Trainer Roger Varian out to open Australian account with Mackinnon Stakes/Melbourne Cup double

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Newmarket trainer Roger Varian has yet to have a runner in Australia, but by Tuesday night he might have two group 1 winners at Flemington.

The quietly spoken Englishman will send Farraaj around in Saturday’s Mackinnon Stakes and   mare My Ambivalent in the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday and makes a case why both can win.

But that is to be expected when you have travelled around the world.

“I’m very happy with both of them and we know it is going to be tough, but we have a couple of horses that are well and have good form,” Varian said.

Farraaj has been backed from $21 to $9 for the Mackinnon on his European form and the fact he has been working well at Werribee since arriving a month ago.

The five-year-old is group 1 placed in the Breeders Cup Juvenile a couple of years ago, but most recently won the John Smith’s  Cup with topweight before running fourth  as favourite in a strong Strensall Stakes over 1600 metres  at York on August 23.

“The John Smith’s  Cup is one of the biggest handicaps of the year and to win that with top weight was a fine effort,” Varian said. “Then we went to group 3 at York, which on face value was a little disappointing when he could only manage fourth.

“It looks a good fourth now because the horse [Custom Cut] that won the race went down to win a group 2 in the English Champions Series and the runner-up Trade Storm won the Woodbine International and is running in the Breeders Cup at the weekend.”

Varian did not mention that the third placegetter, Lady Lara, has won her next two, a listed mile at Newbury and the Pebbles Stakes at Belmont.

Farraaj was a group 3 winner at 2000 metres at Lingford in March and gets back to his favoured trip at which he has won three times this year, but will have to overcome a wide draw.

“The travel and the draw are unknown with him, but he looks in good order and is a quality performer back home,” Varian said.

Andrea Atzeni will ride Farraaj in the Mackinnon and was on hand to ride My Ambivalent in a gallop at Werribee on Friday.

My Ambivalent has raced against some the highest-rated horses in the world over 2400 metres. She was third in the Dubai Sheema Classic, behind Gentildonna and Cirrus des Aigles, before going to Epsom in English Derby week and finishing third again in the Coronation Cup, this time behind Cirrus des Aigles and Flintshire.

She finished her work in the back straight at Werribee, catching many off guard in the stands,  and appears to be free of the hoof problems that caused her to miss the Caulfield Cup.

“Looking at her, I think she is pretty close to where I had her in Dubai before the Sheema Classic,” Varian said. “Our target was the Caulfield Cup but the Melbourne Cup was always there and we have been told she has the right profile for the race. It will come down to if she runs two miles.”

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