Hunter syndicators Australian Bloodstock believe European import Gold Trip will be hard to beat at his best in the Cox Plate (2040m) on Saturday after drawing well in gate two and with rain on the way.
Now, the five-year-old just needs to pass a final inspection to take his place in the Australasian weight-for-age championship at Moonee Valley.
Gold Trip, a $10 TAB chance on Tuesday, was found to be lame by Racing Victoria (RV) vets in the right fore and left hind legs after his flight to Australia last month.
However, mandatory CT scans and bi-weekly inspections, as part of Melbourne spring carnival protocols, have since cleared the stallion to continue with his campaign under Victorian trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.
All Cox Plate starters must pass a pre-race inspection by RV vets on Thursday and Australian Bloodstock director Jamie Lovett was hopeful of final approval.
“The vets are not giving us much peace, but we couldn’t be happier with the horse,” Lovett said.
“His work has been good, they say he looks terrific in the coat. I’ve seen some vision of him and he couldn’t look much better. We’re just hoping we get the green light.
“He had all the CT scans and the rest of it, and he’s passed everything. He’s had three or four lots of them.”
Stewards said Gold Trip had improved in recent weeks from what connections believed was just post-flight muscle soreness, and Lovett was encouraged by his work on Saturday at Moonee Valley under champion jockey Damien Oliver.
“Ollie rang me after it and he was rapt with him,” he said.
“He went terrific on Saturday morning and they ran a bit of time, and most importantly he come out of it good and pulled up really well in the wind, so he’s spot on for the race.”
Australian Bloodstock bought 100 per cent of the French galloper with a view to the spring carnival and beyond Down Under. Although winning only once in 10 career starts, the stayer has raced at the highest level in Europe and has been placed three times at group 1 level.
He was fourth in the famed Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m) in heavy going last year and he has been placed at group 1 level, over 2100m and 2400m, in France at his past two starts, both on soft tracks.
Gold Trip and the Joseph O’Brien-trained State Of Rest are the only two recent imports to tackle the Cox Plate this year and Lovett was confident his stayer had the class to prevail.
And he said the draw in two and prospect of rain on Friday and Saturday were positives, especially after their chance, Mugatoo, was trapped wide from a start in gate eight last year when finishing fourth.
“They are the right form lines and he’s only got to reproduce that rating here, and he’ll be hard to beat I’d suggest,” he said.
“We were hoping to draw in, just to give him a bit of cover.
“Obviously he’s a horse that’s proven at 2400, so I’d say he’d be worse than midfield but you just want to give yourself an opportunity to get rolling on him.
“And we saw last year with Mugatoo, four wide the trip, you just don’t want to be out there.
“I think he’s going to be effective [on all ground]. I really liked his run on fast ground in France but he’s clearly got good form lines on heavy tracks, so it doesn’t matter how wet it gets.
“If the rain comes and it’s wet like last year, he’ll eat it up.”
Maher told Racing.com on Tuesday that he was happy with Gold Trip’s work on Saturday.
“He had a good look around, it was Ollie’s first sit on him,” he said.
“He worked with Thought Of That and it was nice, solid work, but he did have a nice look around and Ollie said the further he went in the work, the stronger he felt.
“He said he felt really nice underneath him.
“And the weather might play into his hands. He certainly does enjoy a bit of give in the track, so it’s looking that way at this stage.”
Maher was pleased with the horse’s recovery.
“He was very stiff when he landed, he had a fair bit of muscle soreness, but he’s really freed up,” he said.
“He’s a happy horse now. He did a decent bit on Friday at Werribee and he did another solid bit, probably his most solid piece of work, here on Saturday.
“Really clean-winded, Ollie commented that his recovery was pretty well instant, so yeah, now we just freshen up into the race.
“He’s been down at Altona Beach a little bit, just something different for him, just changing it up, and he seems to be enjoying it.”
Zaaki was a $2.80 favourite on Tuesday, ahead of Anamoe ($4).
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