Star Irish jockey-turned-trainer Johnny Murtagh has complete faith in old friend Damien Oliver who is engaged to ride Mutual Regard, one of two 2014 Melbourne Cup horses for the stable, on Tuesday in Flemington Race 7.
Murtagh last featured in a Melbourne Cup field back in 2008 when the then hoop rode the Aidan O’Brien-trained 58.5kg top weight Septimus to a disappointing 18th behind the Bart Cummings-trained Viewed in the ‘race that stops a nation’.
This year The Curragh-based Murtagh is back with two chances in the coveted $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m).
Murtagh saddles-up Mutual Regard from barrier 12 with Oliver booked for the ride as well as the longer priced outsider Royal Diamond from gate six for Steven Arnold who shoots for his first Melbourne Cup winner.
Despite the nice gate, King’s Best nine-year-old Royal Diamond is a $51 roughie in the latest Melbourne Cup odds at Ladbrokes.com.au.
The nine-time winner debuts down under this week not having raced since carrying a hefty 62kg to a distant sixth behind last year’s Melbourne Cup sixth placed Brown Panther in the Group 1 Irish St Leger (2800m).
He’ll appreciate the step up to 3200m, which he’s got a gun record over (4-1-0-2), and could prove better than his price also dropping back 6.5kg to 55.5kg.
“He’s been moving great,” Murtagh said of Royal Diamond.
“He’s a horse that gets up on the bit and travels really strongly.
“I think he’ll outrun his 50-1 odds.”
Mutual Regard meanwhile carries half-a-kilo less and is one of the top fancies in Melbourne Cup betting paying $13 to win the world’s richest handicap.
Last time out the Henrando six-year-old beat home Lord Van Percy, also down under for the Melbourne Cup but balloted out after being scratched from the Lexus Stakes field on Derby Day, with 59kg on his back in the Ebor Handicap (2800m) at York.
It was a good effort there and one the bookies are tipping to improve on when Mutual Regard runs in Australia under race conditions for the first time in the Melbourne Cup.
He is another European proven over the two miles having won two and placed second in another two of his five 3200m runs, the latest of which was a victory with 60.5kg on June 28 in Ireland.
Oliver has the ride and is after his fourth ‘Loving Trophy’ following victories aboard Doriemus (1995), Media Puzzle (2012) and Fiorente (2013) 12 months ago for Gai Waterhouse.
Murtagh has a lot of respect for Oliver who he has come up against riding plenty of times over the years, and won’t be telling him how to do his job on Tuesday.
“I’ve known Damien for a long time,” he said.
“He’s probably one of the great jockey’s I’ve ridden against over the years.
“He’s got great experience and he’s won the race three times so I won’t be giving him many instructions.”
From the barrier, which hasn’t produced a Melbourne Cup winner in over 30 years, Murtagh is hoping Mutual Regard can slot into a midfield run before having too much in the tank for his rivals down the famous Flemington straight.
It will be similar ride then for Royal Diamond in barrier six, another luckless barrier in recent history without a winner since 1983.
“Both horses stay the trip well,” Murtagh noted.
“I’d say they’d roll forward and…may the best man win.
“They’re in great form and have settled into Werribee very well.
“The Melbourne Cup is one of those great races around the world.
“I just hope they get there on Tuesday and run the race. What more can we do?”
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