Owners have red-hot Melbourne Cup chance
HORSE RACING: Six Central Queensland couples are having the ride of their lives, part-owners of a striking colt that has firmed as the early favourite for the Melbourne Cup.
Russian Camelot scored the biggest win of its career on Saturday, charging home to win the $400,000 South Australian Derby at Morphettville.
It was an impressive display of staying power from the Irish three-year-old, the youngest horse in the field due to his Northern Hemisphere breeding.
Riding Russian Camelot all the way home was Emerald’s Dan Fletcher, who watched the historic win from the confines of his south-east Queensland horse stud, Telemon.
He is manager of Queensland Cup Colts, a syndicate that owns a 10% share in the champion stayer and was created specifically to find a Melbourne Cup contender.
They’ve done that, with Russian Camelot now the favourite for the race that stops a nation on November 3.
“That was the pipedream, that’s why we came together,” Fletcher explains.
“It was a project that revolved around the experience and getting the enjoyment out of trying to find a horse capable of contesting the Melbourne Cup.
“It was late 2018 when he was purchased at a European yearling sale. From memory he cost 120,000 guineas and by the time we got him to Australia I think he was about $240,000.”
The lucky locals with a stake in the horse are Fletcher and his wife Rae, Rolleston’s Terry and Catherine Piggott, Tambo’s Andrew Thomas and Yasmine Johnson, and Springsure’s Bruce and Trudy Roberts, Peter and Janine Mahady and Andrew and Angela Schwarz.
Hervey Bay’s Brad and Janice Harvey and south-east Queenslanders Jim and Kaye McGowan, Vince and Ann Ernst and Scott McGowan and Shantal Padayachee complete the sydnicate.
Fletcher describes Russian Camelot as an “absolutely stunning brown colt”.
“He’s perfect, he’s just gorgeous,” says the man who is no stranger to success in the industry.
Fletcher bred three-time Group One winner Sunlight, who was owned by an all-female syndicate which includes Rae and their daughters Shannon and Jordan.
A number of successful stallions have stood at Telemon, including Written Tycoon, Success Express and Bel Esprit. The Fletchers’ foundation sire, Sidestep, sired the Golden Slipper winner in his first crop to become Champion 1st Season Sire of Australia last year.
Fletcher said Saturday’s Derby win was incredible but did not surpass the achievements of Sunlight, who boasts more than $6.5 million in career earnings.
“I’d put it up there with anything that Sunlight has done but I couldn’t put it ahead,” he said. “Sunlight will always be the queen, Russian Camelot can be the king.”
While Russian Camelot started the derby as a $2.90 favourite, Fletcher said there were no grand expectations on Saturday.
“You never expect anything in a horse race; if there’s 20 in it there’s going to be 19 who are disappointed,” he said.
“We were just wondering if he would cope with all the disadvantages - he hasn’t had the ideal preparation, he’s never been over that distance before and he’s much younger than the rest of the field.
“We were hoping he would get through it and hoping he would be competitive.”
Russian Camelot did not have the ideal start and settled three wide at the back of the field before jockey John Allen made his move at the 1000m mark.
He rounded up the field and stormed past the classy Dalasan to win by nearly two lengths.
Fletcher described the race as a “messy nightmare”.
“He got bumped and he was last or second last. He was never on the track, he was wide the whole trip, he had to come outside them all coming into the straight.
“I always thought he was in with a chance because despite all of those things, you could see that he was still relaxed and he was still doing it within himself.
“When he swept around the corner I thought that he looked the winner.
“Everything that could go wrong did go wrong and yet he still picked them up at the top of the straight and gave them all windburn.
“Someone said on Twitter that he ran 3000m to win a 2500m race. That’s the thing that everyone’s talking about, that he covered so much extra distance and still won.
“I was overjoyed. I was with my wife and family and my niece and her partner, who are in the syndicate as well.
“It was just pandemonium. We were celebrating and in disbelief. There were some tears. I won’t admit to any, I might have had hay fever.”
Fletcher said Russian Camelot had captivated the industry across the country and abroad.
“We’ve had some really astronomical offers from people from Hong Kong and other places. People have been trying to buy him but we’ve knocked back a lot, a lot of money for him,” he said.
“He is an absolute freak. He’s always been at a distinct disadvantage because of his age but I think that’s why he’s generating so much interest.
“It’s unexpected and it’s really historic.”
Fletcher, like trainer Danny O’Brien, would not be drawn on Russian Camelot’s Melbourne Cup prospects.
“You can’t put the cart before the horse but it’s definitely the way people are thinking.
“They can go on that Cups path, which is the Caulfield Cup and the Melbourne Cup which are both handicaps.
“There’s another way that the real championship horses go and that’s weight for age racing which tends to culminate with the Cox Plate.
“Once he has a little break and we can all get our thoughts together we’ll have to map out a plan.
“I think the horse will really decide whether he wants to go to the Cox Plate or the Cups.
“If he is the champion that people are saying he might be, he might be able to do both.”