Prince of Penzance, the horse who sprang to international fame a year ago will not be able to defend his Melbourne Cup title and may never race again after breaking down at Caulfield on Saturday.
Not quite twelve months ago the Darren Weir-trained stayer gave Michelle Payne the honour of being the first woman to have Melbourne Cup success, however hopes of back-to-back cups are now over with the seven-year-old requiring urgent surgery.
Just minutes after the stayer finished fourth in the Herbert Power Handicap, his trainer and raceday jockey were deeply concerned at the condition of the horse and his restricted action.
Veterinary x-rays revealed a fractured bone in his off foreleg that will require surgery.
Weir at first was hopeful of getting the horse down to his Warrnambool stable to have him bathing the leg in the salt water, but the veterinary advice was too grave for that option.
Weir was philosophical about the injury to the horse that gave him his first Melbourne Cup.
“He owes us nothing. He gave us a Melbourne Cup. You can’t ask any more. There will be some screws inserted into the area during the operation and we’ll just wait and see what his future will be after he comes through the procedure,” he said.
Prince of Penzance was attempting what only great stayers have achieved by winning back-to-back Melbourne Cups, and sadly those ambitions have finished with the injury from the race on Saturday.
On the same day, one of the world’s finest race mares Winx took a tighter grip on this year’s group 1 Cox Plate after she ambled around Caulfield to win the Caulfield Stakes.
Winx, the unflappable champion mare from Sydney, was the main drawcard at Caulfield when she cruised away from her two rivals to notch another major race win.
“It’s wonderful to be associated with such a great mare, but you don’t win all the time. I read Sunday papers myself and sometimes you don’t like what you read,” Chris Waller said.
“But she’s a total professional, she does what she has to do and, as I’ve said before, she’s been in nine barrier trials and the closest she’s finished is third.”
When Waller was asked about the perceived clash with Hartnell in two weeks’ time, he replied: “It won’t just be Hartnell. It’ll be a very good race with some strong overseas competitors up against us.
“But what it does mean is that we’re going to have a great spring.”
Runner-up Black Heart Bart will still head to the Cox Plate despite being comfortably beaten in the Caulfield Stakes.
“We were just not good enough but we’ll push on to the Cox Plate, the prize money for placegetters is still very strong.” Earlier in the day, the Lloyd Williams-owned Assign took a significant step towards gaining a start in this year’s Melbourne Cup following his win in the Herbert Power Stakes, Weir said.
And the Cox Plate may have another dimension to it with Caulfield Guineas winner Divine Prophet now being considered for the weight-for-age championship of Australia.
After a remarkable ride by Dwayne Dunn, Divine Prophet weaved his way through to win the Guineas and in doing so substantially boosted his breeding profile and price in the future.
Co-trainer Wayne Hawkes said they had expected a performance like Saturday’s effort and added the drawing of barrier one was a critical point in the three-year-old’s favour.
“I must’ve said 4000 times that barriers are so important in races. My brother Michael contacted me at 4am this morning and asked how the horse had eaten up and I said he had licked his bin out and he said he’s a great horse,” Hawkes said.
“Michael is a good judge and I’m a bit emotional. The Cox Plate, well there’s Winx and Divine Prophet, we’ll put the horse first, we had the race favourite some years ago in Lonhro and we pulled the pin on him running because we didn’t think he was right. If there’s any problem, he’ll be on a float to the paddock.”
And if Divine Prophet does back up in a fortnight’s time, this year’s Cox Plate could well and truly be a classic with some outstanding local Australians, one very good three-year-old and some unknown internationals.
The Sydney clean sweep of Saturday’s meet at Caulfield continued when leading trainer Gai Waterhouse won her first Thousand Guineas when Global Glamour proved superior in the Fillies Classic.
Assign will now go to the Bendigo Cup to further enhance his chances of being at Flemington on the first Tuesday in November.
And Yankee Rose also came into Cox Plate consideration when she was successful in the Champion Stakes at Randwick.
The three-year-old filly was ridden by Melbourne jockey Dean Yendall who achieved the first group 1 success of his career.