WARRNAMBOOL trainer Aaron Purcell is set to expand the number of northern hemisphere horses in his stable following an overwhelming response generated by his two purchases from the United Kingdom in the last year.
Purcell has parties scouring the European racing scene for suitable horses to compete in Australia’s leading flat and jumps races.
Dhaafer, a flat winner at the Warrnambool May carnival and a hurdle winner at Bendigo, is preparing for next month’s feature jumping races, while Val Mondo, which is yet to race in Australia, has the $6.1 million Melbourne Cup as his long-term aim.
Several interested owners have emerged and are willing to help fund the push by Purcell to have higher-quality imports in his stable as they become available.
“We’re really excited how Dhaafer and Val Mondo have gone since they joined our stable,” Purcell said.
“But now to be competitive in the feature flat and jumps race we understand that we have to go up a level. We are now chasing higher quality horses from overseas to run in the races here.
“We’ve had great support from some of our owners and they want to be involved in our plans to bring high-quality European horses here to run in the big flat and jumps races.” The Grand Annual Steeplechase-winning trainer said the overseas horses had to undertake strict veterinary tests before they entered his stable.
“Just last week we had a horse that we were interested in in France but he never passed our vet’s test,” he said.
“We only want to bring sound horses over here. It’s no good bringing horses here that don’t measure up fitness wise to our conditions and our racing style.”
With his stable chasing higher-quality European horses, Purcell understands they cost more. He revealed it cost $60,000 to get Dhaafer into his Warrnambool stables and $90,000 for Val Mondo. “No one gives good horses away,” he said. “The costs have gone up a lot over the past year in buying and bringing overseas horses here.
“The Australia dollar is down and the Australian quarantine inspection fees have gone up substantially.
“We know that we’ve got to spend between $150,000 to $200,000 now to bring the higher-quality horses to Australia. We’ve been very lucky because our owners have supported our plans for the future.”
Val Mondo, which won the 2010 German St Leger (2800 metres), is due to kick off his Australian campaign in late August. “Val Mondo has come to hand a lot quicker than we thought he would,” Purcell said.
“He’s very athletic. Our long-term aim is this year’s Melbourne Cup. We’ve got a lot of (lead up) options we can go down with him before getting into the Melbourne Cup.
“We’ll just take him along slowly and be guided by how the horse is going in his races. He’s a multi-type horse who has a few strings to his bow.
“He’s also shown a lot of ability as a jumper but we’ll go down the line of getting him ready for some of the feature flat races before thinking of a jumps career with him.”