Andrew Balding has said the Flemington track will not provide any issues for Spanish Mission as he bids for Melbourne Cup glory on Tuesday morning.
The five-year-old has ran several excellent races this season, including victory in the Yorkshire Cup as well as a narrow second to Stradivarius in the Lonsdale Cup and a third-place finish in the Ascot Gold Cup behind Subjectivist.
With 22 runners and a tight turning track at Flemington, the Melbourne Cup will provide a different test for Balding’s star stayer on Tuesday morning – live from 4am on Sky Sports Racing – but he insists that although it will not be straightforward, his horse is capable of handling the course.
“We’ve had some good trips to Melbourne in the past and it’s a brilliant place to go for the Spring Carnival,” said Balding.
“Obviously it’s sad we can’t be there, but the most important thing is that the horse is there.
“I think he’s the right type of horse for the race. He brings high-class staying form from Europe into the event and he’s tactically well-suited for a race of this nature.
“He’s had a fantastic season with narrowly getting beaten in the Lonsdale Cup, a fine second in Saudi Arabia, winning the Yorkshire Cup and running a great race in the Gold Cup.
“He’s at the top of his game and looks the right type, but there’s 21 other runners in the race, so it’s not going to be straightforward!
“He’s won round Chester – it’s a much more galloping track than Chester, so he’s well versed in bends and he’s a handy horse, so I can’t see that being a problem.”
Balding also highlighted the travel protocols that have been put in place in Australia, with Spanish Mission the sole runner from the UK making the trip down under for the race.
“They brought in this new protocol before the horse is shipped, that they had to be subject to a full-body scan and multiple x-rays,” he added.
“He had a full health screening which he passed with flying colours and then they were subject to another CT scan but that was broken so they did extensive x-rays instead.
“We had a clinical question mark on Wednesday that the horse was slightly lame and showing some minor swelling, but he was scanned and there was no abnormalities and passed the vet’s checks.
“I can see there’s a certain element of paranoia because the race is very important and high-profile in Australia and they’ve been very unlucky with fatalities in recent years so they are keen to minimise that risk.
“Whatever you do, you can’t eliminate the risk for horse or rider but what they are trying to do is minimise that to the nth degree and this is the first year they have done it.
“It will be reviewed because it’s probably put off a lot of European horses from running.”