English stayer Dartmouth is still in contention for the Group 1 $6m Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington in November even though the four year old was beaten at Ascot on the weekend.
Dartmouth, owned by her Majesty The Queen, chased home another Melbourne Spring Carnival contender Highland Reel when third in the Group 1 £1.15m King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (1 mile 4 furlongs) on Saturday.
Racing Victoria’s international scout for the Melbourne Spring Carnival, Leigh Jordon was very impressed with the Sir Michael Stoute trained Dartmouth’s run and said it was a very good Melbourne Cup trial.
“I thought that was a huge run from Dartmouth in the King George with Melbourne in mind,” Jordon told racing.com.
“He stayed on well once in the straight and displayed all the key attributes of a Melbourne Cup horse.
“His run was the best trial for the race I have seen in Europe this year and it would be a huge for Her Majesty to have a Melbourne Cup runner of that calibre in her 90th year.”
The Queen’s racing manager John Warren said that it was a huge possibility that Dartmouth would compete overseas but the stable was next to decide a program.
“I’ve a notion that he might be an international traveller. He loves that fast ground so there is the Breeders’ Cup, Australia and Japan,” Warren said.
“We will just freshen him up but he is in good hands. We will talk it through, and as long as The Queen is happy to travel with him and we will see where we go.
“The Queen is delighted.”
The Aidan O’Brien trained Highland Reel is also a good chance to return to Australia after leading all of the way to win the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and record his third Group 1 win.
Highland Reels’ other Group 1 successes were the 2015 HK$16.5m Longines Hong Kong Vase (2400m) at Sha Tin and the 2015 Group 1 US$450,000 Secretariat Stakes (1 mile 2 furlongs) at Arlington Park, USA.
O’Brien also brought Highland Reel to Australia last year where he ran third behind Winx and Criterion in the Group 1 $3m Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley during the 2015 Melbourne Spring Carnival.
“He is an amazing horse. He travels the world and loves racing. Physically, he is getting better and, mentally, he is a rock,” O’Brien said.
“He is a horse that can go anywhere from a mile and a quarter (2000m) to a mile and a half.
“If he is left in front, he is happy. If there is pace on, he is happy. He is a very unique horse, really.
“He can go to the Breeders’ Cup Turf, he can go to Australia, Hong Kong or Japan.
“He has got an awful lot of options.”
Highland Reel is currently marked as a $26 chance for the Cox Plate and the Group 1 $3m BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) while Dartmouth is a $51 chance for both the Caulfield Cup and the Melbourne Cup.