Sir Dragonet (Image: Racing Post)
Possibly his best chance to win a Cox Plate and a Lexus Melbourne Cup this spring is yet to reach our shores, but leading trainer Ciaron Maher's confidence is growing at a similar rate to his anticipation with the imminent arrival of Sir Dragonet.
In his absence, Maher and his co-trainer David Eustace have been able to reassure themselves with the former English galloper's form, which includes a number of minor placings in quality races. But until he arrives just before midnight Melbourne time on Friday, they have relied on the eyes and skills of others.
Fortunately for the training partners, who are currently dominating racing in Melbourne, heading that operation is David Eustace's brother Harry, who is just as importantly a man of much knowledge about such things as quarantining and timing a horse's preparation to coincide with its travel.
On that front, Maher is thrilled.
"I was talking to Harry Eustace this morning and he's quite happy with him," Maher said. "Obviously, he's an exciting horse going to the Cox Plate into the Lexus Melbourne Cup.
"Harry has had a lot of experience getting horses ready to travel. We saw over in the autumn he brought over Young Rascal and Addeybb. He knows what is needed and he's pretty happy, so we are too."
Young Rascal, who is in the hunt for the Lexus Melbourne Cup this spring for new trainer Archie Alexander, won the Manion Cup in the autumn, while Addeybb thrashed his rivals in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick before returning to the UK to finish second in the G1 Prince Of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Maher is open-minded about which race in Australia will suit best.
"A big-galloping track at Flemington will suit him but he's got a good record over 2000 metres and conditions will be important as he'd like some cut in the track," he said.
Sir Dragonet, who was purchased to race in Australia by Ozzie Kheir and partners, is one of 29 international runners booked to arrive in Melbourne at around 10pm on Friday night.
The market ranks Sir Dragonet as the greatest danger to Russian Camelot ($3.30 fav) in the Cox Plate as they have him on the second line at $10. He is a $23 chance to win the Lexus Melbourne Cup.