Four international horses to follow for the Melbourne Cup
The winning horse Dunaden (right, behind) races ahead of Red Cadeaux across the finish line during race seven for Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)
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With the European flat season in full swing, some promising stayers are staking their claim for a trip to Australia for November’s Melbourne Cup.
Internationally trained horses have won four of the last ten Melbourne Cups and it wouldn’t surprise to see another raider take home the Cup in 2012.
Let’s have a look at four of the better prospects for this year’s Melbourne Cup.
If someone put a gun to my head and said “Tell me who’s going to win the Melbourne Cup”, I think I’d nervously spit out the words “Mount Athos”. This rising six-year old gelding has the profile of an international Melbourne Cup winner.
He has acceleration, speed, good form, upside, a good trainer and a low handicap – he’s going to be a very good lightweight chance in this year’s Melbourne Cup.
Since being transferred to Luca Cumani’s English Newmarket stables at the start of this year, Mount Athos has been in brilliant form.
In May he won a handicap at Newmarket by more than two lengths over 2800 metres. And at the weekend, he took another step forward when producing a stirring performance in the Listed grade Silver Cup at York over the same distance.
Mount Athos carried a staggering 63.5kgs – some 11.5kgs more than race favourite Suraj – in Saturday’s staying feature and showed a sharp turn of speed in the run home to record a dominant four-length victory in the key lead-up to the Ebor Handicap (England’s premier Melbourne Cup trial).
When the weights for the Melbourne Cup are released next month, I think Mount Athos will be allotted something like 53 or 54 kilograms and that’s going to make him hard to beat.
I expect to see Mount Athos step out 13 days before Flemington in the Geelong Cup and that will give us a good guide as to how he’s travelling. The Geelong Cup winner has gone on to win three Melbourne Cups, including the last two.
Cumani has a very good record in the Melbourne spring. He has finished second in the Melbourne Cup twice; with Purple Moon in 2007 and Bauer in 2008 – when a margin of a nose separated the Italian-born trainer from England’s first Melbourne Cup.
It’s not often that I spruik a European 4000-metre horse for the Melbourne Cup but Simenon could be the right horse for Flemington in November.
He’s a hurdler which only makes him sound slower. But like Vintage Crop (1993) and Media Puzzle (2002) – two Irish hurdlers that won the Melbourne Cup – Simenon has the speed to be effective over two miles.
Trained by Irish jumps conditioner Willie Mullins, Simenon qualified for the Melbourne Cup with two flat-race victories in the space of five days at Royal Ascot.
His win in the Ascot Stakes (4000 metres handicap) on opening night at the Royal meeting had me jumping off the couch at 2:30am and pondering the merits of this five-year old gelding. Simenon’s turn of foot at the end of two and a half miles was something I’d never seen before.
He then backed that victory up with another win; this time over 4300 metres in the Queen Alexandra Stakes (handicap) on the final day of Royal Ascot.
As a younger horse, Simenon was placed twice in Group races over 1600 and 2000 metres. He’s fast enough to win over two miles.
We’ll get another look at Simenon in the Group Two Goodwood Cup (two miles) in early August and should he acquit himself well, I think we can expect a forward showing in the Melbourne Cup.
Gatewood is a promising English four-year old. He also won at Royal Ascot; the Listed grade Wolferton Handicap over 2000 metres.
He’s won four of his sixth starts including all three outings in 2012. So impressive was he at Ascot that Australian based syndicate OTI purchased a half share in the John Gosden-trained stallion last week.
Gatewood is scheduled to have two starts in England next month before making the journey to Melbourne. After the Spring Carnival, he will be transferred to Chris Waller’s Rosehill stables.
The main query I have with Gatewood is the two miles of the Melbourne Cup. He’s only raced at a maximum of 2000 metres and while he was strong over that distance at Ascot, he is yet to prove his staying prowess.
And for that reason, I don’t have the same optimism about this horse as I do Mount Athos and Simenon. In any case, he should be followed closely in the coming weeks because we’re going to learn a lot about the untapped Gatewood before he even steps on an aeroplane.
Red Cadeaux is attempting to become the first horse since Empire Rose in 1988 to win the Melbourne Cup a year after finishing second in the great handicap.
And while the Ed Dunlop-trained English six-year old will be forced to carry at least a couple more kilos around Flemington this season, I think he’s shown the necessary improvement to warrant a bigger impost.
Since his heart-breaking nose defeat to Dunaden last November, Red Cadeaux has placed in all of his six starts.
In his two runs past a distance of 2400 metres, he was victorious at York in Group Two grade over 2800. That followed a length and a half defeat to eventual Group One Ascot Gold Cup winner Colour Vision in a two-mile Group Three.
In his last three starts Red Cadeaux finished second in a Group One behind St Nicholas Abbey, third behind the internationally-performed Sea Moon and Cup adversary Dunaden, and a disappointing third at Newmarket last week. (St Nicholas Abbey is a horse I rate in the top five in the world – but he’s Aiden O’Brien trained and is more likely to head to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe)
Red Cadeaux will enjoy a short break before making the journey to Melbourne. I expect him to figure prominently at Flemington.