1 Tenno Sho (3200m), an effort Racing Victoria’s chief handicapper Greg Carpenter believes he will atone for down under.
Bande and Admire Rakti both arrived in Melbourne on Saturday and were joined by stablemates Admire Inazuma and Raizan before being transported to the International Horse Centre at Werribee.
There they will spend an obligatory two weeks in quarantine before debuting on Aussie soil.
Reports from the International Racehorse Transport (IRT) in-flight attendant Tetsuhito Hiorse were positive, the stars having handled the Tokyo – Melbourne trip without issue.
“They travelled very well, they couldn’t have handled it any better,” Hirose told Racing Victoria.
“In total, it was just under 20 hours’ flight time, including a stopover in Singapore, and we’re very happy with them.”
While it has been four years since Japan had representation in the Melbourne Cup, the country is no stranger to success in the iconic race having run the quinella with stable mates Delta Blues and Pop Rock back in 2006.
“They were dominant in 2006 when they quinellaed the Melbourne Cup so it’s really exciting to get the Japanese back for this spring,” Racing Victoria’s international talent scout Leigh Jordon said.
“To get Admire Rakti and Bande here to run in both the Caulfield Cup and the Melbourne Cup is fantastic and I’m confident that, if they carry their best form here, they will be ultra-competitive.
“Both of them will go straight into the Caulfield Cup and then onto the Melbourne Cup and we saw Delta Blues and Pop Rock do a similar thing back in 2006.”
The next wave of 19 internationals is due to join the Japanese at Werribee this Saturday, September 28.
Among the headliners coming in that fleet are dual Melbourne Cup runner-up Red Cadeaux (Ed Dunlop) contesting his fourth straight Melbourne Cup, Mutual Regard (Johnny Murtagh) coming off a win in the Ebor Handicap (2800m) at York and Authorized mare Ambivalent (Roger Varian) who heads towards the Caulfield Cup.
Andreas Wohler’s German-trained stable mates Protectionist and Nuntius, as well as four Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock-owned hopes headed by last year’s Caulfield Cup runner-up Dandino are also set for arrival this weekend.
“This is probably what we’d call a soft opening because we’ve got 19 more horses arriving next week so we’ll well and truly have the house full sign up,” Jordon said.
“I’m looking forward to it and I think it’s going to be a great spring.”
To check out the current futures prices open on all the international hopes in the upcoming spring majors visit Ladbrokes.com.au where for a limited time only new depositors will have their first investment matched up to $500 by using the code SPRINGBONUS!