Two potential 2014 Melbourne Cup-bound stayers put in good runs in the UK overnight with Brown Panther and Simenon catching the eye when finishing just outside the trifecta in the Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.
The 4000m was won by the Aiden O’Brien-trained favourite Leading Light, O’Brien celebrating his record breaking sixth win in the classic.
Just a neck separated the winning colt from the defending champ Estimate who ran a brave second for The Queen, while 40-1 roughie Missunited was then only a short half-head further away again in third.
In fourth was then Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival aspirant Brown Panther, co-owned by former English football star Michael Owen, just ahead of the fifth placed Irish galloper Simenon from the stables of Willie Mullins.
It was an outstanding effort from both gallopers who are eyeing a shot at the $6 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 4 especially Brown Panther who was right on the leaders’ shoulder on the turn for home before fading late.
“Coming round the final bend, a couple out and he was the last one off the bridle, the favourite was actually being pushed along before us … for five seconds, a few strides, I thought, this could be it,” Owen told The Guardian.
“But he just flattened out at the end.
“He always tries his best. He’s got the heart of a lion and obviously he’s run a cracking race.
“To be fourth in a race like this is nothing to be ashamed of. We wanted to win and he was absolutely bouncing coming into the race, so we have no excuses, he was beaten by better horses.
“But we’re still immensely proud of him. Just to get here is a fantastic achievement and coming fourth in a Group One is no mean feat.”
For Tom Dascombe’s Shirocco stallion Brown Panther it was their first loss of the year following two comprehensive Group 3 victories in May.
The first was a 2.5 length effort over Hillstar over 2696m at Chester before they backed up 20 days later in the Group 3 Henry II Stakes (3290m) in the wet at Sandown Park to grab a 3.5 length victory over High Jinx.
Brown Panther is no stranger to the Australian racing scene either.
They travelled to Victoria last spring for a shot at the world’s richest handicap and are set to do so again in 2014.
They had a one-hit campaign down under in the Melbourne Cup finishing seven and a half lengths away eighth behind the Gai Waterhouse-trained winner Fiorente.
In flying form again this campaign at a higher level than their lead-up into last year’s race, Brown Panther is already well liked in the futures Melbourne Cup odds.
Those markets are led by Sydney Cup winner The Offer, out to hand Waterhouse with back-to-back Loving Trophies, with Brown Panther paying around $34.
That’s the same price in pre-nomination Melbourne Cup betting as Simenon who also ran in last year’s Melbourne Cup with connections, like those of Brown Panther, expressing a desire to return for this year’s race.
Mullins’ Marju gelding is a noted hurdler and they bought their staying experience here last spring for two very good runs.
The first was a third, beaten under a length, to Sea Moon in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield.
They then backed-up in the ‘race that stops a nation’ and ran an excellent fourth just two and a half lengths off Fiorente.
Simenon hasn’t finished in the money since but their run at Royal Ascot suggested improvement is on the cards.
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