Balding's Melbourne Cup hope for Ebor victory
Melbourne Cup ‘Golden Ticket’ on offer in Saturday’s Ebor Handicap at York.
England-based trainer Andrew Balding has fond memories of Flemington and he is hoping his emerging stayer Scampi can set him on a path to Melbourne once again after the Ebor Handicap at York on Saturday.
Balding achieved a career highlight in 2013 when be brought Side Glance to Australia in a visit that climaxed with winning the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m), now the Champions Stakes, after finishing just outside of the placings in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) a week earlier.
Though Scampi is looking at distances well beyond those feature events, Balding says that a win in the Ebor over 2800-metres will firm the determination to have a starter in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) on November 7.
"Side Glance's win in Melbourne is still one of my favourites. My mother bred him and he was a bit of a warhorse. It was a great race to win."
With a rich history of Melbourne Cup raiders coming through the race, the Ebor has for the first time been designated a 'golden ticket' event.
"Side Glance's win in Melbourne is still one of my favourites," Balding said before saddling a subsequent winner at York on Yorkshire Oaks Day.
"My mother bred him and he was a bit of a warhorse. It was a great race to win."
Nominated for the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) together with having Melbourne Cup desires, Scampi goes to York after winning the Shergar Cup Challenge over 2400-metres at Ascot a fortnight ago.
"He's a hardy and improving stayer", Balding said of the five-year-old gelding.
"He does need to be winning it to earn a trip there but if that was the case then he would be more than entitled to go over for the Spring Carnival.
"He ran very well in the John Smiths Cup (1900m) over shorter, so hoping that he'll take the opportunity here over further.
"I think the Ebor will be a very good trial for the Melbourne Cup with the timing perfect for that first quarantine."
Scampi is rated an $11 chance for the Ebor with the John and Thady Gosden-trained Sweet William the $4 favourite in the field of 24 runners.
"The favourite has been running on very different conditions," Balding noted.
"There'll be a lot of other horses in the race and you need luck in a field like that."
The hopes of, literally, thousands of owners in the 'microshare' syndicate racing Scampi will be riding with jockey Jason Hart.
For Balding, however, it could be a chance to add a moment he still remembers glowingly a decade on.
"Scampi is a grand horse and he is just the type to thrive on travelling so Melbourne is very much on our minds."