Top Irish jockey-cum-trainer Johnny Murtagh could be the winning horseman and hoop for the Melbourne Cup 2013 after setting his sights on the Flemington spring classic with his veteran stayer Royal Diamond.
Last year the King’s Best gelding was being considered for a trip down under to target the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) on the first Tuesday of November by then trainer Thomas Carmody.
Carmody however decided to keep the smart galloper in Europe and instead raced them, successfully, to win the Group 1 Irish St Leger (2816m) that September at The Curragh.
Royal Diamond had three subsequent starts for their former trainer this year, the best finish of which was a third to Glen’s Diamond in the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup (2816m) at York in May.
After that principle owner Andrew Tinkler moved them to the growing Country Kildare stables of Murtagh who has begun to focus his attention on training champions as opposed to riding them.
His first result with Royal Diamond was promising when the horse carried a hefty 63.5kg to finish second, albeit beaten five lengths, behind Ernest Hemingway in the Group 3 Curragh Cup (2816m) at the end of June.
They snared their first win since the Irish St Leger next start however carrying the same weight at Leopardstown on July 18 to put an easy four lengths on runner-up Sir Ector in the Listed Challenge Stakes (2816m).
That effort was enough for Murtagh to start dreaming of a raid on the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival and this week he nominated Royal Diamond for the $2.5 million Group 1 BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) to run on October 19.
He also plans to nominate them for the Melbourne Cup 2013 when early entries for the world’s richest handicap close next month.
Murtagh, 43, is no stranger to the iconic Melbourne Cup having picked up a ride in the famous two mile classic previously.
Success hasn’t been his to enjoy in the ‘race that stops a nation’ however as he finished a distant 18th in his latest attempt in the saddle of Aidan O’Brien’s Septimus back in 2008.
Royal Diamond raced under Murtagh’s name for a third time in the early hours of Friday morning (AEST) in the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes (2400m).
It was a killer effort too as they finished a close second to O’Brien’s lightly-raced Galileo four-year-old Ernest Hemingway this time only beaten half a length by the Curragh Cup champ.
“He’s run very well and it rode a good race,” Murtagh was reported by the major papers as saying post-race.
“He’ll appreciate going back up to 2800 metres and I’d imagine we’ll meet the winner again in the Irish St Leger.
“We got a lot closer to him tonight than we did when he beat us in the Curragh Cup.
“We’ll see about those entries he has in Australia after the Irish Leger.”
A title defense in the Irish St Leger and then a shot at the Melbourne Cup has been on Murtagh’s mind long before their run on Friday too.
“He won the Leger last year and I’d love to go back and try to win it for a second time,” he told Racing Victoria earlier in the week.
“We’ll have to see how he comes out of that but I’d love to think we can take him down to the Melbourne Cup later on, it’s a race everyone wants to win.”
In the current pre-nomination Melbourne Cup odds the Darren Weir-trained Puissance De Lune leads the way at $8.50.
Royal Diamond meanwhile is yet to be added to the markets.
He is however included in early Caulfield Cup betting paying around $34 in markets topped by a different Royal, Chris Waller’s Doncaster Mile winner Royal Descent.
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