Humans tend to be flustered and bothered by lengthy travel delays. The same, it seems, cannot be said for racehorses.
The Chris Waller-trained English import Shraaoh was one of a number of Melbourne Cup raiders who were stranded on the tarmac at Sharjah in the UAE when the plane they were travelling in to Australia in late September developed a problem.
The gallopers eventually arrived some 24 hours later than expected, and while there were fears that they would be negatively impacted by their ordeal that hasn’t been the case.
Aidan O’Brien’s Yucatan and Thecliffsofmoher clearly weren’t put out by their impromptu stop in the Middle East, the former winning the Cups lead-up the Herbert Power Handicap in a canter at his first start in Australia while Thecliffsofmoher ran third in the Caulfield Cup.
Shraaoh has had a rather more low-key preparation than that pair, having got through quarantine and then been kept ticking over at Waller’s Flemington stable until the right opportunity presented.
That came on Cup Day in the supporting staying race, the Ronald McDonald House Charities Plate, where the $6.50 shot proved too good for 13 rivals under Kerrin McEvoy, scoring from the Darren Weir-trained pair Steel Prince and Azuro in the 2800-metre contest.
He has a long way to go – Shraaoh only raced off a rating of 84 in this event – but Waller said that with improvement he might be back here again this time next year for the Cup.
He paid tribute to the gelding’s former trainer, Harry Fry, for getting him to a high level of fitness before he left the UK in September.
”We backed the English fitness. He hasn’t trialled, which we would normally have done and we have just done basic ground work with him,” said Waller. It’s similar to what we do with our stayers, but he has come here very fit.
”It’s been an interesting exercise. I told the owners we should trial him, and they said don’t dare do that.
”I just had a chuckle to myself when he went to the front, I said he’s got to be fit to hang on here today.
”It’s given me great appreciation for the English, Irish and European stayers, how fit they actually are, and how we don’t have to interfere too much at this late stage.”
There are some valuable options at Sandown at the end of the carnival, but Waller’s instinct is to be patient.
”We won’t say no today, but I would say get ready for the Sydney Cup. Long term, we might be here next year. We don’t need to over-race him.” – The Age