Connections of talented Zabeel gelding Maluckyday are gearing up for a second shot at the world’s richest handicap, last year’s runner-up opening the early favourite to win the 2011 Melbourne Cup.
Prepared by Sydney-based Hall of Fame trainer John Hawkes who works in partnership with his sons Michael and Wayne, progressive stayer Maluckyday rose from relative anonymity to a single-figure favourite in the $6 million Melbourne Cup (3200m) during last year’s spring carnival.
The galloper earned a trip to Victoria after a blistering four and a half length win in the Listed City Tatteralls Club Cup (2400m) at Randwick in October, and Maluckyday did not disappoint in their Melbourne debut.
On Victoria Derby Day at Flemington, Maluckyday firmed into one of the top contenders for the 150th running of the Melbourne Cup after beating home a crack field including runner-up Linton by nearly two lengths in the Group 3 The Lexus Stakes (2500m).
Going out in last year’s Melbourne Cup field as a 51kg light weight, Maluckyday and jockey Luke Nolen, who also rides the world’s fastest sprinter Black Caviar, struck early interference in the testing two mile showdown.
In a brave effort for their first start over the Cup distance, Maluckyday powered home on the slow Flemington track to finish three lengths away second to 2010 Melbourne Cup winner, the French-trained Americain.
Rested after their huge Cup performance, Maluckyday returned in the autumn back in Sydney, given a lightly-raced campaign.
First-up the rising five-year-old finished a close fourth to Danleigh in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Warwick Farm on March 5, Maluckyday backing up a fortnight later to run fourth again this time to $101 roughie Zavite in the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill.
Their most recent run was seventh to Cedarberg in the Group 1 The BMW (2400m) at Rosehill on Golden Slipper Day, Maluckyday now back in work ahead of the spring.
“He’s coming along nicely but won’t be ready to race until the end of the month,” Hawkes said.
“We’ve got one aim with him this spring (the Melbourne Cup).”
Although confirming the Melbourne Cup mission on the first Tuesday of November at Flemington, Hawkes said that he was yet to map out an exact spring programme for Maluckyday.
“I’m not too worried about his program just yet because you have to take into account the weather, the state of the tracks, all those things,” he said.
“He will have to run in weight-for-age races and we know he handles the Melbourne way of going so we know we can send him down there when it suits us.”
Maluckyday has opened the pre-nomination Melbourne Cup betting favourite at $13.
Following them in the futures Melbourne Cup odds are defending champion Americain ($15), multiple Group 1 winning filly Shamrocker ($15) and Queensland Oaks champion Scarlett Lady ($17).
History is against Maluckday, however, with only four horses in 150 years able to come from a second place finish in the famous Flemington feature to become the next year’s Melbourne Cup winner.
The first to do so was the great Walter Hickenbotham-trained Carbine who ran second in the 1889 Melbourne Cup to Bravo before winning the 1890 edition and setting the all-time weight record of 65.5kg in doing so.
Then there was The Grafter, who in 1897 was narrowly defeated by his full-brother and stablemate Gaulus in the Melbourne Cup, but then bounced back to win the next year.
The third Melbourne Cup runner-up to return 12 months later and turn the tables came eight decades later with the legendary Bart Cummings-trained Gold And Black.
In 1976 Gold And Black went down to Van der Hum but then in 1977 handed the ‘Cups King’ his sixth Melbourne Cup trophy.
The last champion to achieve the feat Maluckyday will be out to emulate this year was Empire Rose, Laurie Laxon’s popular Kiwi mare who was beaten into second by Kensei in 1987 before earning the title of Melbourne Cup winner in 1988.
Melbourne Cup 2011 nominations will be taken on Thursday September 1 followed by first declarations on October 4, second declarations on October 24 and then the 2011 Melbourne Cup final field of acceptances is out on Saturday October 29 – Victoria Derby Day.