The $150,000 Listed Bagot Handicap (2800m) at Flemington Racecourse on New Year’s Day has been ruled out for Darren Weir’s Werribee Cup winner Tall Ship who connections are hoping to target the 2016 Melbourne Cup with next spring.
A five-year-old son of Sea The Stars, English import Tall Ship has been racing down under since March.
He was in the winner’s stall just two runs into his Australian career taking out a 1700m race at Geelong in March before backing up for another trio of wins to emerge the autumn’s Victorian country cups star.
Tall Ship saluted in the Stawell Cup (2000m), Terang Cup (215m) and the Listed Warrnambool Cup (2350m) earning him the Country Racing Victoria Horse of the Year honours.
A string of unplaced Melbourne city runs in the spring followed however over unsuitably short distances.
Two back he returned to his better form running a well beaten second to Chris Waller’s runaway winner Who Shot Thebarman, third in last year’s Melbourne Cup, in the Group 2 Sandown Classic (2400m) relishing the step back up to a mile and a half.
He was back in the winners’ stall on December 13 when flying home with 60kg on his back to salute as the $1.90 odds-on favourite by two and a half lengths in the Listed Werribee Cup (2600m).
Weir and connections were originally looking to capitalise on the galloper’s good form with a New Year’s Day run at Flemington on January 1 in the Bagot Handicap.
It has since been decided however to send the $388,505 earner out for a break with the long term plan being to have him in peak form for next year’s Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.
“After discussions with Darren Weir, it has been decided that Tall Ship will have a break now and miss the Listed Bagot Handicap on New Year’s Day in the interests of having Tall Ship peaking for the 2016 spring,” OTI Racing said on their website this week.
Weir celebrated his biggest season to date highlighted by the upset win of his $101 roughie Prince Of Penzance in the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) on the first Tuesday of November.
The iconic two mile clash is the world’s richest handicap and is already confirmed as the major 2016 target for Tall Ship as Weir looks to become the first back-to-back Melbourne Cup winning trainer since Lee Freedman.
“Plans going forward for this horse will be to perhaps have one run in the autumn, in a race yet to be determined, before again spelling in readiness for a full spring racing carnival that will centre around attempting to gain a start in the 3200m Group 1 Melbourne Cup,” the OTI announcement confirmed.
Freedman prepared the race’s only triple winner Makybe Diva for her final two victories in the ‘race that stops a nation’ in 2004 and 2005, David Hall having trained the mighty mare for her maiden victory in 2003 as a 7/1 hope.