After seven attempts to win the Melbourne Cup, English trainer Luca Cumani is lining up for No.8 with more experience of Australia’s greatest race than the majority his opposition – both local and international.
He is also in Melbourne with a horse he believes has travelled, trained and performed better than any of the dozen he has brought before – and two of those finished second in the Cup.
Cumani’s 2013 runner is $11 second favourite Mount Athos, who like his trainer has been here before.
A year ago the horse finished a luckless fifth in a performance that so thrilled his owner Dr Marwan Koukash that this year’s running was on the agenda before his horse pulled up.
Mount Athos has since shown mixed form, his four runs this year producing a first-up nine-length win, two unplaced runs and a last-start second over 2800m at Goodwood in August.
But in his first serious work this time around, Mount Athos has demonstrated on Friday he has returned in at least the same shape as a year ago.
“He’s definitely arrived here in great condition, better than any of the others we’ve brought out,” said Cumani’s wife Sara.
Mount Athos will also benefit from the experience gained in previous campaigns by having a local jockey – Craig Williams – on his back after being ridden last year by top English rider Ryan Moore.
“Luca has definitely been won over by the idea of having a local jockey on,” his wife said.
Cumani believes the best English jockeys usually arrive in Australia direct from the Breeders’ Cup meeting in the US and can be jaded by the long flight.
Williams rode the horse for the first time on Friday and came away satisfied with his choice – even after guiding Dandino into second place in last week’s Caulfield Cup.
“His work was really sharp, he’s quite fresh, quite keen, he ran some really sharp times for a two-miler,” Williams said.
Williams said he’d been attracted to Mount Athos by his effort in last year’s Cup and by his first-up run this time in.
“I looked at his first-up run at Chester and he made all the running and I thought that showed a lot of versatility in his racing style.
“If the Cup is slowly run he can take up a spot.”
As well as Mount Athos some other notable Cup prospects had their first serious tests on Friday.
Among them, the 2011 winner Dunaden and the horse who finished along side him in that Cup, Red Cadeaux, both worked strongly and well.
Gai Waterhouse’s French discovery Tres Blue was another to work strongly, if not at full speed, cantering for around 5500m and then warming down with another, slower 1600m.