Luca Cumani’s best shot at finally breaking his Melbourne Cup duck, Mount Athos suffered their third straight loss over the weekend but are still looking strong for the world’s richest handicap at Flemington in November.
The Newmarket-based Montjeu gelding was a devastatingly close head-away-second in the early hours of Sunday morning (AEST) when runner-up to Harris Tweed who they couldn’t run down in the Listed March Stakes (2800m) at Goodwood.
It was the top stayer’s third loss on the trot following a fifth to the ill-fated Thomas Chippendale in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes (2414m) at Royal Ascot in June, and their big loss when unable to handle the 60.5kg crossing nine lengths away eighth to the Melbourne-bound Brown Panther in the Group 2 Goodwood Cup (3218m) at the start of August.
While they’ve failed to win a race since their blistering nine length romp first-up over Mad Moose in the Group 3 Ormonde Stakes (2696m) at Chester in May, Mount Athos is still Cumani’s No. 1 Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival contender.
The prolific Italian-born, British-based trainer has long been trying to secure the ‘Loving Trophy’ with a win in the iconic $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) on the first Tuesday of November.
And twice he’s come within one horse of taking out the ‘race that stops a nation’ with Bauer (2007) and Purple Moon (2008m) both second in their respective Melbourne Cup appearances.
Cumani would have been pleased, albeit likely frustrated, with Mount Athos’ second on the weekend when ridden by jockey Richard Hughes for the first time.
Harris Tweed and Mount Athos had a big margin on the rest of the field with six lengths between the quinella and third placed Tac De Boistron, now prepared by Marco Botti.
Tac De Boistron was part of last year’s Melbourne Cup make-up when 3rd to Green Moon.
Mount Athos was also there running a far more exciting fifth to the Lloyd Williams-owned winner crossing only three and a half lengths away.
Cumani had previously won two of the past three editions of the March Stakes with My Quest For Peace last year, who travelled to Melbourne on the back of that for a 10th in the Melbourne Cup, and Drunken Sailor (2010) who failed to successfully defend his title in 2011 when beaten as the odds-on favourite.
While Cumani wasn’t trackside for the March Stakes this year, his wife Sarah was quick to confirm Melbourne Cup ambitions for Mount Athos.
“I still don’t think this is his track and the ground wasn’t ideal but he has run better than he did the last two times,” Racing Victoria reported her as saying after the race.
“Depending on the owner, I think the plan’s still to go to Melbourne. I don’t think he’ll run again as he likes his races spaced out.
“He’ll fly out in the second wave of horses and I believe he’ll enter quarantine on September 26th.”
Australian bookmakers also still rate Mount Athos a good chance in the famous two mile cup this spring as they pay $21 in the current Melbourne Cup odds which are firmly led by recent PB Lawrence Stakes winner Puissance De Lune ($6.50).
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