York’s Lonsdale Cup Carnival over the weekend in England threw up a number of livewire Melbourne Cup 2014 international hopes for the spring down under including Mutual Regard – winner of the Ebor Handicap.
A day after Dermot Weld revealed a possible contender for the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on the first Tuesday of November in Group 2 Lonsdale Cup winner Pale Mimosa, progressive stayer Mutual Regard earned the same target with his Ebor win.
Previously prepared by Sir Mark Prescott, the Hernando gelding changed stables at the start of the year and has enjoyed a form resurgence with new trainer, former jockey Johnny Murtagh.
First-up winner at The Curragh over 3218m on June 28 on the back of a nine month break from racing, the Andrew Tinkler-owned five-year-old went on to debut in black-type company when third behind subsequent Lonsdale Cup winner Pale Mimosa in the Listed Challenge Stakes (2816m) on July 17.
He then made it two wins from three starts this year at York on Saturday when beating home Van Percy by one and a quarter lengths in a game performance in the Betfred Ebor Heritage Handicap (2816m) carrying 61kg from barrier 16 (of 19) on the final day of the York Carnival.
“I was nearly going to run him in the Lonsdale because he had so much weight here, but thankfully we went for this race and it worked a great. It was a great win,” trainer Murtagh said post-win.
“He got put up 11lb for winning first time out and I ran him in a Group 3 last time and he ran a nice race behind Pale Mimosa.”
Mutual Regard, a 20-1 roughie in betting, was ridden by young hoop Louis Steward who celebrated one of the more significant wins of his career to date having raced in Britain for the first time in 2012.
“That was amazing and I have to thank Mr Murtagh and Mr Tinkler for giving me the opportunity at this stage of my career,” he told the media after the victory.
“It is such a privilege to ride in a race like the Ebor.
“He can be keen off a slow pace in his races and Mr Murtagh said it didn’t matter where I was in the race but the key was to get him to settle. He jumped well and luckily they went a nice gallop.
“I probably hit the front to soon but when the other horses came to me he was really game.
“He fought all the way to the line and made my job much easier.”
It was also a nice result for Murtagh who came close to an Ebor win with Royal Diamond who ran second to Willing Foe back in 2012 as reported by Racing Victoria.
“I went close a few years ago in this race when Royal Diamond finished second but this is a good horse,” he said.
Plans are now to head to Ascot next race where a Melbourne Cup bid down under, where firm tracks would suit, will be confirmed or denied.
“We will have a look at going to Ascot now, but we’ll see about the Melbourne Cup too as he loves fast ground,” Murtagh said.
Runner-up Van Percy is another Victorian-bound stayer this spring, connections of the Andrew Balding-trained Sir Percy gelding looking at a first-up run on Aussie soil in the $300,000 Group 3 Geelong Cup (2400m) on October 22.
The OTI-owned galloper is also nominated for the $3 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) the Saturday before, October 18, but is more likely to go from the Geelong Cup into the Melbourne Cup on November 4.
“He has run his usual solid race and I’m delighted with him,” Balding said.
“He does into quarantine on September 11 and we’ll look at his options in Australia.”
He pays $34 in futures Melbourne Cup betting at Ladbrokes.com.au while Mutual Regard is yet to be added to the markets.
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