Outsider: Ruscello, working at Werribee, is only a slim hope to make the Melbourne Cup. Photo: Racing VictoriaIn the past decade, Simon O’Donnell and Terry Henderson’s OTI Racing group and their steady stream of imports have become part of the spring furniture at the Werribee Quarantine Centre.
But this year OTI Racing, like Team Cumani, will have a much quieter time at Werribee in the lead-up to the Caulfield and Melbourne cups as the Australian-grown syndicate looks to muster stocks for 2014.
The Cumani team – trainer Luca, his wife Sara and their daughter, media personality-cum-track rider Francesca – while still desperate for Melbourne Cup success, will rely solely on Mount Athos, who is due to arrive in the second shipment of imports on Saturday week.
OTI Racing, too, is light on for numbers this season, with five-year-old English-trained Ruscello only a slim hope of finding a way into the Melbourne Cup.
But Ruscello is part of a new wave of imports being sourced by OTI Racing, a horse bought young and relatively cheaply in the hope that he would develop into a cups contender, rather than bought as a qualified contender for an astronomical figure.
“It’s horses for courses, of course, but it’s something we’re going to give a good go,” O’Donnell said on Monday.
“We like to be able to use the grounding that they can get as young horses [in Europe] and that’s our major motivation. We want to give them the miles in their legs without stressing them and the European manner of training suits that.”
OTI has been successful in buying proven talent. Bauer, trained by Cumani, went within a whisker of winning the 2008 Melbourne Cup after taking the Geelong Cup. Manighar ran bravely in two Cup attempts but has since won three group 1 races in the care of Peter Moody. And Gatewood won last year’s Geelong Cup before returning to Europe.
But intense competition for that sort of horse has made them uneconomical.
“When you buy and prepare them up there, the horses come here with a really good base to start with; they have that natural staying ability,” O’Donnell said.
”We’ve definitely bought more younger horses for that purpose in the last year than in previous years to try and do that, but only time will tell if we’re on the right track.”
Ruscello certainly looked as if he was on the right track when purchased by OTI last year after he had won four of his first 10 starts, but he has not won in six runs for OTI.
“He didn’t progress as we would have liked during the northern [hemisphere] racing season. He was always coming out here but we hoped he would be coming in better form,” O’Donnell said.
But all is not lost for OTI’s young European team, with the Andre Fabre-trained duo Au Revoir, a dual listed winner, and Montclair showing terrific promise in France.
“We’re very happy with our younger horses in Europe for next year, and although next year is a long way off they’ve shown some good form for us so far,” O’Donnell said.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.