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My early Melbourne Cup bet – Mount Athos – runs tonight at York

July 14, 2012

I’ve been meaning to write this article for weeks, but other things have taken precedence. As I announced on Twitter in the week following Royal Ascot, I’ve already had my first bet on the Melbourne Cup! (I do warn my followers that I am a Melbourne Cup addict…)

In fact, he runs tonight at York in an attempt to pass the first ballot clause for the race that stops the nation.

The horse’s name is MOUNT ATHOS.

There is quite a significant story behind the horse, which I have learnt over the last couple of months.

Last year, trainer David Wachman announced that he had a horse he was very keen to bring to Melbourne. This horse, he said, had been aimed at the 2012 Melbourne Cup since the end of 2010, but if his form improved he would bring him down a year early.

His owner Dr Marwan Koukash brought Munsef to Australia in 2009,  and he has been very keen to return once he had the right horse. In Mount Athos, he believes he has the right horse. Therefore, he has been planning for almost 18 months already to bring the gelding to Melbourne.

Thankfully, he didn’t bring him to Melbourne last year. While his form was alright – fourth in the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes (2400m) before eighth to Moyenne Corniche in the Ebor Handicap (2800m) – it didn’t merit a trip to Melbourne. It was lucky, too – I was about to back him for the Melbourne Cup before the Ebor but had a change of heart.

Instead, he targeted the Cesarewitch Handicap (3600m), where he finished fourth to Never Can Tell. Red Cadeaux was beaten a similar margin in the 2010 Cesarewitch, before running second in last year’s Melbourne Cup.

And so, fast forward to Singapore in May this year. I was in a pub with a number of racing identities, including Racing Victoria’s international scout Leigh Jordon. We were all so mesmerised by Frankel’s performance in the Lockinge Stakes that no one really took notice of a Newmarket handicap over 2800m.

But when the result flashed on screen, Jordon told us we’d be seeing the horse in Melbourne – if he could pass the first ballot clause.

I remember the scoffs from a number of journalists, who said Mount Athos could start in May and still not win. However, I was intrigued enough by his dominant victory to do some research.

I learned that, in the English off season, Dr Koukash had transferred the horse to master trainer Luca Cumani with the Melbourne Cup in mind. Since that night, I’ve been doing my research on the horse’s background, his pedigree – and I’ve been convinced he’s the one I want to be with this far out.

This was reinforced at Royal Ascot. I met a key member of the Luca Cumani team at the Inglis picnic held every year after the first day of racing. While he talked of the OTI horses – at that stage, Ibicenco and Quest for Peace – he did hint there was another horse that Team Cumani was bringing that he was very bullish about. However, he would not tell us his name.

On reflection, I’m convinced it must have been Mount Athos. He appears to be the only non-OTI runner they will bring to Melbourne.

The only problem is that the son of Montjeu is yet to qualify. He hates wet tracks, and so has been scratched numerous times across England and Ireland in recent weeks.

He gets his chance tonight in the Listed John Smith’s Silver Cup (2800m), a race won by Yellowstone in 2008 before he came to Melbourne. He was scratched. Fox Hunt, last year’s seventh placegetter, ran second before his Melbourne trip.

Under the new conditions, he needs to win to qualify. While there will be other chances to pass the first ballot clause – for instance, in a race like the Ebor Handicap – I doubt he’ll get a better chance than he gets tonight.

So while all Australian focus is on Ortensia and Sepoy at Newmarket in the July Cup, I’ll be focusing my attention on York. I have backed him at 160s on Betfair, which I thought was good – although someone got 250s!! Still, if he wins tonight, I will be very happy to sit on my 160s. Go son!!!

UPDATEMount Athos won the John Smith’s Silver Cup by four lengths in impressive fashion. He has now passed the first ballot clause and is an almost certain visitor to Melbourne. It was also a good win given the ground was softer than what he’d appreciate. He is now into third favourite for the Melbourne Cup, behind Lucas Cranach and Red Cadeaux, on Betfair at $25 while he is $51 into $35 with TAB Sportsbet.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 17, 2012 11:42 am

    i hope mount athos can do it at this Melbourne cup.hes dream will come true.thanks for posting and shared it with us.

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