History suggests it can’t be done but connections of Australia’s best hurdler have indicated they will target the 2011 Melbourne Cup with champion jumper Black and Bent.
Just one horse in the history of Australian racing has managed to win both the Grand National Hurdle and the Melbourne Cup. That was Malua, who in 1884 won the Melbourne Cup, before forging a successful career in jumps racing where he won the Grand National in 1886.
1993 Cup winner Vintage Crop is only other jumper of note to take out the Melbourne Cup, however the practice of switching horses from the jumps to the flat is much more common in the UK.
Black and Bent’s owner, Mike Symons, said he was encouraged to aim the horse at the Cup by respected form analyst Peter Howell.
“Peter says Black and Bent would finish in the top ten in six of the last ten Cups and could finish top five if he improves his rating just a little,” Symons said.
“I realise it’s a long throw at the stumps from the deepest boundary, but we believe in the horse and believe he is still open to improvement.
“Look, I’d love to get him there as much as an advertisement for jumps racing, to show that the best jumper is also a fair dinkum horse who deserves his place on the big stage.”
The biggest obstacle for Black and Bent will be gaining a start in the Cup. Symons said that the horse would more than likely have to win the Moonee Valley or Benalla Cup to be assured of a start.
One thing that will be in Black and Bent’s favour if he can gain a start is the weight scale. Last Saturday he lugged 73.5kg around the Morphetville course in the Leslie Short Hurdle. It is unlikely that he would receive any more than 55kg if he was to secure a start in the Cup.
What’s more he has a solid record when he races over the flat courses, albeit against much easier opposition than he would be facing in the Cup.
In fact earlier this month he was able to claim the final of the Banjo Patterson Series at Flemington over 2600m, beating a field of handy staying horses. He has also won on the flat up to 3000m, and over the jumps at 3900m, so unlike some Melbourne Cup horses, he will not be queried at the distance.
Black and Bent will have two more starts over the jumps before turning his attention to the Melbourne Cup. He will race in the Kevin Lafferty Hurdle at Warrnambool on Monday before going on to the Grand National Hurdle at Sandown.