Australian racing fans are set to get their first look at a number of talented imported stayers this weekend with Hartani, Masked Marvel, Sea Moon and Waldpark all nominated to take part in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington.
The Lloyd Williams-owned trio of Hartani, Masked Marvel and Sea Moon have all competed in exhibition gallops between races at Melbourne metropolitan race meetings but will make their long-awaited Australian racing debuts against Melbourne Cup favourite Puissance De Lune on Saturday.
Sea Moon is the highest rated of the three stayers and was labeled a Melbourne Cup contender as soon as he was purchased by the Macedon Lodge team at the end of last year.
The Beat Hollow entire has form around some of the leading stayers in Europe and was victorious in the Group 2 Hardwick Stakes (2414m) during the 2012 Royal Ascot Meeting – a race that included Dunaden, Red Cadeaux, Jakkalberry, Fiorente and My Quest For Peace.
Sea Moon has not been seen at the races since he finished eighth behind Solemia in the Group 1 Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe (2400m) at Longchamp last October but has acclimatized well in Australia and is considered by the Williams team to be a leading chance for both the Cox Plate (2040m) and Melbourne Cup (3200m).
Masked Marvel does not have the high profile of Sea Moon but, unlike his highly rated stablemate, has been successful at Group 1 level in Europe.
The Montjeu entire had a very strong three-year-old season in Europe, beating Brown Panther and Sea Moon to win the 2011 Group 1 St Leger Stakes (2937m), but has failed to replicate that form as an older horse.
Masked Marvel only recoded one placing as a four-year-old and will be returning to the races for the first time since he finished towards the tail of the field in the Group 2 Doncaster Cup (3621m) just under a year ago.
Hartani is the least credentialed of the Williams imports set to compete on Saturday but was competitive at Group level in Ireland as a three-year-old and recorded a dominant five and a half lengths victory in the Group 3 Curragh Cup (2816m) last July.
While the Williams team is expected to steal the headlines in the lead-up to the Makybe Diva Stakes, Anthony Freedman-trained Waldpark may have the best form lines of any of the imported stayers that will debut in Australia this season.
At his last start in Germany, in the Group 2 Grosser Preis Der Badischen Unternehmer (2212m), Waldpark finished a narrow second behind equine superstar Novellist who has dominated over a mile and a half in Europe this year – winning the Group 1 Grand Prix De Saint-Cloud (2400m) and the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2414m).
Freedman has a high opinion of Waldpark and believes that the five-year-old can be a leading Group 1 weight-for-age contender, with the Cox Plate his major 2013 Spring Racing Carnival assignment.
The Makybe Diva Stakes will be dominated by imported European horses with Bit Of Hell, Beaten Up, December Draw, Foreteller, Massiyn, Jet Away, Manighar and Mourayan also included in the nominations for the recently upgraded race.