Fellowes Fears Cup Changes Could Rule Out Europeans

Charlie Fellowes | PA Media

Trainer Charlie Fellowes said he fears changes to the qualification criteria, mainly for overseas runners, for the Melbourne Cup will make it “nigh on impossible” for European-trained horses to compete in Australia's most famous race.

The Melbourne Cup has come under increased pressure in recent years after a series of high-profile breakdowns in The Race That Stops A Nation, with international challengers seemingly disproportionately afflicted. As such, the number of international horses at the Werribee International Quarantine Centre will be limited to 24 (it was 42 in 2018). International shippers will be allowed just one run in Australia prior to the Cup, and will have to undergo a series of tests, at their owner's expense, prior to shipping, and be available for further tests while in quarantine. Any international horse that has suffered a previous fracture or undergone orthopedic surgery will not be permitted to run in the Melbourne Cup.

The recommendations (there were 44 in total) stemmed from a review into the Cup's safety record led by Racing Victoria Executive General Manager, Integrity Services Jamie Stier, with members of RV's veterinary, equine welfare and racing teams also involved. Independent representatives included Godolphin Australia Managing Director Vin Cox; champion trainer Chris Waller and renowned regulatory veterinarian Dr. David Sykes.

Fellowes, who is based in Newmarket and has placed three times in the Cup with Prince Of Arran (GB) (Shirocco {Ger}), said, “I completely understand that changes had to be made. I get that this wonderful race is under pressure from animal welfare groups, which I have seen at first hand on my trips. Yes, it is a minority, but we see them when we do the parade and something had to be done. For that, I feel very sorry for the RV and the organisers because they've been put between a rock and a hard place.

“However, I feel they have been brutally unlucky and I worry that the measures outlined in the report that European-trained horses are going to have to pass are basically impossible. There are a few parts in the report that actually don't make sense, and I feel incredibly sad that it will now be nigh on impossible to take a horse down there–and I have loved every minute of my trips to Australia.”

The disparity between prizemoney in Australia and Europe has already led to an exodus of European runners Down Under, and Fellowes said he fears the new Cup measures could exacerbate their departure.

“I think it is potentially disastrous for European trainers, because any horse deemed good enough to run in the Melbourne Cup will now be realistically moved to Australia to race, where they will not have to go through the same veterinary checks that they will if the same horse is with a European trainer,” Fellowes said. “So, it will result in us losing more horses. John Gosden's comments recently of Britain turning into a nursery for other racing jurisdictions rings even truer this morning, and I think it is a very sad day.

“It really is the most wonderful race and it is incredibly sad what has happened. I believe there are other changes which could have been made that haven't, that wouldn't have restricted Europeans going there and would have helped prevent further injuries from happening.

“Look at Royal Ascot this year without the Australian sprinters: when they come they add so much to the meeting, and when they don't it is to the detriment of Royal Ascot. That is why Ascot have a team who go around the world trying to get them to come and race in England, which is welcomed. It is very sad that it will not be happening to the Melbourne Cup.”

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