After years of trying Sydney horseman Gerald Ryan has all but ruled out another shot at making the Melbourne Cup field this spring with his veteran stayer Ironstein.
For the past couple of seasons Ryan has had an ambitious end-of-spring goal to get his Zabeel gelding Ironstein into the starting 24 for the iconic $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington Racecourse on the first Tuesday of November.
While not saying no 100 percent, Ryan is skeptical that the ‘race that stops a nation’ will be the aim for the rising eight-year-old this Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.
Instead Ryan will focus on more achievable spring aims with Ironstein who was last seen running a disappointing seventh in the Listed Mornington Cup (2400m) in mid-February which marked a half-century of career starts.
A winner of eight of those 50 starts Ironstein came close to making the cut for the Melbourne Cup last year with some impressive early spring runs in the lead-up races.
They failed in their bid to beat the ballot however finishing just off the top tier stayers when third in the Group 3 JRA Cup (2400m), fourth in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) and third in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup (2500m).
Their consolation start then became the $250,000 Group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m) at Flemington on Emirates Stakes Day where they finished five lengths away second to Puissance De Lune.
The Darren Weir-trained Puissance De Lune came off an eight length Bendigo Cup triumph and returned to dead-heat with Budriguez in the Group 2 Blamey Stakes (1600m) in March, efforts that have now seen them installed as the $9 favourite in the futures Melbourne Cup odds.
Ironstein meanwhile is the $501 roughie of the pre-nomination Melbourne Cup betting markets.
It is the 2013 Queen Elizabeth Stakes on November 9 however that Ryan is more interested in this time, a race they did win two years back when defeated Shootoff by two and a half lengths.
“The two best races of his life have been in the Queen Elizabeth,” he said.
Also behind Ryan’s leaning towards bypassing a Melbourne Cup campaign is Ironstein’s failure over the two miles (3200m) in the Sandown Cup last spring when eight lengths away seventh to Ibicenco.
“The Melbourne Cup is a bit far,” he said.
“When he raced over 3200 metres at Sandown he really didn’t see it out but that was at the end of a preparation.”
Ryan hopes to have Ironstein ready to resume racing next month in the $100,000 Listed Winter Challenge (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens but has the $85,000 Spring Preview Handicap (1400m) back at the track a fortnight later as a Plan B.
“If he is ready he will come back in the Winter Challenge on the third of August or we will wait another two weeks for the Spring Preview,” Ryan said.
“The Newcastle Cup in September is a goal and then we will take him back to Melbourne to get ready for another crack at the Queen Elizabeth.”
For all the latest Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival and Melbourne Cup updates stay tuned to Races.com.au.