Time finally ran out on Dan Excel's Cox Plate ambitions in Melbourne yesterday, with the seven-year-old scratched from his race today as trainer John Moore abandoned the Moonee Valley target.
Saturday's Caulfield race was to be Dan Excel's only lead-up to the 2,040-metre Cox Plate on October 25 after Moore's original plan for two preparatory races was scrapped when the gelding came down with a throat infection last month.
A further "throat issue" on Friday morning after trackwork led Moore to scrap today's race and the Cox Plate.
"We just needed a fraction more time after that setback. He worked nicely, he looks well, but after talking to the vets we decided he still isn't 100 per cent, so I pulled the plug on Caulfield and that means pulling the plug on Moonee Valley," Moore said.
"There's no lead-up run for him and I don't think having him run in the Cox Plate first-up since May would be in the horse's best interests, so we'll give him some more time to recover."
Moore said Dan Excel would not return immediately to Hong Kong, though, and may still make an appearance at the Melbourne carnival, with the A$1 million (HK$6.8 million) Emirates Stakes (1,600m) at Flemington on November 8 a suitable target.
"He will definitely stay here a while and we'll monitor his condition, build up his weight again and put some muscle on him and I'll talk to his owner, David Boehm, about having a run here," Moore said.
Moore will still be at Caulfield on Saturday as the quality sprinter he races in his own right, Not Listenin'tome, returns to racing for the first time under Moore's brother, Gary, in the Group Two Schillaci Stakes (1,000m).
"He's the horse to beat, so I'm really looking forward to being there on a big day as an owner," Moore said. "He's worked really well, I don't think Gary could have him any better."
Hong Kong racing figures are becoming commonplace at this year's spring carnivals in Australia, with champion jockey Zac Purton and arch rival Joao Moreira having already won Group Ones in Sydney.
With the focus now on Melbourne, Purton rides his well-fancied Cox Plate mount, Sacred Falls, in the Group One Caulfield Stakes today and will be back at that racecourse next week when he, Moreira and Douglas Whyte all have mounts in the A$3 million Caulfield Cup (2,400m).
Whyte has been booked for Chris Waller-trained Junoob, a last-start Group One winner of The Metropolitan at Randwick over the same distance.