In a different era, a French import making its way to Australia via a Group One race in Singapore would be cause for intrigue in the Metropolitan.
But such has been the demise of the Australian-bred stayer, Orbec’s presence at Randwick on Saturday is a long way from the novelty value it might have been a few decades ago.
That’s because the biggest staying race of the Sydney spring carnival has been hijacked by overseas horses as each of the 14 runners left standing were bred in the northern hemisphere.
There will be seven Irish-bred horses, five from Great Britain and one each from France and the United States chasing the $750,000 purse.
It’s a confronting statistic for the Australian breeding industry and a precursor to another potential international domination of next month’s Melbourne Cup.
Yet none of that matters to John Thompson, a young Randwick trainer trying to win his second Group One race a year to the day since he claimed his first.
Orbec will be lining up for his fourth Australian start in a campaign that on the surface would appear to have been smooth sailing after Wyong Gold Cup and Newcastle Gold Cup placings.
Behind the scenes, Thompson says it has been a different tale.
“Orbec is a hard horse to handle … he’s a real bull,” Thompson said.
To keep Orbec and stable companion Hooked in check, Thompson sends the entires to a beach in Botany Bay.
With Sydney airport on one side and a six-lane highway on the other, it’s hardly a place of tranquillity but Thompson says Orbec is a different horse when he is in the water.
“There’s so much going on there but he just loves it. It’s the only time he is a pleasure,” Thompson said.
“I don’t swim them. They go there as a mental thing, just wading for half an hour.
“They come back to the stable all bright and happy. They go straight into their box, straight to their feed.”
Appropriately, it will be a runner from one of racing’s best-known international stables which is considered the horse for Orbec to beat.
With the benefit of an inside draw, Godolphin stayer Magic Hurricane stretches out to 2400m for the first time in his Australian career.
Magic Hurricane assumed Metropolitan favouritism when just beaten at weight-for-age by Preferment in the Hill Stakes.