The Australian Turf Club remains confident that the inaugural running of The Championships at Royal Randwick in April will feature at least two international runners.
The increased prizemoney on offer during The Championships was hoped to lure a number of overseas-trained world class gallopers to Australia for the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival, but at this stage Japanese-trained Hana’s Gold is the only international confirmed to take part in the event.
Ian Mackay, CEO of The Championships, told Racing Ahead this morning that a lack of notice and the tight quarantine restrictions in Australia have made it difficult to draw top-level international horses.
“One of the key issues that we were always going to have in the first year was the late notice in launching and then getting some international runners given the difficult quarantine circumstances in Australia as a whole; let alone having to go through Werribee in year one, which has also been a slight offset for a couple of internationals that were interested,” Mackay said.
“We set ourselves a target of two (international horses).
“We didn’t expect to have more than two and we probably got excited at the end of last year when it looked like we could have four or five.
“Where we are at the moment is that we have a nice horse from Japan called Hana’s Gold coming in.
“She is not absolutely top-notch, but Group 2 and Group 3 winners in Japan are very competitive in other parts of the world.
“That is probably it for Japan, but there are still a couple of nibbles going on for a couple of horses that ran in the Japan Cup.
“We had Lelouch all but locked in, but unfortunately he injured himself.”
While The Championships is unlikely to draw any more horses from Asia, Mackay said that there are still discussions taking place with the connections of European gallopers who have previously had success in Australia.
Mackay admits that The Championships faces stiff competition from the Dubai World Cup meeting, which offers incredible prizemoney and a far easier quarantine process, but remains confident that the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) will have at least one European runner.
“There are still four of five chances and we would hope that we would get our second runner from those four of five chances,” Mackay said.
“They would be names well-known to Victorians like Dunaden, Red Cadeaux, Side Glance, Mull Of Killough and Gordon Lord Byron who ran in Hong Kong.
“We would love to get one of them and we will find out over the next week or so, but again we have the quarantine issues through Werribee that aren’t ideal for horses coming to Sydney.”
Hana’s Gold is expected to arrive in Australia on February 15 and will be partnered by leading Australian jockey Craig Williams in the Group 1 Coolmore Classic (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 22 before contesting the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Royal Randwick on April 12.