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Great English trainer Luca Cumani will vie for his maiden success in the 2012 Cox Plate this Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival with smart five-year-old Afsare on the mission.
Newmarket based Cumani, who has trained more than 60 major stakes winners across 10 countries over his lucrative career to date, may have a strong contingent heading down under for the $6.2 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on the first Tuesday of November, but this year the Cox Plate also hasn’t escaped his attention.
Run on October 27 at Moonee Valley Racecourse the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) is the richest race of its kind in the world and is the major target this season for Cumani’s Dubawi gelding Afsare.
A winner of four of their 11 career starts so far, Afsare was last seen running a fast finishing second to runaway winner Little Mike in the Grade 1 Arlington Million Stakes (2011m) in America last weekend.
Their most recent turf triumph was three starts back at Sandown Park in Britain where they won the Listed Ambant Gala Stakes (2018m), their first victory since the Hampton Court Stakes back in June of 2010.
Cumani believes Afsare, who has raced in England, Italy, the US and even Turkey, is the perfect type for a Cox Plate bid and is a horse that will be ideally suited to the notoriously tight circuit at Moonee Valley.
“I’ve been thinking about the Cox Plate for some time purely because he has a tremendous turn of foot,” Cumani said.
“He can accelerate very, very quickly and that’s what you need at Moonee Valley.
“There is no point having a horse that takes a while to accelerate because the race is over before the horse begins his acceleration.
“Afsare is a horse that can accelerate providing he gets a good draw and a good position in the race.”
Afsare’s regular jockey Kieren Fallon, who was aboard for their second in the Million Stakes, agrees with Cumani’s assessment that the Cox Plate would make a nice target for the untapped galloper.
“He ran a storming race, but things just didn’t work out for us and despite closing very fast to take second place it never really happened,” Fallon said of the Arlington race.
“There is a big prize to be won with him and maybe he could be part of the Australian team as there are big prizes like the Cox Plate which would be well worth considering.”
Cumani would ideally have liked to have Afsare run in Melbourne before the Cox Plate however the quarantine schedule and regulations will see them contest the ‘race where legends are made’ fresh.
“It’s a shame, but that’s the way it is and there is no time to find him another race here,” Cumani said.
In the latest Cox Plate odds at bookmaker.com.au, which are led by the Gai Waterhouse-trained duo of More Joyous ($7) and Pierro ($7.50), Afsare is rated a $36 chance.
Meanwhile Afsare will be accompanied to Australia by three Melbourne Cup-bound stablemates the best fancied of which is Mount Athos.
The Mountjeu five-year-old has won their last three on the trot including the Group 3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes (2670m) at Newbury last weekend, a win that saw them shoot to $19 equal favouritism in the Melbourne Cup odds at bookmaker.com.au with reigning champ Dunaden.
Mount Athos won’t race again before going into quarantine at Newmarket on September 12.
Cumani’s two other Melbourne Cup 2012 hopefuls are then the OTI-owned Quest For Peace ($26) and Ibicenco ($34) who are due to run next-up in the March Stakes at Goodwood this weekend and the Group 2 Londsdale Cup at York respectively.
A win in the Lonsdale Cup is essential for four-year-old Shirocco stallion Ibicenco if they are to make the cut for the $2.5 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 20, a race they are currently paying $34 to win.
While traditionally opting to run his Melbourne Cup hopes in a lead-up event like the Geelong Cup or Caulfield Cup, Cumani is leaning towards Quest For Peace and Mount Athos going straight into the ‘race that stops a nation’ without a previous run in Australia this year.
“If you analyse both horses they both run best when fresh,” he said.
“They don’t run that well if they run too often.”
Check out the full range of Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival future odds for the upcoming Group 1’s including the Melbourne Cup and the Cox Plate online at bookmaker.com.au today.
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