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The Roar: Shoreham keeps battlers in the Melbourne Cup

September 11, 2013

http://www.theroar.com.au/2013/09/11/shoreham-keeps-battlers-in-the-melbourne-cup/

Australians are as parochial a bunch as any group of people on the planet, particularly when it comes to sport. Racing is no different.

The globalisation of our racing industry in recent years has been applauded and celebrated by many, but there are just as many people who decry the impact of international form on our racing product.

It is these people who do not accept that Australia’s best horses are rarely the best in the world (there are notable exceptions, of course), and these who believe a limit should be placed on the number of international starters for the Melbourne Cup.

If you belong to the latter category (which, I must admit, I don’t), then this article is for you.

In recent years, the path to the Cups has been littered with imports and internationals alike. These days, once the fields line-up at the top of the Caulfield and Flemington straights respectively, Australian-bred gallopers are few and far between.

The last two Melbourne Cups have demonstrated the changing face of Australian racing. In 2011, only Niwot, The Verminator and Older Than Time represented the Australian breeding industry, while 2012 saw Niwot and Ethiopia fly the Aussie flag.

Consider that three of the four horses mentioned above were prepared by high-profile trainers in Team Hawkes (Michael, John and Wayne), Chris Waller and Gai Waterhouse – while the other was trained by astute horseman Pat Carey – and it suddenly becomes clear how difficult it is to for a small-time trainer to target the Melbourne Cup these days.

Perhaps last Saturday unveiled a ocker Aussie hope in Shoreham, who is trained by Saab Hasan.

Hasan may not be a battler in the traditional sense of the word, but in the racing game where money is a crucial element in determining success or failure, the “battler” description is apt.

The 41-year-old has only eight horses in his Flemington stables, yet he’s now eyeing off the nation’s biggest race with his Australian-bred gelding.

Shoreham, like a number of the best Australian-bred stayers going around, began his career at Mount Macedon under the tutelage of Robert Hickmott and the ownership of Lloyd Williams.

The son of Reset was among a number of gallopers sold at a dispersal sale last year, but he has proved his considerable talent since, winning the Galilee Series Final earlier this year before finishing third to Escado in the South Australian Derby.

His return victory in The Sofitel should not be underestimated – he beat a number of horses better suited over the 1400m, and it was the race used by Bart Cummings to begin Viewed’s successful Melbourne Cup campaign in 2008.

Granted, Viewed had already won a Brisbane Cup and was all but assured a Melbourne Cup start. But if he continues his upward spiral, there’s no reason Shoreham cannot follow in his footsteps.

I’m a huge fan of the imports and the internationals, and there’s no doubt in my mind that the quality of our racing at distances beyond a mile have improved thanks to the calibre of those horses brought in from afar.

But racing needs its local heroes, the trainer who plays the part of David in bringing down Goliath, and for that reason, I’ll be cheering on Saab Hasan and Shoreham this spring.

He may not be good enough to match it with the best, but why not give him the opportunity?

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