Australian Bloodstock director Luke Murrell is leaning towards Raheen House as the best chance of his Sydney Cup (3200 metres) trio as the Hunter syndication company chase back-to-back wins in the group 1 at Randwick on Saturday.
The Kris Lees-trained Raheen House, Mustajeer and Saunter Boy will represent the syndicators in the $1 million staying test they claimed last year with Shraaoh.
Raheen House, a full brother to Shraaoh, was an $8 chance with the TAB after winning the Chairman's Quality (2600m) on a heavy Randwick track last Saturday. Mustajeer ($5) was second favourite behind Young Rascal ($2.60), while Saunter Boy was $41.
Randwick was a soft 6 on Friday and it was not expected to receive more rain.
Murrell said the soft surface would suit Mustajeer (57.5kg) and Raheen House (54kg), which have drawn four and three respectively in a 13-horse field.
"I don't think there's much between them," Murrell said.
"I personally love the seven-day back-up for any horse into their grand final, and he ran good the other day, so I'm leaning towards Raheen House.
"The positive thing is all three have drawn a good gate. They won't do any work so they shouldn't have any excuses if they get a crack at them when they want to."
Saunter Boy will carry just 51 kilograms and jump from five. Connections decided to enter him in the Cup after several potential runners dropped out.
"When we bought him we knew he was never going to do anything at 2000. He was an out-and-out stayer," Murrell said. "He's had one or two good runs in Australia which say the ability is there.
"He works like Phar Lap apparently but doesn't bring it raceday, but he's apparently done that his whole career, but occasionally he does."
He was confident his team could upset Young Rascal, which has gate 10 and has raced almost exclusively at 2400m in his 11-start career.
"I don't think it can run it," he said of the two-mile test.
"And it doesn't look good on the map, so I think it is a false favourite. If it doesn't get in early, it could be in trouble."
Australian Bloodstock and Lees also have Game Of Thorns in the group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m). She was a $15 chance from gate nine after finishing fifth, five lengths away, in the Vinery Stud Stakes.
"The other day she was OK, but I would have liked to see her stronger," he said.
"I think he's going to ride her quieter and give her a chance to be the strong one late."
The combination also has Delectation Girl ($51) from barrier 12 of 15 in the group 1 Coolmore Legacy Stakes (1600m). Murrell was thrilled with her form but said the wide gate would be hard to overcome. Lees also has Invincible Gem ($41) in the race.
AAP reports: Australian Bloodstock's Jamie Lovett has serious doubts over the international participation in this year's Melbourne Cup and says the clock is ticking for Europe's stayers.
Overseas horses have increasingly made up a large part of the Cup field and invariably make their presence felt.
But with the coronavirus shutting down racing in Europe, Lovett has questioned whether the international raiders will be ready in time for the Australian spring.
"I dare say this far out, you're not going to have the big European contingent that we've had in the past given our horses in Europe aren't even back racing now and we are in April," Lovett said.
"Usually by June we're identifying which ones we're bringing over, so if they're not even racing, I'm saying it won't be happening for most of the major stables over there."
A core part of Australian Bloodstock's business is sourcing European stayers for carnival bids and in 2014 they claimed the Melbourne Cup with German horse Protectionist.
Mustajeer could not deliver a second last year but he will chase another staying title in Saturday's Sydney Cup.
Lovett says it is satisfying to get three into a group 1 race.
"We buy these horses and these are the races we target every year, the staying races in Sydney and Melbourne so to get them into the races is half the battle," Lovett said.
"It would be nice to get a result for the owners because that's been the plan the whole way through."
The winner of the 2019 Ebor Handicap, Mustajeer has returned in great heart winning the Parramatta Cup first-up and finishing second to the in-form Verry Elleegant in the Ranvet Stakes last start.
Raheen House backs up after a strong staying performance to claim the Chairman's Handicap last Saturday while Saunter Boy needs to improve.
Lovett feels Mustajeer has had an ideal Sydney Cup preparation and is the pick of their runners.
"I think Mustajeer has the class to win the race, provided he runs it right out. I think he's our best winning hope," Lovett said.
"He has been trained to the minute. He was super first-up when he won the Parramatta Cup. He ran super in the Tancred and I think he's still on an upward trajectory."
Given the coronavirus situation, Australian Bloodstock may not be able to bring horses over from Europe for this year's Melbourne Cup.
But if Mustajeer and Raheen House run well on Saturday, they may not need to.
"This might be a year they can be effective in a race like that," Lovett said.
"Provided they both see out the two miles then they will both qualify for the race. We'd be foolish not to target it."