The respect which Australian racing folk hold for European middle-distance and staying form will have been further strengthened by the racing at Flemington on Australian Cup Day.
The Group 1 Australian Cup is to the autumn what the Cox Plate is to the spring (ie Melbourne’s weight-for-age championship, run over approximately ten furlongs). This year’s race attracted its usual strong field, but victory went to a horse who was never in contention for top-class races over that distance in Europe. The winner was the former Luca Cumani-trained Manighar, who got home by the narrowest margin from the Caulfield Cup winner Southern Speed. Remarkably, Manighar never raced at less than 2400m in Europe, where he never won above Group 2 level, his best victory there having come in the Group 2 Prix Chaudenay over 3000m at Longchamp in October 2009. His more notable runs in Britain included a good fourth over two and a half miles in last year’s Ascot Gold Cup.
Manighar, who was bred and initially raced by the Aga Khan, now carries the colours of OTI Racing and is trained by Melbourne’s champion trainer Peter Moody, best known for his handling of the world’s best sprinter Black Caviar.
Another high-class European stayer filled third position in the Australian Cup: Americain, winner for Alain de Royer-Dupre’s stable of the 2010 Melbourne Cup, ran a very good race on his first start for David Hayes’s stable, running home strongly to pass the post less than half a length behind the winner.
The Australian Cup was the second race on the programme to fall to a European import. Earlier in the afternoon the former Harry Dunlop-trained Green Moon won the Group Two Blamey Stakes over 1600m. Like Manighar and Americain, Green Moon is showing more speed than his European exploits might have suggested: although the winner of a Listed race at Newmarket in 2010, the son of Montjeu never won at shorter than ten furlongs in the UK.
No report of this Flemington meeting can end without mention of its two-year-old winner: the Group 2 VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes was won in extremely impressive style by the John Hawkes-trained All Too Hard, whose record now reads two wins from two starts. The son of the young Flying Spur stallion Casino Prince looked very good indeed – as he is entitled to be, being a half-brother to none other than Black Caviar.