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Horse Racing News: Sydney latest stop for globetrotting stayer



If Shaun Ritchie can win the Sydney Cup with Mahrajaan, he will have rival trainer Chris Waller to thank.

Waller was one of the first people to source stayers from Europe and such was his success, a high percentage of horses now competing over longer distances in Australia are imported.

That trend has also found its way to New Zealand, despite the country’s proud history of breeding many of Australasia’s best stayers, with Ritchie crediting Waller’s vision for his acquisition of Mahrajaan.

“He was born in the USA, he was broken in in Dubai, he raced in England, he spent a month in quarantine in Australia and of course he’s done most of his racing in New Zealand and now he’s back here,” Ritchie said of the well-travelled stayer.

“The old days of the New Zealand stayer being a bit dominant over the Australians….they’re well and truly gone.

“It’s so easy to obtain these horses and bring them here and that’s what we’ve done.

“We’ve followed the Waller design and jumped on the bandwagon.”

Mahrajaan has won two races since his arrival in New Zealand last year and significantly, both have been over the 3200-metre Sydney Cup distance.

An on-speed runner, he captured the New Zealand Cup at Riccarton in November and the Auckland Cup at Ellerslie last month, defeating subsequent Roy Higgins winner Mark Twain.

Saturday will be the third time in five months that Mahrajaan has extended to two miles and Ritchie, who trains in partnership with Colm Murray, admits that has been one of their biggest challenges.

“Part of the problem with this race for us is it’s his third crack at two miles this preparation, and that’s not done very often,” Ritchie said.

“We peaked him for a New Zealand Cup, we backed off and he only had two runs going into the Auckland Cup.

“He’s an athletic, sleek style of horse so he doesn’t take a lot of work on the track, so that’s why he’s five-weeks between runs here.

“But we’re aware the English horses can do that, he is very clean-winded.”

Adding to the English flavour is the booking of visiting UK jockey Tom Marquand.

Marquand was initially slated to partner the William Haggas-trained Post Impressionist but when that horse’s Sydny Cup goal was shelved after he failed to back-up in the Tancred Stakes, Ritchie was only too happy to snap up Marquand’s services.

“I love Tom. I’ve been watching him for a long time and he’s strong, he gets underneath his horses and drives them out,” Ritchie said.

“This horse has done most of his racing in England so I’m sure he’ll really suit him.”

Of the 17 Sydney Cup runners, only two – Manzoice and Torrens – were bred in Australia.

The other 15 contenders hail from seven different countries, 11 of them from Europe.

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