Trainers Aiming to Use the York Ebor Festival as a Stepping Stone to Australia

Trainers Aiming to Use the York Ebor Festival as a Stepping Stone to Australia
Trainers Aiming to Use the York Ebor Festival as a Stepping Stone to Australia

The upcoming Ebor Festival at York could provide some useful form pointers for the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup in Australia later this year.

The trainers of several runners at the recent Royal Ascot meeting have pinpointed the big Yorkshire meeting as a stepping stone towards races Down Under.

Eustace Eyeing the Cox Plate

Harry Eustace has the Cox Plate in his sights after Docklands ran a fine race at the royal meeting to finish second behind Charyn in the Queen Anne Stakes.

The four-year-old had never previously run in a Group 1 event, but did not look out of place against some extremely talented performers.

With Victoria-based owners OTI Racing eager to see Docklands run in Australia, Eustace plans to use the Ebor meeting as a final tune-up for the horse.

“Australia is the plan, but his target has probably changed since that run – we were going to target a race called the Five Diamonds, but I would say our priority is the Cox Plate,” Eustace said.

“His next race will probably be at the York Ebor meeting – I would imagine he’ll go in the Strensall, but he does have an entry in the Juddmonte as well.

“I don’t know if he will run between York and Australia because it can start to happen quite quickly as their quarantine is a month.

“The Cox Plate is in October so that eats into September and York is in August – suddenly it all starts happening. I would imagine he’ll have just the one run at the Ebor meeting and it’ll be between one of those two races.”

Melbourne Cup on the Agenda for Mullins

While the Cox Plate has a lofty reputation in horse racing in Australia, it is dwarfed by the popularity of the Melbourne Cup which is one of the biggest betting events of the year in Australia.

The race has become more of an international affair in recent seasons, with the organisers eager to establish a pathway for horses from overseas to compete in the big event.

The Ebor Handicap was the first international race to be awarded a ‘golden ticket’ for the Melbourne Cup. This gives the winner an automatic spot in the Flemington Racecourse showpiece.

Top Irish trainer Willie Mullins used this route last year, saddling Absurde to win the Ebor before sending him to Australia where he ran seventh in the Melbourne Cup.

Mullins is plotting a similar route with Belloccio, who produced a power-packed performance to win the Copper Horse Handicap at Royal Ascot on his most recent outing.

The Closutton handler has confirmed that the six-year-old will be aimed at the Ebor with a view to securing a place in the Melbourne Cup in November.

Jockey William Buick was impressed with the way Belloccio swept past his rivals at the Berkshire track and believes the horse would relish the step up to two miles in Australia.

“He had a bit of ground to make up but he had a sweet trip round,” Buick said. “He travelled beautifully and I knew he had a big finish in him.

“I was behind the trouble but ended up with a nice position and it’s great to get the ride on one of Willie’s horses in these races – they’re well prepared and know how to win.

“He did everything right, he relaxed and he was there when I needed him because he really dug deep. He is a smart stayer and has good form from the past as well. He is a pretty class horse.”

Mullins could be triple-handed in the Melbourne Cup, with Absurde and Vauban also in contention to make a return visit to Australia.

Vauban finished 14th last season, but has looked in excellent fettle this season with fine runs in the Yorkshire Cup and Ascot Gold Cup.

Recent Duke of Edinburgh Stakes winner Crystal Black may also use the Ebor Handicap at York as a route to the biggest race in Australia.

Connections have indicated the six-year-old will bid to follow up his Royal Ascot success on the Knavesmire with the aim of securing a place in the Melbourne Cup.

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