Cambridge trainers David and Emma-Lee Browne are thanking their lucky stars they made the decision to head to Victoria with their four-strong Victorian Spring team when they did.
With New Zealand currently under COVID-19 Alert Level 4 restrictions, the country has been red-zoned by Victoria and David Browne, who accompanied their horses across the Tasman, would have had to have undergone two weeks of quarantine had they delayed the trip.
It was a distinct possibility that they may not have left until next week, with the husband-and-wife team eyeing Ruakaka this weekend with one of their Australian raiders.
“We had thought about running at Ruakaka this weekend with Elephant, but we are very relieved to have them out and over there now,” said Emma-Lee Browne, who has remained in New Zealand.
“David was pretty fortunate to leave when he did.”
The Browne team may have only been in Australia for a matter of weeks, but they have already collected a pair of wins courtesy of Elephant and Bifrost.
“It just made us happy to see them perform to what we had hoped they would,” Browne said.
“It was really good to get those wins under their belt, but both of them are going to have to step up again at their next start.”
While excited about the spring prospects of both runners, with Bifrost holding a nomination for the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) and Elephant nominated for both the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) and Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m), the Brownes are looking forward to racing this weekend with stablemates Rhinoceros and Border Leicester.
A first emergency for a BenchMark 78 2500m race at Moonee Valley on Saturday, Border Leicester has made the final field courtesy of the scratching of fellow Kiwi-bred Red Santa.
He will meet a tougher field than his trainers would have liked in his first-up run in Australia, but they are confident of a bold showing this weekend.
“He is a bit out of his depth going around at Moonee Valley. He got rated a little bit higher than we expected,” Browne said.
“He will just have a run around and if he is running on and doing everything okay, we will be happy.
“He is well and his last start was very good. He is not the fastest horse in the world, but he will keep trying, he doesn’t stop.
“There is a 3000m race coming up in a couple of weeks that is right up his alley.”
On Sunday Rhinoceros will have his second run in Australia when he contests a 1529m maiden at Sandown.
He finished fourth in his Australian debut over 1400m at Cranbourne on August 15 and Browne said he has been thriving across the ditch.
“He is on the back-up because he has almost done too well over there,” she said. “He has bounced through his last run and probably needs to get a few more racing manners.”