Vic spring plans unchanged for OTI stars

True Self wins the 2019 Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Syndicator OTI Racing is confident Irish-trained True Self will return for the Melbourne spring.

A leading Australian syndicator is forging ahead with plans to strengthen an already impressive domestic spring team despite conjecture surrounding potential international carnival runners.

OTI Racing is hoping to bring up to six overseas-trained horses to Melbourne as Racing Victoria officials canvas options to counter issues over pandemic restrictions.

While there is a growing optimism about an international spring presence, OTI’s Terry Henderson says any participation would be decided by federal government regulations.

True Self and Downdraft, two OTI stayers trained out of different Irish stables who made an impact during last year’s spring carnival, have been set aside for a return trip to Australia.

The Cups prospects are not due to resume racing for at least another six weeks and by then Henderson hopes a clearer picture will emerge for spring biosecurity and quarantine arrangements.

“They are there (in Ireland) and we’ve got to get them out here and how they come out we really don’t know yet,” Henderson said.

“That will depend on government rules rather than industry rules.”

Henderson, one of Australia’s busiest importers of northern hemisphere bloodstock, says a UK and European shutdown of racing because of the pandemic has had a short-term impact on his successful syndication business.

“By now I would have bought two or three three-year-olds but I haven’t this year and that’s because I haven’t been there,” he said.

“I’m normally there around April and May and that’s when we try to make a mark.”

RV officials are confident they are closer to learning more about travel arrangements and some spring guidelines are expected to be put in place soon.

While global operations such as Godolphin and Coolmore are still tipped to play significant roles in the spring, small-scale overseas stables could be missing from this year’s carnival.

Henderson said a mid-year count of OTI spring Cups contenders was at an all-time high for the syndicator.

“If we were nominating for the Caulfield Cup today there’s 22 horses. Our actual ammunition is pretty good this year,” he said.

“I’d say at the moment it would be the strongest we’ve had but as we all know between here and when we get serious, it’s a long time.”

Besides True Self and Downdraft, OTI has New Zealand-trained ATC Australian Derby winner Quick Thinker prominent in Cups charts.

The syndicator’s depth in the staying ranks has also been boosted with the purchase of Sydney autumn carnival winner Young Rascal out of the UK stable of William Haggas.