BENDIGO trainer Josh Julius will press on with plans to start Just Folk in the Group 2 Blamey Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on March 5 after missing out on an automatic-entry spot into this year's All-Star Mile.
The 10 horses granted inclusion into the field for the world's richest mile race, worth $5 million, and to be run at Flemington on March 19, were announced late Wednesday afternoon.
The announcement was delayed following confirmation the star mare and race hopeful Probabeel had been retired after suffering an injury on Wednesday morning.
The Jamie Richards-trained four-time Group 1 winner was expected to be a strong contender after scoring a brilliant win in the Group 3 Bellmaine Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield on Saturday.
Her spot in the top 10 went to King Magnus
That has left Just Folk with the task of qualifying for the All-Star Mile by winning the Blamey or being allocated one of three - potentially more - remaining wildcards.
There is also the strong likelihood of other spots opening up with the trainers of some of the nominated top-10 still considering bypassing the rich feature.
Among those in doubt are last year's Melbourne Cup winner Verry Elleegant, who topped the voting on 17,112, and her stable-mate Espiona (seventh and 6123 votes).
In regards to Verry Elleegant, Racing Victoria's executive general manager of racing Greg Carpenter told broadcaster Racing.com on Wednesday:
"Chris Waller is on the record that she will probably stay in Sydney, but I would have to say he has had many opportunities to withdraw her and Espiona from the race and hasn't as yet," he said.
"While she stays in the race, she stays a live chance of running but everything would tell me with past experiences with Winx and Verry Elleegant she will end up running in Sydney and where Espiona goes we will find out."
For Julius, attention now turns to the Blamey Stakes after Just Folk finished a good seventh in last weekend's Group 1 C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield.
Conceding they were always going to be up against it, competing against the bigger stables and ownership teams, the Group 2-winning trainer said the dream of an All-Star Mile start was far from over.
"There is still a lot more to play out," he said.
"Obviously the rumour mill is rife about the Waller horses not being here (for the race).
"The top-10 is what it is. We always knew we were going to be under the pump to squeeze in, but hopefully, things fall our way.
"If the rumours are all true, there might just be two or three more withdrawals from the top 10, which will obviously promote us from where we ended up in the vote list.
"If not into the top-10, it will promote us into contention."
Julius said regardless of the All-Star voting outcome, the Blamey had always been on the target list and was hopeful of a big performance following two solid efforts back from spell at group 1 and Group 2 level.
"A win and he's in (the All-Star), but a good performance, backed with our effort in the Orr, combined with our votes and our donation to the McGrath Foundation (with the charity receiving a 10 per cent stake in the horse for the $5million feature), I'd like to think that puts us right up the top of the list for a potential wildcard," he said.
Julius remains overjoyed, but most of all grateful for the support of followers far and wide during the voting process.
"As I've said all the way along, it's been great fun to have been involved in - we've thoroughly enjoyed it," he said.
"Everyone who stopped us in the street to say g'day and let us know they voted, it was all very much appreciated.
"Obviously it's good for our brand and stable to be competing in these races and having our name associated with races like this.
"It's been terrific fun and hopefully we are not at the end of it."
In addition to the Blamey Stakes, the winner of the Group 1 Futurity Stakes at Caulfield on February 26 is also granted automatic entry into the All-Star Mile.
Everyone who stopped us in the street to say g'day and let us know they voted, it was all very much appreciated.- Josh Julius
The top 10 vote-getters for the All-Star Mile and the number of votes they received are as follows:
1. Verry Elleegant (NSW) (Chris Waller) 17,112
2. I'm Thunderstruck (VIC) (Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr) 15,974
3. Zaaki (NSW) (Annabel Neasham) 15,477
4. Regalo Di Gaetano (SA) (Richard and Chantelle Jolly) 8610
5. Mr Brightside (VIC) (Ben and J.D. Hayes) 6316
6. Behemoth (SA) (David Jolly) 6222
7. Espiona (NSW) (Chris Waller) 6123
8. Elephant (NZ) (David and Emma-Lee Browne) 5141
9. Lighthouse (VIC) (Ciaron Maher and David Eustace) 3862
10. King Magnus (VIC) (Robbie Griffiths and Matt de Kock) 3786
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.