‘A devastating blow’: Melbourne Cup favourite Hitotsu ruled out of spring carnival

Melbourne Cup favourite Hitotsu has sustained a leg injury, which has put a line through the spring carnival and raised doubts about his racing future.

The champion three-year-old, which won the VRC Derby in the spring before winning the Australian Guineas and ATC Derby in the autumn, suffered an injury to his suspensory branch in his near fore leg, which will see him miss out on a tilt at this year’s Melbourne Cup.

The TAB had installed Hitotsu as a $9 favourite for this year’s Cup, and an $8 second favourite behind Zaaki for this year’s Cox Plate, while connections had also flagged a in late November.

But Ciaron Maher Racing said his spring ambitions were now on hold.

It’s a devastating blow for his owners, the stable and his legion of fans that will see him miss this year’s spring carnival, the stable said in a statement.

He is a talented, tough horse who we believe we have not seen the best of yet, and are hopeful for a speedy recovery.

Successful rehabilitation would see him return to racing in the autumn of 2023, if it’s decided he will race on.

Ciaron Maher Racing said they were currently in discussions with the ownership group regarding his racing future.

The son of Japanese champion Maurice, who stands at Arrowfield Stud in the Hunter Valley, was a $100,000 yearling purchase who has turned himself into a stallion-making colt via his three group 1 victories.

He’s had just eight starts but won four races and more than $3 million in prizemoney.

Any decision made on his future will be communicated in due course, the stable said.

in winning the Victoria and AJC derbies, split with a stunning win in the Australian Guineas, which makes him a valuable stud prospect.

But his connections, including managing owner Ozzie Kheir, believed a Cox Plate tilt, followed by a trip to Japan for their time-honoured Cup, would have offered the horse the best opportunity to bolster his reputation.

That’s the beauty, we’re talking about the top group 1 races, Kheir told The Age last month.

Definitely the Cox Plate is our immediate target, and the Japan Cup is definitely a race that we originally were targeting for Sir Dragonet. That could be a target now for Hitotsu, which would be great, and being by [Japanese stallion] Maurice, I think it would enhance his value if he was able to go there and perform well against the very best in Japan.

After the [ATC Derby] you look at it and say, ‘where do you go? ’. That race is 2400 metres, so I think it’s right down his alley.

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