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A sheikh worth billions, an ambitious New Zealander who came to Sydney with only a few horses and a work ethic, and a horseman of Russian heritage are trying to win the Australia Day Cup at Warwick Farm on Saturday.

In there with them is a South Afican jockey who has ridden in eight different countries who is doing his best to claim the trophy for the second year in a row.

There are richer and more important events than the Australia Day Cup but just like it did last year, the race promises to capture some of the diversity of overseas investment that drives of the nation’s racing economy.

The days of racing’s fortunes hinging on wool and sheep prices have been consigned to history.

Glyn Schofield, who won on the import Wazn last year, says that result was a triumph for multi-culturalism in Australian racing.

“Wazn was trained by a Kiwi, ridden by a South African and was an English horse and he won the Australia Day Cup,” Schofield said.

In a move that was more about opportunity for his family, Schofield settled in Australia five years ago.

“We didn’t move for riding reasons, we moved for a family to give the kids a better life and what a life it has given them,” he said.

“From the perspective of parents, it couldn’t have been a better move. And professionally on the racetrack it has been great as well.”

Hong Kong might have the glitz with its handpicked trainers and jockeys from around the globe but owning a racehorse there is off limits to foreigners.

Nowadays Australian racing is more internationalised than ever and foreign investment is welcomed.

One of the biggest of those investors is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, who has two Australia Day Cup runners – Yulalona and Angelus.

Another siginificant foreign contributor is Chris Waller, the Kiwi whose training skills have taken him to the top of Sydney racing and who saddles Lucripetous in the Australia Day Cup.

And there is Bob Onikul and his $26 outsider Stealapipe.

Russian-born Onikul grew up in a region bordering China and Mongolia. It is a harsh enviroment but one which nurtured his love of the horse because he had to learn to work with them.

“Where I lived on the border, growing up around animals, horses were a necessity – a way of life,” he said.

“Without them there was no transport.”

It wouldn’t be an Australia Day Cup without one of the nation’s most indentifiable faces in racing.

But of iconic trainer Gai Waterhourse’s four runners it’s hard to find a trace of immediate colonial blood in their pedigrees.

And even John Singleton, the adman who once said it was un-Australian to drive past a pub and a defender of all things ocker, will rely on a New Zealand-bred horse to win the race, perhaps confirming once-and-for-all for the changing face of Australian racing.

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