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Mount Athos (Jamie Spencer) wins the Ormonde Stakes

Mount Athos: part of a strong British-trained contingent for Melbourne Cup

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

Trio of British seconds chase famous British first

Preview: Australia, Tuesday 4.00am GMT

Flemington: Emirates Melbourne (Group 1)
2m handicap, turf, 3yo+

THEY have come, they have seen but they have not quite conquered.

On Tuesday, however, the three trainers who have been within touching distance of giving Britain a first success in the race that stops a nation have another chance of capturing one of the most iconic prizes in sport.

While Ireland, France and Japan have taken Australia's single biggest sporting event out of the southern hemisphere, the contest has proved elusive for Britain.

Saeed Bin Suroor has on three occasions saddled the second and Ed Dunlop once. They are once again back for more, as is the man most recently associated with Flemington agony - and while Luca Cumani is perhaps not convinced the duck will be broken on Tuesday, his owner is brimming with confidence.

A horribly wide stall 22 draw has not, in the eyes of most observers, increased the chances of last year's luckless fifth Mount Athos, whose power-packed finish after twice being bumped led Cumani - trainer of the close-up second in 2007 and 2008 - to make a public vow that he would never return.

Return, however, he has, and in Mount Athos he has brought a horse racing off the same weight as last year and with him a last time out second at Goodwood, where he separated bang in-form pair Harris Tweed and Tac De Boistron.

Everything apart from the draw seems to be in favour Mount Athos's favour. In the eyes of owner Marwan Koukash, even the draw is a plus.

"We will win and winning would mean I had achieved my biggest dream in racing," said Koukash. "Many people seem to think our draw is bad but I don't because from 22 we can dictate where we want to be.

"This year he is stronger than last year, he looks better, feels better and is in better form. I also don't think anyone is better than Craig Williams at overcoming a wide draw."

Not quite so confident is Cumani.

"Marwan is a positive person but I'm a realist," he said.

"The effect of his draw depends entirely on the way the race pans out. We need to get a decent position but if he does I'm sure he'll run well because he is absolutely spot on and is as good if not better than last year."

Bin Suroor this time saddles impressive Geoffrey Freer Stakes winner Royal Empire, the mount of Sheikh Mohammed's retained Australian rider Kerrin McEvoy.

"This is the right horse and I like him a lot," said Bin Suroor. "I think for this race you need to have a horse who has class and speed so two miles should not be a problem for him. We have brought over some nice horses in the past but we are not going to give up until we win it."

It was two years ago that Red Cadeaux came within a nose hair of edging out Dunaden in the world's most valuable Flat handicap. Both horses are back for more, but while Dunaden starts from the rail in stall one, Red Cadeaux is out on the other side of the track in box 23.

"We didn't want to be so wide but we are very pleased with the horse and he loves it here," said trainer Ed Dunlop. "He is a long shot and his form is a little bit up and down but he has won a Hong Kong Vase and been second in a Dubai World Cup since he was here last year."

Dunaden's owner Sheikh Fahad Al Thani said: "If you forget the weight he has to carry I think we have a chance. He is in good form and he will show up well but winning it with his big weight is a different story."

Much of Australia's international interest has focused on former football star Michael Owen, whose Goodwood Cup winner Brown Panther gives the high-profile owner, trainer Tom Dascombe and jockey Richard Kingscote their first Melbourne Cup chance.

Brown Panther 15.09.12

Brown Panther: flying the flag for Michael Owen

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (  

"England has never had the winner of the Melbourne Cup. It would be a huge honour to be the first," said Owen.

"It looks like one of the strongest Melbourne Cups for some time but my horse has travelled well, he is eating fine and training well so we have all the boxes ticked. The biggest box that needs ticking, though, is will he be good enough to win, and that's the hardest thing of all."

Favourite to win is last year's second, the former Sir Michael Stoute-trained Fiorente, who along with French import Tres Blue, attempts to give Australian training legend Gai Waterhouse a first Melbourne Cup.

"It's going to be harder this year for Fiorente," said Waterhouse.

"There's no point pretending he has a long, sustained, sweeping sprint because he hasn't. Things will need to go just his way but he has bulked up since last year and I think he is a happier horse.

"Tres Blue has fabulous form and has put on an enormous of weight since he has been here. He is thriving."

Dandino was sent to Australia by his Australian owners in a bid to win the Caulfield Cup.

That mission was almost accomplished and he now seeks to go one place better by lifting the Melbourne Cup for Marco Botti and Saturday's dual Breeders' Cup winner Ryan Moore, last year's robbed rider on Mount Athos.

Moore said: "He was impressive in the American Leger, he ran a very good trial at Caulfield and I think he's got a nice draw with stall four.

"I don't really know what it takes to win the race but he travels and he's got gears. Hopefully he has the right attributes but it's very hard to work out what you need."

France's record in the Melbourne Cup reads two wins in the last three years. With Tres Blue now racing for the home team, the sole French representative is Verema, the Aga Khan's first ever runner in Australia and running for trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre, successful with Americain in 2010.

The Aga's daughter Princess Zahra said: "We have been looking for a runner for this race for a very long time and we're very happy we've finally found the horse we think is the right one.

"She travels well, she has a good basic cruising speed and a turn of foot. We believe she's a very good filly."

Like France, Ireland can claim two past Melbourne Cups. Both were trained by Dermot Weld, and 20 years on from Vintage Crop's ground-breaking success for the northern hemisphere, another former hurdler seeks to star as Simenon represents Willie Mullins and Richard Hughes.

Willie Mullins 2010

Willie Mullins: runs Simenon

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (  

Mullins, whose international exploits this year include the victory of Blackstairmountain in the Nakayama Grand Jump, sent last year's double Royal Ascot winner to Caulfield for a Melbourne Cup preparatory race over 1m4f in which he finished third behind Sea Moon.

"We haven't had a single setback with the horse so now we just need luck in running," said Mullins, whose only previous runner in the race, Holy Orders, finished 17th ten years ago.

"I thought he ran a cracker at Caulfield when he didn't have luck in running. Kerrin McEvoy also didn't abuse him and he left the Melbourne Cup in the horse."

There is no Weld runner this year but there is a former Weld inmate in the shape of Voleuse De Coeurs, who makes her debut for Brew's 2000-winning trainer Mike Moroney having been sold following her runaway success in the Irish St Leger.

Her new trainer said: "I think she brings some of the best form into the race and she has the advantage of having done it on firm ground. She is proven over two miles and has improved from three to four.

"I've taken on board that Dermot Weld thought this was a year too soon for her but I think Dermot was quite surprised she won the Irish St Leger and she is well weighted this year, which she might not be next year.

"If she wins I would say most of the credit should go to Dermot. He should take the kudos."

A former British-trained horse won the race for reclusive owner Lloyd Williams 12 months ago and Green Moon is back as part of a six-strong squad for Macedon Lodge that also includes familiar faces Sea Moon, Masked Marvel and Seville, not to mention the Caulfield Cup victor Fawkner.

William's son Nick said: "Green Moon is now a better horse and once again he's drawn to get a good run.

"The amount Sea Moon has improved over the last four weeks is extraordinary and I think he's in the race up to his eyeballs. Fawkner is flying. Whether he gets the two miles we'll see on Tuesday but I'm pretty confident he'll be in the finish.

"Seville has a top chance. He ran fantastically in the Cox Plate and has had the perfect preparation. I'm sure he'll run a mighty race. If I was being kind I would say Masked Marvel's Cox Plate run was inconclusive. We've done plenty of work with him and seem to have him back on track. If he finds his European form he is the best stayer in the race and he'll win but he has to be in that form.

"Mourayan is ready for two miles. In terms of ticking all the boxes the logical two of ours are Fawkner and Seville."

Also blessed with a multiple hand is Australia's top trainer Chris Waller, who won two Group 1 events at Flemington on Saturday and pursues another with Hawkspur and Foreteller.

Waller said: "Hawkspur had no luck in the Turnbull Stakes or Caulfield Cup and if he stays he will be very hard to beat. Foreteller has already won a Group 1 and finished second to Atlantic Jewel, which is like winning a Group 1. Neither horse has had any setbacks."

Mark Kavanagh, who trained Atlantic Jewel until injury forced her retirement during the Cox Plate build up, is a Melbourne Cup winner having struck with Shocking in 2009. His representative this time is Super Cool.

Kavanagh said: "He was placed in the Derby and won the Australian Cup as a three-year-old, which not many horses do. He has been aimed only at this race and he was only a couple of lengths behind Fiorente in the Cox Plate."

Europe's biggest-priced hope is the final addition to the team, Ruscello, who secured a late place in the field when making all to win last Saturday's Lexus Stakes.

"He has thrived physically and mentally since he came to Australia," said trainer Ed Walker, who has booked Cox Plate-winning jockey Chad Schofield.

"He is a long shot but there is very good money all the way down to tenth and if we can get in the top ten we'll be very happy."

Peter Moody and Luke Nolen are Australian icons forever thanks to Black Caviar but their standing could rise even higher if Ibicenco can follow up his success in the Geelong Cup.

Part-owner Simon O'Donnell said: "He is a two-miler who is in form and Geelong Cup form has traditionally held up in the Melbourne Cup."

Also on Tuesday

BRITAIN has two representatives on the Flemington undercard with Mull Of Killough, 11th in the Cox Plate, going in the Listed Visit Victoria Plate (4.55am GMT) and Sheikh Fahad's Caravan Rolls On lining up in a 1m6f handicap (12.45am GMT). Both will be ridden by Jamie Spencer.

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