The dream of Michael Tabart to win the Doncaster Mile has fuelled the first confirmed international runner for April's the Championships, Japanese group 3-winning mare Hana's Goal.
While quarantine and the difficulty of getting to Australia have slowed the ambitions of most internationals, Tabart believes he has found the right race for his diminutive mare, which will arrive in the country on February 15.
''We looked at Dubai and Hong Kong but the Doncaster being a handicap really suits her because she is only about 420 kilograms,'' Tabart said. ''We don't have group 1 handicaps in Japan and she always has to carry 56kg at weight-for-age, which makes it a tough ask for her.
''The Doncaster is actually the perfect race for her at the perfect time of the year. There is a very good horse from Japan going to Dubai for the Duty Free and if we wait for a group 1 in Japan we would have to wait until June.
''I have spoken to [jockey] Craig Williams about it and he thought the Coolmore Classic and Doncaster would suit her, and he will ride her.''
Tabart grew up in Sydney and has great memories of going to the Doncaster before moving to Japan more than 20 years ago. The boost in the prizemoney to $3 million for the Doncaster, to be run on the first day of the Championships on April 12, played a role in the decision, as did the ability to have a lead-up in the Coolmore at Rosehill on March 22.
''You look at the prizemoney now and it is worth taking the risk to bring her out there,'' Tabart said. ''We know how hard it is to travel a horse, so we hope that she gets there fit and well. She hasn't won a group 1, although she has started favourite in one, so that's why we are coming, to try and win a group 1.
''She will do her [quarantine] time at Werribee and then move to the John O'Shea stables in Sydney at the beginning of March.''
Indications are Hana's Goal will get about 54kg in the Coolmore Classic and maybe a kilogram less in the Doncaster.
Connections of another Japanese contender, Lelouch, have decided not to come to Sydney after it disappointed last start, but other owners from Japan are considering their options. Championships chief executive Ian Mackay remains hopeful of getting a couple of visitors from Europe: the wish-list includes Melbourne and Caulfield cups winner Dunaden, Mackinnon Stakes winner Side Glance and dual Melbourne Cup runner-up Red Cadeaux.
''It is great to get Hana's Goal coming and we always thought, given the late announcement [in November], we would be doing well to get a couple of horses from overseas,'' Mackay said. ''We are in negotiations with a few Europeans and maybe another Japanese [stable], which will add interest.''
Meanwhile, Peter Robl will serve a six-meeting careless-riding ban to rub salt into being narrowly beaten on $1.28 favourite Pera Pera in the opening race at Canterbury on Wednesday. Robl pleaded guilty but gave a detailed explanation about why he tried to force a run by bumping another horse out of the way when snookered on the fence coming to the turn.
''I know you blokes don't take into account the price but you have to do something when you're on a $1.60 pop in that situation,'' Robl said. ''I had to do something.''
Steward Ray Murrihy said it was not Robl's style to act in a desperate manner, which the hoop agreed with adding: ''I didn't want to just sit there and wait to the furlong.'' He starts his ban after Randwick on Saturday and is back on January 30.
Also, Racing NSW has deferred the implementation of a licensing process for vets until the end of the month. Racing NSW and the Veterinary Practitioners Board have discussed an alternative to licensing of vets and a memorandum of understanding is being finalised.