If you’re backing an Australian victory in the 2011 Melbourne Cup then it looks like you may only have one choice as the reality of the overseas invasion starts to set in.
If you judge a horses nationality on two fronts, both breeding and training, then Older Than Time is likely to be the lone stayer flying the Aussie flag at Flemington on the first Tuesday in November.
Older Than Time is a $151 outsider for the Melbourne Cup and looks to have her work cut out for her if she is to defeat the 23 rivals come November 1st.
The Gai Waterhouse runner did run second in the Sydney Cup over the autumn however her form since returning in the spring has been below par.
While we won’t know for sure until the final field is announced on October 29 at this stage it would take a couple of unforeseen withdrawals for another Australian bred horse to make the cut.
Leading trainer Anthony Freedman says if the industry is concerned by this factor they only have themselves to blame.
“With our focus on speed, we have backed ourselves into a corner and it will be extremely difficult for us to get out,” Freedman said.
“A few trainers and owners saw the writing on the wall a few years back and started buying overseas horses. It’s a real worry that our most famous race is one we have to import horses to be competitive in.”
In addition to Australian bred horses falling out of favour this year Australian trained horses are also on a downward slide.
In fact overseas trained horses could well fill 10 of the 24 Melbourne Cup positions with a further nine Australian trained horses originally purchased from Europe.
The remaining four spots would go to horses sourced from New Zealand blood.
They say if you want to know the story then follow the smart money and that’s exactly the case here with prolific owner Lloyd Williams spending in excess of $20 million at European sales in just the last two years.
There have been a series of discussions as to how the industry should tackle the issue with one suggestion of a $1 million bonus to any Australian bred horse that manages to win the Melbourne Cup.
The problem seems to go deeper than that though with owners and trainers increasingly looking for quick short term results.
Arguably the most famous Melbourne Cup winner of all time Makybe Diva was trained in Australia but even she comes from British breeding.
If Older Than Time does start as the only Australian bred horse in the Melbourne Cup it would be the first time that’s happened in the 151 year history of the race.
Last year there were five in the field producing a best result of fourth in the form of gallant veteran Zipping.
Freedman predicts that with the ageing of our best staying sire Zabeel Australian staying stocks will only continue to decline.