By Ray Hickson
Champion trainer Chris Waller is not afraid of a challenge and he's found a new one through nominating a pair of Japanese imports for The Championships.
Waller is a master with European stayers, bringing countless imports to Australia, but said he's looking forward to the challenge presented by the Japanese duo of Admire Winner and Satono Rasen.
There are an impressive 41 international nominations for The Championships with 26 of them Japanese, including the Waller pair, and the remainder from Europe.
"Japanese horses are on everyone's lips at the moment so we've tried to get a few and they look like they will be big players,’’ Waller said.
"Both are nice horses. These two will be back end carnival horses, hopefully they will run during The Championships but most importantly we want them for next year as well."
Admire Winner, formerly trained by Naosuke Sugai, is a four-year-old with two wins from 11 starts and has form around the likes of Japanese Derby winner Rey De Oro and the talented Admirable.
The entire was narrowly beaten in a 2000m event at Hanshin on December 2 at his latest start.
Satono Rasen is a six-year-old entire and among his 21 starts, for three wins, is a second to Japanese champion Kitasan Black early in his career.
A Group 2 winner and runner-up in the 2015 Japanese Derby, in his only other Group 1 attempt he was beaten 3.5 lengths by Kitasan Black in the 2015 Kikuka Sho (3000m).
He last raced for trainer Yasutoshi Ikee, who brought Tosen Stardom and World Ace to Sydney for The Champonships in 2015, finishing eighth over 1600m at Hanshin on October 1.
They will arrive at the Canterbury quarantine centre early next month then move into Waller's care.
"Getting them here has been difficult but we are fortune enough that things are working in our favour now," he said.
As usual, Waller will have a strong hand throughout the two days of The Championships, with headline act Winx aiming for successive Group 1 $4m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m).
Winx is one of 17 horses nominated for the Queen Elizabeth alongside the Japanese duo, Egg Tart, Foxplay, Endless Drama, Tom Melbourne and an Irish import called One Foot In Heaven.
Waller has won the Group 1 $3m The Star Doncaster Mile (1600m) six times since 2008 and has a 26 strong team entered while he’s chasing his first Group 1 $2m BMW Australian Derby (2400m) with 13 three-year-olds including Spring Champion Stakes runner-up Tangled and the promising Frankel colt Tangmere.
True to his long-held philosophy that racing isn’t just about being first past the post, Waller said The Championships offer plenty of chances for owners to collect decent money just by competing.
“It's not just about winning. If you run second you can win a hatful of money, you run third or fourth it's a significant pay day too,’’ Waller said.
“Horses like Who Shot Thebarman are great examples. He hasn't won over The Championships but he's picked up well over a million dollars.’’
The evergreen nine-year-old will be lining up in his fifth Sydney Cup in 2018 having finished ninth (2014), second (2015), fourth (2016) and second behind Polarisation last year.
The reigning Cup winner isn’t among nominations from Godolphin’s Charlie Appleby but he has entered Rare Rhythm, a last start Listed winner at York (GB) back in July, for the Sydney Cup and Bravo Zolo and Toormore for the Doncaster.