Racing: Faithful Son leads Melbourne challenge

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN IS swiftly sending five temporary immigrants to Australia this autumn before Pauline Hanson's One Nation party is given the opportunity to ban all foreign arrivals.

A team of five thoroughbreds for the Melbourne Cup is the bulkiest consignment ever sent from these shores and contributes to an increasing international flavour that has long been the objective for the Victoria Racing Club executive.

The Club's general manager, Les Benton, made his customary tambourine- shaking trip to the old land this summer, and the sponsored suppers seem to have worked. Not only is there quantity in the British challenge, but calibre also. In addition, the Benton bonhomie seems to work in Singapore as well, as there are four runners from that racing station also left in the big race at Flemington on 3 November.

"I'm delighted," Benton said yesterday. "It's the strongest and biggest overseas contingent ever. We could have eight runners in the Melbourne Cup from overseas so we're thrilled. It is taking the Melbourne spring carnival to a different level.

"People with their heads looking to the future see that this internationalisation must augur well for Australian racing. If you have got a major sporting event you need foreign competition, which I have been aiming for since 1993."

That was the year that Europe actually won the race with Ireland's Vintage Crop. Lord Huntingdon was represented on that occasion, with Drum Taps, as he was last season with Arabian Story. This year he has other things on his mind.

The visitors' best horse, according to the home handicappers at least, is Godolphin's Faithful Son, who shares topweight with Doriemus. The colt emerged from quarantine yesterday following two weeks in Australia in company with his flight companion, Taufan's Melody.

The latter is prepared by Lady Herries, who sent out Harbour Dues to finish fourth last year.

Faithful Son may have made the journey but he has yet to actually make the cut for the Cup. In order to confirm his participation he must finish in the first five of the Caulfield Cup a week on Saturday. Damien Oliver, the successful Antipodean jockey, will give Faithful Son the benefit of his local knowledge.

Persian Punch, the second highest-rated British challenger, has something to prove too. He was also scheduled to contest the Caulfield Cup but a skin complaint delayed his departure from this country. David Elsworth's goliath will now arrive in Australia next Tuesday, when he will touch tarmac in company with Robert Armstrong's Sheer Danzig, and Yorkshire, who is trained by Paul Cole. Danny Nikolic has been booked to ride the last-named.

Last year's winner, Might And Power, is not among the 87 entries at the second declaration stage.

The four exotic names to play with representing the Singapore trainer Malcolm Thwaites are Three Crowns, Star Era, Peak Of Perfection and Wealth And Power.