Import Green Moon wins the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington for owner Lloyd Williams. Photo: Ken Irwin
THESE days we have become used to imported gallopers dominating Australia's major cups races, but if the locals wanted a reminder of just how tough it will be this year, a glance at the main results yesterday will hammer home the point.
As the spring carnival gathered pace it was the imports who bloomed, here and in New South Wales.
To the hundreds of thousands of once-a-year punters who throng the tracks over the next month, it probably won't matter where a horse comes from, as long as it wins.
But for those hoping an Australian-bred galloper will fly the flag in the nation's biggest races, the prospects are slim.
As Black Caviar, Miss Andretti, Scenic Blast, Choisir and Starspangledbanner - Royal Ascot victors all - have shown, Australia's short-course horses are a class above their European rivals.
But in races longer than 2000 metres - which, despite this country's fascination with sprinters, are still mainly the richest and best known events - locals run second.
The first four home in the main Victorian race of the day, the group 1 Turnbull Stakes, were all bred and developed overseas and imported to be trained here, as were the winners of the two cups trials in Sydney.
When you consider that the likes of Americain, Dunaden, Jakkalberry, Brigantin and their mates in quarantine at Werribee have yet to step out this spring, the odds on the Aussie battlers get longer and longer.
The Turnbull winner, Green Moon, who has improved significantly since he began his Australian racing career for the Lloyd Williams operation some 14 months ago, was trained in England early in his career.
The second home, Seville, also from the Williams camp, is another who began his racing life on the other side of world.
While Green Moon is a son of Coolmore's now dead stallion Montjeu, Seville is by another Coolmore champion and stamina influence in Galileo. He took high rank as a youngster in Ireland for the Aidan O'Brien stable, running second in the Dante Stakes, Irish Derby and Grand Prix de Paris as well as finishing fourth in the English St Leger.
Third placegetter in the Turnbull was Mark Kavanagh's December Draw, who won the Turnbull last year. He has only recently returned to action after injury and he, too, came from England. And the fourth home, the grey Voila Ici, the eight-year-old son of Daylami, joined the Peter Moody stable this year after being trained previously in Italy.
In Sydney, Irish-bred Mourayan got the ball rolling on a fantastic day for the Williams family with his win in the 2000-metre Craven Plate.
Like Seville, he was trained at the O'Brien academy in County Tipperary.
And just to ram home the message, Gai Waterhouse got in on the imported act when the English-trained five-year-old son of Refuse to Bend, Glencadam Gold, won the group 1 Metropolitan, over 2400 metres, easily enough from Kellini, who had spent his preparatory years in England. Like Glencadam Gold, he is a son of Refuse to Bend.
The lure of huge prizemoney and the chance to make a quick buck by selling any promising middle-distance European galloper for a decent price will all continue to influence the market.