Williams wary of sending his Irish runners to Melbourne Cup

Rekindling won the Melbourne Cup for Lloyd Williams and Joseph O'Brien in 2017.
Rekindling won the Melbourne Cup for Lloyd Williams and Joseph O'Brien in 2017.

Six-time Melbourne Cup-winning owner Lloyd Williams has warned that the participation of his Irish-trained runners  in this year’s race will depend on Victoria’s restrictions around the Coronavirus. 

Williams is the winning most owner in the history with six winners, with the most recent of those coming courtesy of the Joseph O’Brien-trained Rekindling in 2017.

However, the participation of international runners in this year's race has been thrown into doubt, with the state of Victoria declaring a state of disaster on Sunday due to the ongoing pandemic.

The news led to the Godolphin trainers Charlie Appleby and Saeed bin Suroor confirming that they won’t be sending runners to the Spring Carnival this year in order to guarantee the safety of their staff, and there are fears that more European yards could yet follow suit. 

Williams has several horses in training over in Ireland with O’Brien at the moment, and five of those were entered for the Group 1 Cox Plate earlier this week; Buckhurst, Degraves, Pondus, Master Of Reality and Twilight Payment.

It’s likely that more will feature in the entries for the Melbourne Cup before it closes on August 25, but Williams warned that while ‘the race that stops a nation’ is number one on his priority list, the health and wellbeing of stable staff would be paramount.

He told the Racing Post: "It's too early to say, but travelling now is a greater consideration than it was 72 hours ago. Melbourne [over the] next few weeks will have a bearing on the future.

"If there was any concern for staff travelling, I would not allow my group of horses to come - health is paramount.

“Obviously, I am very keen on the Melbourne carnival – I'm probably the oldest/longest participant back to the 1960s. It is number one on my agenda.

"Racing in Melbourne has been a very large part of my life. The future is in the hands of the Good Lord."

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