Connections have confirmed that Storming Home colt Lion Tamer will attempt to add his name to a very exclusive list of turf champions by taking out this year’s Cox Plate – Melbourne Cup double.
Just six horses in history have been able to win both the world’s richest weight-for-age race, the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m), and the world’s richest handicap race, the $6 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m).
If successful in his courageous spring double campaign, Lion Tamer will join Makybe Diva, Might And Power, Saintly, Nightmarch, Phar Lap and Rising Fast, who went one better in 1954 as the only horse to win the Cox Plate – Caulfield Cup – Melbourne Cup triple.
Lion Tamer travelled to Australia last spring carnival as a lightly-raced three-year-old with just six starts back home in New Zealand to their name.
In their Aussie turf debut the emerging stayer impressed when beating home Praecido by a half-length in the Listed Ming Dynasty Handicap (1400m) at Randwick on September 4 carting a hefty 58kg.
Failing to finish in the money at their next two starts when seventh to Retrieve in the Group 3 Gloaming Stakes (1800m) at Rosehill and then fifth behind Erewhon in the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on October 2, connections continued and their persistence paid off when it counted most.
Heading down south to Melbourne, Lion Tamer relished the step up to 2050m provided to them in the Group 2 AAMI Vase (2040m) at Moonee Valley.
This combined with the horse reuniting with hoop Hugh Bowman, aboard for the Ming Dynasty win but replaced by Glyn Schofield for Lion Tamer’s two other Sydney starts, and the addition of blinkers for the first time saw a nice form turnaround from the galloper who finished a brave second to Rekindled Interest.
This was just a teaser, however, as the wet weather in Victoria played right into Lion Tamer’s hand when they backed up seven days later destroying their rivals by six and a half lengths in the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) on a rain-affected Flemington track.
With a Group 1 title on their record and having also exceeded the magic $1 million mark in earnings, Lion Tamer was sent back to his Cambridge stable in New Zealand for a well-deserved spell.
After Sydney and Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival plans had to be shelved by his trainers due to a minor injury setback, Lion Tamer is now fully recovered and ready for a spring comeback.
“He’s getting fit and he’s as good as gold,” Murray Baker told the Waikato Times.
“The beauty of Lion Tamer is he goes on any track.
“He has a good record on firm tracks, he goes on soft tracks (as shown in the Victoria Derby) and he can stay.”
If all goes to plan with Lion Tamer and the horse shows enough for a shot at the Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday of November, then Baker will likely have a two-pronged assault on the famous Flemington feature.
Harris Tweed is also set to return for a third attempt at both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.
A rising six-year-old, Harris Tweed boasts a consistent record racing in the big autumn and spring majors in Australia.
For his first campaign here the son of Montjeu won the 2009 Group 2 Tulloch Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill and then came within a neck of Roman Emperor when finishing second in that year’s Group 1 AJC Australian Derby (2400m) at the Sydney Autumn Carnival.
That spring Harris Tweed returned where he finished 10th to Viewed in the 2009 Caulfield Cup before running an eye-catching fifth, beaten just four lengths, by 2009 Melbourne Cup winner Shocking.
Last autumn Harris Tweed had three Sydney runs that produced a credible sixth to Littorio in the Group 1 The BMW (2400m) and two thirds, both behind Jessicabeel, firstly in the Group 2 Chairman’s Handicap (2600m) and then in the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m).
The largest preparation for Harris Tweed was at last year’s Melbourne Spring Carnival where connections saddled him up five times.
The string of runs produced a good black-type victory in the Listed The Bart Cummings (2500m) at Flemington, a brave second to Descarado in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) and a second consecutive fifth place finish in the iconic Melbourne Cup, this time behind upset winner Americain.
Since the 2010 Melbourne Cup, Harris Tweed has had just one start, and it was a flop.
In February he failed to beat home any of his rivals finishing last in the Group 1 Haunui Farm WFA Classic (1600m), the mile obviously an unsuitably short distance for the born-and-bred stayer.