THE two most powerful thoroughbred trainers in the world, whose employers are global giants and bitter rivals, descended on Sandown racecourse yesterday intent on carting the Melbourne Cup back to the northern hemisphere.
Coolmore Stud’s Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien tried to temper a flaring controversy over team-riding tactics for his thoroughbred trio, which includes the cup favourite Septimus.
A former Dubai policeman, Saeed Bin Suroor, who is in charge of Godolphin’s team and like O’Brien had not seen his cup charge since he arrived last month, reported All The Good had pulled up tired after winning the Caulfield Cup.
O’Brien confirmed the workload for Septimus and stablemates Honolulu and Alessandro Volta would be increased in the midst of team-riding inquiries. "It would be better if they are not able to lead [in the cup]," O’Brien said.
Earlier this year, O’Brien’s Ballydoyle stable were found guilty by British authorities for breaching rules relating to team riding. The trainer said cup jockeys Johnny Murtagh (Septimus), Colm O’Donoghue (Honolulu) and Wayne Lordan (Alessandro Volta) would arrive in Melbourne tomorrow.
"I will be talking to all the international jockeys in person about our local rules," Racing Victoria chief steward Terry Bailey said yesterday.
O’Brien arrived with wife Ann-Marie and their four children, with the trainer and youngest son Donncha decked out in Coolmore’s Honolulu jackets, while the females had Septimus inscribed on the gear.
"I can’t be really any more honest, they [horses] all stay very well, they all went every yard of the two miles," O’Brien said after the horses had cantered strongly over 1600m on two separate occasions. "In an ideal world we want a strong, even-run race.
"All the trainers know, hopefully, it is going to be a stronger-run Melbourne Cup than usual but that is not always the way. The jockeys could go out there, we say we want strong, even pace and it mightn’t work out that way. Each one of these horses are there and doing their best."
Septimus is rated Europe’s champion stayer and O’Brien said the six-year-old "doesn’t hold anything back". He also warned "he has to give a lot of weight away" and "you can make a case for all of them". Septimus will carry 58.5kg, Honolulu 54.5kg and Alessandro Volta 50.5kg.
"They are all in different places in the handicap," O’Brien said. "One at the bottom, one in the middle and one at the top. We have what we think are three good European jockeys who know our horses well. Every time they have run they have run to their full potential. Do you understand, there is nothing hidden in there [form], if you know what I mean."
O’Brien has no doubt a truly run Melbourne Cup would be to the benefit of all concerned. "You’re probably going to think there is less bad-luck stories," he said. "If you have an opinion of a horse and you think he is well rated you’ll see if you’re right or wrong."
O’Brien, who is enjoying a career-best season having won 22 group 1 races around the world, confirmed the stable’s cup jockeys would gallop his runners on Friday, and added: "We will step up the work now and see what happens."
O’Brien believes it would mean the world to Coolmore to claim the Melbourne Cup. It’s a feat Godolphin has been trying to achieve for the past decade.
"We have won most of the races in the world except maybe three big races," bin Suroor said. "Like Japan Cup, Melbourne Cup and Kentucky Derby."
All The Good provided Godolphin with its first group 1 win in Australia when carting off the Caulfield Cup, but bin Suroor was under no illusion about what lies ahead. The trainer believes he knows what is required to win the Melbourne Cup. "You need a horse with class, a horse with speed, you need a horse to handle the ground," he said. "I think this year we have the right horse here."
UK-based trainer Luca Cumani opted not to send Mad Rush, which was an unlucky fourth in the Caulfield Cup, to Flemington for a gallop yesterday. The stayer worked at Sandown with stablemate and recent Geelong Cup winner Bauer. "The horse [Mad Rush] is ready," Cumani said. "He is right where I want him."
Cumani, who finished second with Purple Moon in last year’s cup, said Bauer "is in excellent form".