We saw plenty of horses around the country reach their seasonal peaks on Saturday, but it’s difficult to dispute that The Offer and Our Voodoo Prince were the two breakout stayers over autumn.
The Offer brushed aside all queries about his form on dryer ground when he clinically dispatched a quality field in the Group 1 Sydney Cup over 3200m. In doing so, he quickly leapt to the top of Melbourne Cup betting markets.
It’s been a solid season for The Offer, chalking up wins in the Group 3 Manion Cup (2000m) and Group 2 Chairman’s Handicap (2600m) to go with his Sydney Cup.
The five-year-old gelding by champion stallion Montjeu has virtually assured himself a start in the 2014 Melbourne Cup, which trainer Gai Waterhouse immediately voiced as his next target.
With earnings just shy of $1 million, The Offer has quickly won back his purchase price after Waterhouse’s bloodstock agent Johnny McKeever bought him for 200,000 guineas (AUD$360,000) at the 2012 Tattersalls November Horses In Training sale.
Sydney Cup form has traditionally been a no-go zone when assessing Melbourne Cup runners, but few have triumphed as dominantly as The Offer’s four-length victory.
While all eyes may have been on the four Group 1s at Randwick, many can be excused if they missed the Group 3 Easter Cup at Caulfield. A mediocre field of 15 lined up in the 2000m handicap, won by Our Voodoo Prince.
Although the margin of one length won’t turn many heads based on paper form, it flattered the rest of the field. Ridden cold at the back, Our Voodoo Prince was in all sorts of trouble as the field compacted and two walls of horses confronted the gelding.
But a masterful ride by James Winks saw Our Voodoo Prince make an inside run which was quickly cut out, before switching back to the outside and squeezing through a narrow gap to run on and score by a length.
In fact, the written word does not do that ride justice – it was simply special.
Our Voodoo Prince is now undefeated in his three Australian starts since being purchased by Australian interests and transferred to Chris Waller. Stationed in Waller’s Melbourne base, it should come as no surprise that the Melbourne spring has always been on the gelding’s agenda.
By Kingmambo, the six-year-old is out of Ouija Board who remarkably won eight Group 1s across the UK, the United States and Hong Kong.
As Ouija Board’s first foal, Our Voodoo Prince had seemingly plateaued under Ed Dunlop’s tutelage and was offered for sale and purchased by Waller for 80,000 guineas (AUD$145,000). Like so many of Chris Waller’s imports, the European was quickly turned around in his new environment.
Last month, Coolmore head trainer Aiden O’Brien indirectly gave Our Voodoo Prince a glowing endorsement. The Irishman labeled Our Voodoo Prince’s half-brother Australia as “the best we’ve ever had”, which speaks volumes about the bloodline.
They were strong words coming from the man who trained High Chapparal, St Nicholas Abbey, Dylan Thomas, Galileo, Fame And Glory, So You Think and so many more.
Both The Offer and Our Voodoo Prince share a link through their previous trainers. Aiden O’Brien desperately wants to win a Melbourne Cup having sent so many horses over in the past, while Ed Dunlop’s balding head is very much justified by his two Melbourne Cup second-placings for no wins.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, we only need to wind the clock back to this time last year when another European import seduced us.
Puissance De Lune was all the Melbourne Cup rage 12 months ago before the strangest of preparations by Darren Weir saw him begin his campaign three months before the Cup. [Editor’s note: He’ll be back for another tilt in 2014]
Puissance de Lune ultimately succumbed to fatigue and injury two weeks before the Cup, but Gai Waterhouse is cannier than to fall for that trap.
Sydney’s greatest female trainer knows how to win a Melbourne Cup having just done it with Fiorente, and Our Voodoo Prince may tick all the right staying boxes.