Trainer Charlie Appleby at Flemington following Oceanographer's success in the 2016 Lexus Stakes (Image: Racing Photos)
By Michael Lynch
Four of the past six winners of Newmarket's Group 2 Princess of Wales's Stakes (if dual winner Big Orange is counted twice) have lined up at Flemington at some stage of their careers to try to win the Emirates Melbourne Cup.
And a fair number of placegetters and also rans have also made the trip to the Spring Carnival in search of Emirates Melbourne Cup glory.
Fiorente, who won the Emirates Melbourne Cup in 2013 (after running second in 2012) won the Princess of Wales's Stakes four months before making his Australian debut in Green Moon's Emirates Melbourne Cup. Cavalryman scored in it in 2014 (having also run in the 2012 Cup) while the likes of triple Emirates Cup runner up Red Cadeaux, Dandino and Exospheric have all been placed in the 2400 metre race in recent years.
Will Hawkbill, who produced a game front running display to lead home a Godolphin quinella in this year's renewal run overnight Friday morning, follow in their hoofprints and become Charlie Appleby's flagbearer at Flemington this year?
Or could the horse he beat home, stable companion Frontiersman, make the long trip to represent the Newmarket based trainer?
Given his record last season, anything Appleby sends to Melbourne for the Melbourne Cup Carnival will attract plenty of interest.
But at this stage, despite their excellent credentials, it would be a surprise to see either at Flemington – at least this year.
Neither of the Godolphin pair that figured on Friday are proven at 3200 metres and both are likely to have different targets later this year as they try to enhance their northern hemisphere stallion prospects.
In addition, Hawkbill has travelled overseas twice this season, to France, and once last year, to Ireland, and been soundly beaten on all three occasions. He is a horse who gets rather worked up before races, and appears not to like travelling very much.
Appleby does, however, shape as a man to be reckoned with in Australia this spring, given the huge impression he made at his first visit last year when he saddled up Qewy to win the Geelong Cup and Sandown Cup, and Oceanographer to take the Lexus Stakes.
The immediate impression he gave after watching the least fancied of the pair (Hawkbill started at $4.50 while Frontierman went off the $2.25 favourite with English bookmakers) score was that both are likely to concentrate on UK races in the immediate future.
Hawkbill (who won at Group One level as a three year old when he narrowly beat Coolmore star The Gurkha in the Eclipse Stakes) might be given a short break now, the trainer said, while the still raw Frontiersman, who cost himself a winning chance by running around under pressure in the drive to the line, could now be aimed at the mid summer Group 1 classic, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.