Brits break new ground in Oz
What had already been a fantastic few hours for British racing in America's Breeders' Cup stretched further afield to Australia as Side Glance and Ruscello helped international raiders to an afternoon of unprecedented success on Victoria Derby Day at Flemington.
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Andrew Balding's Side Glance, given a fearless ride from the front by Jamie Spencer, took the Group One Longines Mackinnon Stakes, while Ed Walker enjoyed the most notable moment in his career when Ruscello lasted home in the Lexus Stakes.
For connections of Ruscello, the extra reward was to earn a spot in Tuesday's Emirates Melbourne Cup and joint-owners OTI Racing have already booked Chad Scholfield to ride.
Side Glance's prime objective had been last weekend's Cox Plate, where he had failed to settle and only managed to snatch sixth, but a first prize of Aus$600,000 was more than adequate reward on what is regarded as the finest card of racing on the nation's calendar.
Spencer took the initiative to lead after the field dawdled through the first few furlongs of the mile and a quarter event and saved enough for the home turn to kick again and evade the gathering pack, holding Dear Demi by just under a length.
"It's the unknown - you'd be lying if you weren't a fish out of water over here," said Spencer, who waved his whip in celebration after the line.
"I'd ridden a few times in Sydney a long time ago, but not in Melbourne. We planned to take a lead but the pace was very slow early, even for Australian standards.
"I was banking on him pricking his ears when he was in front and it was a good result in the end."
Despite some big efforts in top-level company, Side Glance had won at nothing higher than Group Three level in Britain and it was a gamble that paid off for Balding and owner Sheikh Fahad al Thani.
"It's a big thrill on a great day like this to get a Group One winner and it's a great credit to the team," said Balding.
"He was probably a bit keen in the Cox Plate and maybe he needed it to knock the edge off him. Jamie gave him a beautiful ride today and I think it made the difference between winning and not."
The sheikh's racing manager, David Redvers, said: "He's not a Group One horse at home, so this tells you the difference in standard of the middle-distance horses.
"He'll go home via running in Hong Kong and will be around next year."
Walker had Kerrin McEvoy to thank for an equally skillful performance from the front aboard Ruscello, who looked in trouble turning into the home straight but horse and jockey summoned up enough energy to hit the line a quarter of a length up.
Ruscello, who was part-purchased by Terry Henderson's OTI syndicate in the spring with a view to coming to Australia, was nowhere near a berth in the Cup before the 'win-and-you're in' Lexus place.
Third-season trainer Walker was a long-time assistant to Luca Cumani, who is a frequent visitor Down Under.
"Luca always said don't cut corners, do things properly," he said. "He also introduced me to Terry. The horse hadn't quite progressed as we'd hoped, but I'm chuffed to reward them. It's my first Group winner too.
"We weren't thinking of the Melbourne Cup at all, it's hard enough to get in, let alone win it. Kerrin has done a magnificent job because I gave him two instructions. One was to get cover and the other was not to hit the front too early so lucky he didn't listen to me."
Laurence Bellman, a prolific owner in British racing, was similarly delighted. While Walker was reluctant to commit Ruscello for Tuesday immediately, the other Australian party were unlikely to ever refuse the option in their most prestigious race and confirmed the gelding a few hours later.
McEvoy will be aboard Royal Empire in the Cup but said of a possible run for Ruscello: "If he pulls up well you've got to have a look at him for sure. He's a lightly-raced horse that's going to get into the field at 20 or 30-1, so you might as well have a crack."
Meanwhile, Zoustar looks set to be the next Australian sprinting invader to Royal Ascot after a flashy victory in the Coolmore Stud Stakes.
Chris Waller's three-year-old was sold to Widden Stud last week in a deal reported to be worth up to Aus$20m, having cut a swathe through his opposition on the Sydney circuit.
A hot favourite, Zoustar lobbed along nearest to the rail through the six furlongs and was undeniably impressive as Jim Cassidy gave him a squeeze to sail two lengths clear.
The veteran pilot was riding his 100th Group One winner.
"It didn't look pretty eight days ago when he had his jumpout but he worked well on Tuesday morning and then the sale was on the table, but to the horse's credit he's coped with it all," said Waller.
"He's proved himself to be the best three-year-old.
"It was important to run him on a straight, and that opens up opportunities in the rest of the world.
"I'd like to go to Ascot, and he's got a realistic chance. You'd look at something over six or seven furlongs (most likely the Golden Jubilee Stakes).
"We've just got to teach him to run up a bit of a hill at the end so we'll have a talk to Black Caviar and see how she did it!"