Leading European horseman Luca Cumani’s chance of having a genuine Melbourne Cup contender this Melbourne Spring Carnival firmed over the weekend with his gutsy galloper Drunken Sailor adding another Group placing to his consistent record.
Tendulkar gelding Drunken Sailor missed out on a start in the world’s richest handicap, the $6 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at last year’s Melbourne Cup Carnival, after failing to impress in their two Group 3 runs in Australia.
Drunken Sailor ran 11th to subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Americain in the Geelong Cup (2406m) in October, then after failing to make the Melbourne Cup field Cumani gave them a run in the Queen’s Cup (2600m) at Flemington on Emirates Stakes Day but the horse finished 10th beaten three and a half lengths by winner Moudre.
Cumani’s trophy collection features many prestigious races including elite level victories in Great Britain, Canada, Dubai, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Singapore and the US but as yet the coveted Melbourne Cup has eluded the esteemed trainer.
The Italian-born Cumani has twice prepared a Melbourne Cup runner-up with great grey Bauer finishing second to the legendary Bart Cumming’s 12th Melbourne Cup winner Viewed in 2008 and also with Purple Moon crossing one behind 2007 Melbourne Cup champ Efficient.
Drunken Sailor was tipped by Cumani as a 2011 Melbourne Cup chance when the stayer scored a strong win in the Listed Aston Park Stakes in May and was further convinced of an Aussie spring campaign on the weekend.
The horse ran a game third at Royal Ascot to the Aidan O’Brien-trained winner Await The Dawn and runner-up Harris Tweed in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes.
“He’s come a long way from winning handicaps to being placed in a Group Two,” Cumani said of Drunken Sailor after the race.
“I think the owners are keen for another trip to Australia for the Caulfield Cup or Melbourne Cup, and he might go for the Glorious Stakes at Goodwood next.”
Second placed Harris Tweed, prepared by William Haggas is also being prepared for a trip down under.
“He’s a relentless horse with a lot of class about him, he’s going to be a very good horse,” Haggas said.
“My father owns the horse and he is 80 years old – I think he fancies the idea of a trip to Melbourne as much as his son does.
“Melbourne looks extremely exciting and we’re going to start the process soon and get the bloods done for him to begin the quarantine process.
“The Melbourne Cup is one of the hardest races in the world to win and I’d love to have a runner in the race let alone a winner.”
Another Royal Ascot performer who could be aimed at this year’s Melbourne Cup Carnival features at Flemington is Golden Jubilee winner Society Rock.
The Rock Of Gibraltar four-year-old is prepared by James Fanshawe who has twice been represented in the iconic Melbourne Cup with Travelmate (fifth in 1999) and Arctic Owl (fifth in 2000).
“I wouldn’t write it off,” Fanshawe said of a trip to the Melbourne Cup Carnival with Society Rock.
“I’ve been to Melbourne before with stayers for the (Melbourne) Cup and it really tests them.
“It’s a tough campaign but with a sprinter it may be kinder.”