New Zealand's hopes of a Melbourne Cup win have fallen silent.
Cambridge mare Silent Achiever has withdrawn from Tuesday's A$6.2 million Flemington showpiece after developing complications to an injury suffered in the Caulfield Cup.
That day the O'Reilly mare was galloped on in the running and needed 11 stitches to her hind legs to help mend her war wounds. Despite all indications that she had overcome that hurdle, the news was disastrous for trainer Roger James yesterday.
Racing Victoria vets inspected all remaining Melbourne Cup contenders yesterday to ensure they were fit and healthy for the 3200m feature but granted James 24 hours grace to give Silent Achiever every possible chance to prove her fitness.
But the trainer admits he has run out of time.
''It's devastating but we've been through every possible scenario with the vet and to be honest, I feel a lot better now we've made the decision,'' James said.
He noticed filling in her hind legs when he arrived at her box at Flemington yesterday morning.
He said the most likely scenario was that she'd had an adverse reaction to the stitches being removed but there was a small chance she could have become cast in her box.
She had since developed ''a form of cellulitis'', an ailment that can occur after skin is broken and explained Silent Achiever's swollen legs.
He had planned to float her to the beach last night in an attempt to reduce the swelling in her legs by allowing her to wade in the cool salt water but a high temperature put paid to the trip and ultimately spelled the end of her Cup campaign.
James said he wasn't prepared to unnecessarily risk his star mare by pushing her into a race when he wasn't sure she was healthy enough to run.
''That's the last thing I would want to do,'' he said.
"Her temperature started to go up again and her blood test indicated an infection, which we've treated and that will preclude her from running.''
James said the timing of Silent Achiever's setback couldn't have been any worse.
''I can't believe it. I've waited 35 years to have a runner in a Cup with a chance like she had, only to get something out of leftfield like this - and it's very much out of leftfield.
''It hurts that much more that it came after such positive reports from her trackwork riders from her last two gallops. Dwayne Dunn rode her on Tuesday and he was just buzzing.''
He said 'Roger, I've had nine Melbourne Cup rides before and none has given me the feel like she gave me after her gallop on Tuesday'.''
James hasn't given up hope of Silent Achiever racing at Flemington next Saturday, with either the Gr II A$250,000 Matriarch Stakes(2000m) or the Gr III A$200,000 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2500m).
Silent Achiever is the last of New Zealand four key Melbourne Cup chances to fall by the wayside.
Auckland Cup winner Sangster returned home with bruised heels after failing in the Turnbull Stakes, while Queensland Oaks winner Quintessential was retired after she failed to show her usual zest for racing and then star Cambridge galloper Dundeel was ruled out after failing in last Saturday's Cox Plate, having suffered a hoof infliction in the leadup to that race.
Meanwhile, James says Zonza is a live chance going into today's A$500,000 Myer Classic (1600m) at Flemington after a much-improved solo trackwork gallop on Thursday.
Having been easily beaten by Silent Achiever in her Tuesday morning work, Zonza worked well within herself with raceday rider DamienOliver aboard.
''Damien rode her and he was very positive about her work. We took a punt in the end to put her in the field and it would be lovely for it to come off,'' James said
- © Fairfax NZ News