They boast a win in the world’s richest handicap, came back to complete the Melbourne Cup – Caulfield Cup double with a win in the latter last spring and now it is Australasia’s weight-for-age championship, the Cox Plate 2013, on the agenda for Mikel Delzangles’ star French stayer Dunaden.
The now seven-year-old Nicobar stallion first travelled to Australia in 2011 for that year’s Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival catching the eye with their Geelong Cup victory before going on to hold off Red Cadeaux in the closest finish in Melbourne Cup history to snare the Loving Trophy.
Backing up from their Melbourne Cup triumph Dunaden travelled to Sha Tin and added another elite level to their title with a Hong Kong Vase victory, Aussie hoop Craig Williams in the saddle after missing the famous Cup due to suspension.
The following spring it was back down under for the ageing star who showed they had lost none of their spark with a first-up victory over the gallant Alcopop in the Caulfield Cup.
Dunaden however failed to impress when 10th to Green Moon in their Melbourne Cup title defense one run later and were also disappointing when fifth in last year’s Hong Kong Vase.
Connections are gearing up for the gallopers first run since this month in Dubai before beginning preparations for a third consecutive appearance in Victoria for the carnival where they will target the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley in late October.
The WFA Cox Plate 2013 has become the preferred spring option for Dunaden who will likely be weighted out of contention for the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.
“After Dubai everything will be geared to Dunaden returning to Australia in the spring for the Cox Plate,” Sheik Fahad al Thani’s Australian racing manager Geoffrey Faber told Racing Network.
“It’s very exciting. Winning a Cox Plate would just top off everything.”
Futures Cox Plate betting is already open at a number of Aussie bookies with Duanden paying around $34 in markets led by three-time Group 1 winning colt All Too Hard.
As for their next start Duanden will have a track gallop in France this week before owners lock in either the Dubai Duty Free (1777m) or the Sheema Classic (2400m) for their return on Dubai World Cup Night on March 30.
Following Dubai a trip to England could also be on the cards for Dunaden where a race like the Group 1 Epsom Derby (2423m) in early June would be considered as a Melbourne lead-up.
“The horse is in very good form and everyone is happy with him,” Faber said.
“He would have a light English summer campaign, maybe something like the Coronation Cup in Epsom Derby week then gear up for Melbourne.”
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