For the first time in racing history, an American racehorse, Honor In War, is coming to Australia to contest the W.S. Cox Plate (Aus-I) on Oct. 28 at Moonee Valley in Victoria.
Honor In War will be the first North American to ever contest the race, worth $2,235,500 (U.S.).
The decision to send him down under was confirmed Sept. 29 when 40% of him was purchased by a consortium of Australian breeders who are taking the gamble in bringing him to Australia to race first. The idea is to pick up black type to then launch a stud career.
The deal was brokered by California-based David Bernsen, owner of Carondelet Farm.
Bernsen himself has also purchased 10% of the horse whose US half-owner is former NFL All Star Will Wolford, formerly of the Buffalo Bills.
Trained by Paul McGee, Honor In War (Lord At War-Catumbella) has won at grade I level in the U.S. and at 8 years of age is embarking on an ambitious campaign.
"But we expect him to run well," said his new 40% Aussie owner Bill Bensen of Emerald Thoroughbreds in NSW, "then contest another gr 1 race here three weeks later before being inoculated and heading to race in Hong Kong in December."
Bensen will advise his partners both in the U.S. and Australia to continue racing the race internationally until he is ready for Australian stud duties in September 2007. He believes Honor In War, now in quarantine in Chicago, has what it takes to compete in Dubai and England before heading back for stud duties in Australia next year.
"It is a huge gamble," he conceded, "but you have to try these things in life and his record is very good on turf. If he can run up to his best, he will be competitive down here and then in Europe."
Danny O'Brien will train the horse once he arrives in Australia.
Richard Duchossois, who runs Arlington Park, has opened the track up to Honor In War. Duchossois loves the idea of an American racehorse going to Australia to race. Honor In War will quarantine for two weeks at Arlington Park, while working out on the turf track, then ship to Australia, arriving there on Oct. 14.
Honor In War won the 2003 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr 1) at nine furlongs and was twice runner up in the Shadwell Mile (gr. IT), all on turf. He has won 10 races and earned $1.2 million in stakes thus far.
The Cox Plate is known as Australia's premier WFA contest and as such, the 14-strong field ensures the pace is on from the get go. Honor In War is a closer and this should suit.
Bernsen, who works as the American arm of Racing Victoria (home of the Melbourne Cup) has been trying to entice U.S. runners to Australia for the big races as the prize money is outstanding. "I think if Honor In War can run well, and in the Cox Plate they pay $100,000 for running 8th, so if he performs it may open up a stream of traffic to Australia for the big prize money down there. Then, like Honor In War there is every chance they can have a huge stud career too," reasoned Bernsen.
Racing Victoria and Bernsen had also attracted Peter Vegso's Silver Tree to Australia but he was injured in his most recent start at Ellis Park and his trip will now be delayed until mid 2007. "But the plan is to send him down for a similar assault and hopefully win black type and recognition so I can stand him in Australia too," confirmed Vegso.