Payment oversight means Ladies First will miss Cup
Auckland Cup winner Ladies First will not contest the Melbourne Cup due to a payment oversight Photo: Trish Dunell
Allan Sharrock says he has nobody but himself to blame after missing the first acceptance payment for next month's A$7 million Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m), rendering Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m) winner Ladies First ineligible to start.
The New Plymouth trainer was alerted to his mistake when talking to co-owner Humphrey O'Leary, who noted that there were 85 horses remaining in contention after Tuesday's first acceptances.
Sharrock hurriedly made calls to Victoria Racing Club and Racing Victoria officials and took advice off racing administrators and fellow trainers in New Zealand but to no avail.
"It was plain and simply an oversight and I have to own that," Sharrock said, adding that he had feared he could lose Ladies First because of his mistake.
"Humphrey and Fiona were very understanding and I'm incredibly grateful for that. I woke up in hot and cold sweats last night. It's a sack-able offence as a trainer but they have been great."
A payment of A$3000 was due by midday on Tuesday, with fellow New Zealand stayers Bonneval, Mongolianconqueror, Our Abbadean, Highlad and Surrey not paid up.
That leaves Jon Snow (10th on the order of entry), Vin De Dance (17th), Zacada (34th), Charles Road (35th) and Pentathlon (58th) as the remaining New Zealand-trained entries for the 3200m Flemington showpiece on November 6.
Ladies First would have sat about 39th on the entry order had Sharrock made the payment.
In recent years, several leading New Zealand stables have missed acceptance payments for feature races in Australia and been forced to make costly late entry payments but in Sharrock's case, the late entries for the Melbourne Cup closed on September 6, so he has no way back.
He received no communication from Victorian officials that Tuesday’s declaration payment was pending, despite Australian trainers reporting a regular stream of notifications about upcoming deadlines.
Ladies First is still in line to campaign in Melbourne, provided she races well in Saturday's South Taranaki Club Egmont Cup (2100m) at Hawera, but her programme has changed.
Sharrock plans on starting her in the Gr.2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500m) on October 27 before tackling the Gr.3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m) at Flemington on November 10.
"She's going to be awfully hard to beat on Saturday. It looks a suitable race to have her ready for Melbourne," Sharrock said.
"Her work has been outstanding and the likelihood of a bit of rain should be perfect for her."
Sharrock's apprentice Wiremu Pinn takes the ride on Ladies First and will also have his first ride in a stakes race when he partners Art Deco in the Gr.3 Rich Hill Stud Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes (1400m).
"It was around the same time Michael Walker got his chance," Sharrock said of the promising apprentice.
"Personally, I think he's shown enough to warrant being there. He doesn't get flustered and he's riding extremely well. Even with a poor book of rides the other day, he's putting them in the right spot and giving them every chance.
"I'm very happy with Art Deco. She galloped with Ladies First, who picked her up, and they ran their last half-mile in 36 (seconds). They are both in excellent order."
Sharrock opted not to start London Express in the Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes, preferring to wait for the Gr.2 James and Annie Sarten Memorial Stakes (1400m) at Te Rapa on October 22 against her own age.