We are entering international racing season in Australia and US which hammers home our ‘talent drain’ crisis

IT’S that time of year when racing’s great and good start to get that winter sun itch.

The summer has come and gone in two shakes of a lamb’s tail and the first ‘Road to Cheltenham’ posts are mere days away.

PAGroup 1 winner Alenquer (right) is now in Australia[/caption]

Anyone with a horse good enough to race overseas will be thumbing through brochures as we speak in a bid to keep the winter blues at bay a little longer.

The warmer climes of the Breeders’ Cup in LA are set to prove as popular as ever, and it’s shaping up to be the biggest British invasion since Dunkirk.

Hopefully it will be a good bit more successful, mind you. It’s a long way to send a flotilla of rowing boats to rescue our brave boys and girls if it goes Pete Tong.

Australia is another far-flung destination on plenty of trainer’s radars and the weights for the Melbourne Cup were published this week – which left me a little depressed.

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Because, after a quick skim of the entries whilst sat on the throne, I recognised loads of the names on the list.

Not because I’m an Aussie racing fanboy, but because most of them are horses who have been flogged Down Under from our own backyard.

You’ve got Alenquer in there, a Group 1 winner for William Haggas last year who was bought by a wealthy group of convicts (can you still call Aussies that?!) a few months ago.

Spanish Mission, who was a staple in our top staying races for a couple of seasons, stayed in Melbourne after he finished third in the Cup in 2021.

He has been joined in Victoria by Soulcombe, a very promising young stayer who left these shores after his hugely impressive win in the Melrose at York last summer.

Then there is Without A Fight, beaten just a head by Hukum in 2022, last year’s Derby runner-up Hoo Ya Mal, the King’s first ever winner Just Fine… the list goes on.

These are the sort of horses who could and should have been adding depth to pretty sparse staying and middle distance divisions over here. 


Staying horses as a whole are already under threat because of the obsession with breeding for speed these days, and the steady leak of stamina-laden talent abroad isn’t helping.

It’s all down to the ongoing gold rush in Oz, which has become racing’s promised land where the prize-money has to be seen to be believed.

We don’t stand much of a chance if they come calling for our just-below-top-class horses, it’s a total mismatch.

We cling desperately on to prestige in this country, but prestige doesn’t add zeroes onto your bank balance.

And they’re not just heading Down Under – lots of our promising horses are Hong Kong and US-bound, too.

Andrew Balding wrote in The Sun recently about the ‘talent drain’, and he experienced it earlier this year when the smart young stayer Saint George was packed off to the States.

In the five years from 2016 to 2021, there was a 35% increase in the number of horses exported overseas, and the numbers are even more grim in those runners rated 90 or higher.

Veteran trainers have been sounding the alarm for years, but, sadly, too many in our great game are motivated by self-interest who think ‘change’ is a filthy word.

There is hope that ‘premierisation’ of the fixture list, and a much needed injection of wonga, will help stem the tide.

And we will find out just what racing’s boffins have come up with when their long-awaited and controversial plans for the sport are unveiled next week.

All is not lost, but it can’t carry on like this. Our leaders have to be bold.

Otherwise you might find some of those heading abroad this winter start thinking about joining the gold rush themselves – and then we will be in the stink.

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