Bag Raider winning at Bendigo (Image: Racing Photos)
Japanese horses are the constant talk of the racing world following more astonishing Group 1 results in Australia and Hong Kong recently.
Those results further reinforced the decision made earlier this year by Flemington trainer Scott Cameron to gamble $3500 on a lightly raced Japanese-bred five-year-old by a Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner.
He paid that price at an online auction to purchase Bag Raider, who resumes in the final race at 8pm (AEDT) at the Flemington twilight meeting on Saturday.
In 2015, that number was so much bigger when the legendary Gai Waterhouse went to Japan and purchased six stayers with the intention of bringing them home and aiming them at the Lexus Melbourne Cup.
One of those, Wolfe, ran in the Caulfield Cup this spring and another, Hush Writer, won the ATC St Leger before failing to secure a Lexus Melbourne Cup berth when sixth in the Hotham Handicap just three days earlier.
Bag Raider, by the French-bred Arc winner Bago, was the first she purchased and the Hall Of Fame trainer was immediately taken with the horse during her 2015 trip.
"The colt moved so effortlessly and freely and he really caught my eye," Waterhouse wrote of Bag Raider in her blog at the time.
"Hopefully, we'll win the Melbourne Cup with him in years to come. Yes, that is a bold prediction but as we have seen, the Japanese-born horses that have contested our biggest race have an imposing record. "A Japanese horse trained in Australia might just be a winning recipe."
That dream soon went south when Bag Raider injured a tendon on arrival in Australia. Attempts were made to patch him up but eventually, he was put up for the online Inglis auction and that's where Cameron enters the story.
"I noticed him up for auction and although he had a bit of a tendon issue, we decided that it's not going to cost us much to find out," Cameron said on Friday.
"It seemed a pretty good gamble for $3500. A Japanese-bred horse who's already shown ability. We didn't have a lot to lose."
Bag Raider had his first run for Cameron in May at Bendigo and, after coming off a 20-month break from racing on the other side of the world, he won. He then failed on a wet track at Caulfield in June, with Cameron deciding to hold him back for the harder tracks over summer.
"We've given him a very long and slow prep and he's been relaxing well in his jumpouts and work so hopefully that's a good sign going forward as he's been a pretty hard-going sort of horse," Cameron said.
"I've just given him a couple of soft trials and kept a good hold of his head. He's not a horse that needs a lot of work. Looking at the race tomorrow, it looks quite strong, so we're just hoping he relaxes well and hits the line strong.
"We'd love to see him win but if he's hitting the line, we'll be happy because we think he'll get 2000 (metres) and likely a bit further.
"I put him away after that second run at Caulfield because he's got too nice an action to handle a Soft track and his wheels just end up spinning."
Cameron has only had six winners on his own as a trainer and Bag Raider was the first.
"I've been very happy with her and I think she's got a good chance in her race tomorrow," Cameron said.