Mark Johnston hasn’t had the best of times travelling to Australia for the Melbourne Cup and he knows better than to get too excited too early.
It was a mistake he made in 1995 when he brought Double trigger to Melbourne, one of Europe’s best stayer which had just run third in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
He was declared by many as a certain winner and it was going to be a case of how far would he win by.
In the end though it wasn’t to be the case as he tailed off in 18th position.
It wasn’t the first time he’s tasted disappointment in the Melbourne Cup either, Quick Ransom having an even more disastrous run beating just a single runner home.
His most recent trip was with Yavana’s Pace, that was in 1999 and they came home in 12th.
It seemingly killed his confidence in returning for the Melbourne Cup but now after 12 years he’s back with two red hot chances.
Jukebox Jury is his major drawcard, he’s listed at $12 with Luxbet.
His other horse is Fox Hunt, he’s further afield in the market at $31.
Both horses have good form in Europe though and Johnston is confident, albeit more understated this year.
He agrees Jukebox Jury is his bets hope although the big field around Flemington is an unknown quantity.
“He’s beaten a few of the other contenders in Group races at home and if we were running in a small field in a European Group race, I think you’d be pretty confident,” Johnston said.
“This is a very different kettle of fish though.”
Jukebox Jury won Prix Kergorlay, a race considered by many as being one of the best of the European season.
He went from there to dead-heat victory in the Group One Irish St Leger, leading throughout in both races.
Don’t expect Johnston to start getting too excited though.
“The size of the Melbourne Cup field and the pace of the race is the problem,” he said.
“They always start fast and then slow up, which is not how we generally do it in England.”
He said he has learned plenty from his previous visits to the Melbourne Cup though and he’d be imparting his wisdom on English rider Neil Callan.
“Double Trigger was used to galloping them into the ground in Europe but he couldn’t go with them to the first turn out here,” he said.
“I’m really going to have to impress on Neil just how fast they go from the gates.”
Brazilian apprentice Silvestre de Sousa has picked up the ride on Fox Hunt, a reward for a break through season where he sits in second on the English jockeys’ championship.
It’s a big call from the rider given he’s giving up a crucial book of rides back home in the hope of steering Fox Hunt to victory.
That being said the financial incentive is hard to miss, De Sousa’s 160 wins in England have earned him a bit over $100,000 as opposed to the $360,000 he could earn in one hit here.
Whether it be trainer or jockey then there’s no doubt they’ll be fighting hard for a Melbourne Cup victory and they have a realistic chance in the form of Jukebox Jury and Fox Hunt.
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