|Wednesday 3rd January 2024
Big-Money Purchase from England Touted as a Melbourne Cup Contender
The recent Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale at Newmarket has been tipped to provide a useful pointer for the 2024 Melbourne Cup.
Balance Play was bought for AU$1.155 million by McKeever Bloodstock, Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott after impressing in high-class handicaps for English trainer Ralph Beckett.
The horse won three of his last four starts as a three-year-old – a run which culminated with an impressive victory of a competitive race over ten furlongs at Newbury.
Balance Play has a similar profile to 2023 Melbourne Cup winner Without A Fight, who has improved massively since switching from England to Australia the previous year.
Claudia Miller, racing manager for Waterhouse, said: "Balance Play is our highest rated horse of the sale - we were under strict instructions not to leave without him.
“He is a lovely three-year-old, lightly raced, very consistent, effective on all going. He just is the exact profile of the horse we look for at this sale. We are very excited to get him.
"It was strong, we knew it was going to be strong, but he was a horse we were not leaving without. He could be anything for us - he is easily a Stakes horse.
“There is a lot of improvement in him form-wise, physically as well - these Europeans seem to explode when they get down to the sunshine and the warmer weather. We are expecting more to come.”
Balance Play’s move to Australia appears to have gone under the radar a little, with online bookmakers yet to include him in the ante-post market for the Melbourne Cup.
However, several horse racing betting apps offer ‘request a bet’ functionality, which gives punters the option to secure some juicy odds on a horse who could be destined for big things in Australia.
Bloodstock agent Alex Elliott, who was responsible for the sale of Balance Play through the Imperium Sales operation, believes he could become a serious contender for the Melbourne Cup.
Imperium will retain a share in the four-year-old, which should prove to be a lucrative decision given the bumper prize money on offer in Australian racing.
Elliott highlighted the disparity between the payouts in England and Australia as the primary factor in the decision to sell the horse.
“As I said with Balance Play, do we keep him here to run in a 20-runner November Handicap for thirty grand or do we sell him to a place where he will be running for a lot more money?” Elliott said.
“He's a May foal and his best days are ahead of him. His numbers have improved run after run and he was very impressive last time at Newbury.
“He's very good over ten furlongs but he is bred to stay twelve-plus. He could be a Cup horse here next year or he could be a Cup horse abroad. Who knows?”
Having joined one of the top stables in Australian racing, Balance Play undoubtedly has every opportunity of competing at the highest level.
Waterhouse has trained more than 150 Group 1 winners during her illustrious career and the partnership with Bott has driven the stable to new heights.
Her biggest success was with Fiorente in the 2013 Melbourne Cup – the first time a woman trained the winner of ‘the race that stops the nation’.
Fiorente had previously been trained by Sir Michael Stoute in England, highlighting why the purchase of Balance Play from the same country is so noteworthy.
Given that the Waterhouse and Bott stable is so shrewd, it would be no surprise to see Balance Play hit the bookmakers hard by winning the 2024 Melbourne Cup.