‘We were a bit nervous’: From France to England to a Melbourne Cup in two months

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Lastotchka won’t need any sharpening up before next Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup.

She will have already jumped more hurdles than most of her rivals to reach the barriers of Australia’s most famous race.

Lastotchka has come a long way in a short space of time to get to the Melbourne Cup.Credit: Getty Images

It was less than a fortnight ago that the French-raced mare clattered onto firm ground in Australia around midnight on October 18 after making the 23-hour trip from London to Melbourne via Doha with Ben Elam (and an expensive Bentley) for company.

Since then, she has been based at Werribee under the watchful eye of training partner Mick Price and Mick Kent jnr and on Tuesday she will head out to Flemington to be ridden in track work for the first time by Craig Williams, who will ride Lastotchka in the Cup.

After a CT scan in the afternoon, Lastotchka will then be in the home straight heading towards the Melbourne Cup the following Tuesday.

Already the four-year-old mare has won her stable bosses’ respect and admiration.

“She eats and drinks and works and has a beautiful temperament,” Kent jnr said.

And she has needed those qualities because as Kent jnr admits, “everything had to go right” to get to this point. Jamie Lovett from Australian Bloodstock bought the dual group 3 winner a little over a month ago with an ambitious plan to have her race in the Cup.

It was a brave move as the horse was purchased before undergoing the stringent MRI and health checks that are now a prerequisite for all overseas horses with their eyes on the Cup. Even if that hurdle was jumped, the logistical exercise was daunting.

“We were a bit nervous,” Kent jnr said.

Mick Kent jnr has taken on a big task setting France-raced mare Lastotchka for the Melbourne Cup. He is pictured here with stable star I’m Thunderstruck. Credit: Wayne Taylor

The horse moved from French trainer Jean-Marie Beguigne’s place in Chantilly to a Kent contact where the scanning occurred. That required care as the horse – who had won at Longchamps on September 3 over 3100 metres after losing her off fore shoe soon after jumping – needed to have her shoes taken off to complete the scan.

From Chantilly, she crossed the English Channel for Newmarket where she was based for a fortnight before heading to Melbourne by air.

Such was her constitution, Lastotchka put on one kilogram while flying and was cantering on the grass at Werribee, getting fresh air and stretching the limbs as she soaked up her new environment.

She gave every indication she liked what she saw, with Kent jnr conscious that the biggest risk to her health was the shift she experienced from working on sand at Chantilly to doing straight line work at Newmarket before taking on the turning track at Werribee.

“[We are] very much of the mindset we are not going to try to reinvent her, just going to keep her happy,” Kent jnr said. “She already has a huge amount of base fitness.”

The stable has had a GPS tracker and heart rate monitor on Lastotchka since they took ownership and her heart recovery has been exceptional, giving the stable great confidence she has adapted well.

Even Kent admits the whole operation has been extraordinary but the talented Lastotchka gives every indication she will relish the hard work required to win a Melbourne Cup.

“She is a naturally gifted athlete,” he said.

Having completed her biggest piece of work on Saturday at Werribee, her first look at Flemington on the last Tuesday in October will have her primed to represent the few mares in this year’s edition of the Cup.

“We are thrilled with everything she is doing. We have jumped every hurdle that has come to us so far … a couple more to jump and away we go,” Kent jnr said.

Meanwhile, Lloyd Williams has locked in Michael Dee to ride Moonee Valley Cup winner Cleveland in the Melbourne Cup while Jye McNeil will ride Serpentine in the race. On Saturday Mark Zahra decided to stick with Caulfield Cup winner Without A Fight, leaving Cox Plate-winning jockey James McDonald with the task of taking Gold Trip to back-to-back Melbourne Cup wins.

Lunar Flare – who missed last year’s Melbourne Cup after being scratched on the day of the race – has again missed a shot at the Cup, with connections retiring her after she suffered a career-ending injury when finishing fourth in Friday night’s Moonee Valley Cup.

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