He’s named after a country in north-east Africa but emerging stayer Ethiopia will be carrying the hopes of Australia when he lines up in his first Melbourne Cup at Flemington today.
The four-year-old is one of 16 Australian-trained Melbourne Cup horses but removing the many imports he is one of only six that can be considered genuine locals.
Four of those locals were bred in New Zealand leaving just Ethiopia and team Hawkes-trained veteran Niwot as the only Australian-bred runners in the field.
Many are excited about the untapped potential of Ethiopia, hoping that the Pat Carey-trained gelding can be the “true blue” answer in Australia’s favourite race that has become dominated by overseas horses.
And untapped he is.
The son of Helenus has had just seven starts, with his career beginning with a third-place finish in a maiden at Sale in February.
In his first campaign he went on to place in both the Group 2 Autumn Classic (1800m) and Alister Clark Stakes (2040m) before announcing himself as a stayer of the future when recording a stunning last-to-first victory in the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m).
Carey has taken a patient approach with Ethiopia but knew he was ready to be thrown into the Melbourne Cup cauldron after he impressed with a strong fourth-place performance when ridden forward for the first time in his career in the Cox Plate.
“We are well aware of what his staying capacity is,” Carey said at the Melbourne Cup barrier draw.
“We chose to go to the Cox Plate knowing we were going to go to the Melbourne Cup if we thought he was in a good position.
“You must remember that this horse went into the AJC Derby at his fourth start.”
Ethiopia is rated a $21 chance with 2010 runner-up Maluckyday the shortest-priced local at $15.