William Haggas’ 2013 Cox Plate hopeful Mukhadram further staked their claims for a trip down under for the iconic Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival classic with their win in the weekend’s Duke Of York Stakes in the UK.
In their first win since May Shamardal four-year-old Mukhadram relished a step down in class and distance at York to win the Group 2 Duke Of York Stakes (1207m) on the back of two brave Group 1 efforts.
Three back they were beaten under half a length by Al Kazeem, another international being targeted for the $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 26, in the Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (2011m) at Ascot.
After that they were brave again on July 6 when third to Al Kazeem who won again this time taking out the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse British (2018m) at Sandown Park.
Jockey Paul Hanagan was thrilled to be aboard the odds-on favourite and Duke Of York winner having earlier opted to bypass a ride aboard Ekithaam in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
While Ekithaam was a disappointment at Ascot, Hanagan was rewarded with Mukhadram taking up a front-running position at York maintaining their lead right to the end to put three quarters of a length on the runner-up Grandeur.
“It is a long way to be in front for horses here, and that’s what makes me more proud of him,” Racing Victoria quoted Hanagan as saying after the win.
“I’m very proud of him – he should have really finished second in the Eclipse.
“I struggled to get him on the right leg as his last runs have been the other way round but I didn’t have to throw the kitchen sink at him.
“He doesn’t have to lead – he’s very straight forward.”
While the Duke Of York win was a confidence booster for Mukhadram they obviously still have to improve notably if they are to be competitive in Australasia’s weight-for-age championship going back up to 2040m for the Cox Plate.
And while their weekend win would seemingly put them in the Cox Plate spotlight again, connections were looking at other options.
“It will be up to (owner) Sheikh Hamdan, but he will want the horse for Dubai in March so I would say it is unlikely he will go there (to Melbourne),” Racing Victoria reported Sheikh Hamdan’s racing manager Angus Gold as saying post-race.
“I am delighted with the horse and I am also delighted for Paul and for William.
“It is particularly pleasing for Paul given he chose to ride at York rather than at Ascot.
“It was important to get a win in to him and I hear that Paul was very happy.
“We will see how he comes out of the race and whether we press on or give him a break until the autumn as he maybe was feeling the effects of his races.
“He came here having had two tough runs and it was time he won a Group 2 or a Group 1. It’s a step in the right direction.
“I couldn’t watch the race, I just listened to it. I don’t normally get nervous, but I don’t like those ones when you are supposed to win. I’d rather have one I think will win by nobody else does.
“He’s a beautiful horse and we’ll see where we go from here.”
The latest futures Cox Plate odds have Kiwi galloper It’s A Dundeel as the $4.20 favourite.
Mukhadram is yet to be added to the markets but Al Kazeem pays $26.
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