While much has been made of a lack of Australian-trained and Australian-bred horses in Tuesday's Lexus Melbourne Cup, there will be just one runner by an Australian-bred stallion participating in the $7 million race.
Runaway, by Blue Gum Farm's Manhattan Rain (Encosta de Lago), will not only be the sole representative from a locally-bred stallion, he will also be the only one of the 24 contenders by a stallion that is currently standing in Australasia.
A confluence of two key factors, firstly the internationalisation of the Melbourne Cup and secondly the increasing focus of the Australian breeding industry on precocity and speed, has left the staying breed in Australia in a very much weakened state.
It is something that the industry is seeking to address, with internationally-bred Melbourne Cup winners Fiorente (Ire) and Americain (USA), both in the early stage of their stud careers.
Old Spice is the last Australian-bred stallion to sire a winner in the great race, with Rogan Josh in 1999. In the 18 editions since, only Maybe Better (Intergaze) and Criterion (Sebring) have flown the flag for their locally-bred sire by running a place in the Cup.
Redoute's Choice, the dominant Australian sire of the current period, has had two of his progeny contest the Melbourne Cup, while the other locally-bred powerhouse of the era, Encosta De Lago, has had just eight runners.
In the context of those two stallions, it is interesting that Manhattan Rain, who is a half brother to Redoute's Choice and by Encosta De Lago, is the sole Aussie stallion represented in 2018.
Feather in the cap
It’s a feather in the cap for Blue Gum Farm's Philip Campbell, just 18 months after Manhattan Rain sired the winner of the G1 Golden Slipper S., She Will Reign.
"It’s pretty wild isn’t it. We're really excited about him having a runner," Campbell told TDN AusNZ.
"Manhattan Rain has had group winners from 1000m up to those staying trips. His versatility is amazing but it's not necessarily surprising to me."
"Manhattan Rain has had group winners from 1000m up to those staying trips. His versatility is amazing but it's not necessarily surprising to me." Philip Campbell, Blue Gum Farm
While the G1 Sires Produce S. over 1400m was the longest distance Manhattan Rain won over, he was competitive in top company over 2000m and Campbell feels that shows through in the stayers he has produced.
"People forget he ran a slashing second to So You Think (NZ) in a Cox Plate. He could carry his speed out to the ten furlongs of the Cox Plate. The fact he gets horses that stick a bit as well as those nice precocious sprinters is not entirely surprising," he said.
"People forget he ran a slashing second to So You Think in a Cox Plate. He could carry his speed out to the ten furlongs." Philip Campbell
It is not only race performances but pedigree that re-affirms Campbell's faith in Manhattan Rain's versatility. He points out that while, Encosta De Lago and Redoute's Choice haven’t had a multitude of Cup runners, they have been able to produce plenty of Derby and Oaks winners.
"If you have a look at Encosta's records, he was able to do it. He could get precocious 2-year-olds and sprinters and he could get horses that could get over a trip," he said.
"If you look at Manhattan Rain's half brother Redoute's Choice, exactly the same thing. It’s a special quality in a stallion. The sireline here have got it. The female family has got it and it shouldn’t come as any shock that Manhattan Rain is doing the same thing, because it is there on both male and female line."
Runaway to make his presence felt
While Runaway, who is one of four Australian-bred horses in the race, is a $41 shot with the bookmakers, Campbell is confident the 4-year-old's form, as well as his preparation by trainers Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, will ensure he makes his presence felt.
"The Geelong Cup has been a great indicator into the Cup. He's trained by the right person, there is no doubt about that. Gai's record in the Cup has been terrific. We are really excited about it and looking forward to the race," he said.
"That horse has always won a St Leger over 2800m. He's already won a Geelong Cup over 2400m and he was third in a South Australian Derby, so he's got a good chance in a Group 1 two-mile race. That horse has already shown he's a quality stayer."
Nicely settled in
Manhattan Rain is currently in his second season at Blue Gum having moved from Arrowfield in 2017.
Campbell said the reception for him has been very strong and he has proven an impressive acquisition for the Victorian-based stud.
"There's a really good support base for Manhattan Rain. The wonderful thing about it is that it's not an ownership-support base. Teeley Assets who own the stallion, don’t own any broodmares any more. There are a number of very influential breeders who are involved since he moved to us here," he said.
"There are a number of very influential breeders who are involved since he moved to us here." - Phillip Campbell
And Campbell said the 12-year-old stallion is thriving in his new environment.
"The reputation he has got amongst breeders and walk-in farms who use the horse for his fertility, is fantastic and that all adds up to good support," he said.
"He's the most easy horse to work with. He is just like his dad, no fuss. He strolls into the breeding shed and does his job with the minimum of fuss. He's not a mad, screaming roaring bull, but by crikey he's strong, and he's just so fertile."
"You can very much expect to see a 15-day positive from that mare once she leaves the breeding shed."