THERE are few more satisfying things in life — let alone sport — than beating the Aussies.
So bring on the Melbourne Cup with chucked in Irish raider Vauban.
ReutersVauban could be a good thing in the Melbourne Cup on November 7[/caption]
It’s quite possible there’s no point even running the race, and at 9-2 the Rich Ricci Royal Ascot hero looks a proper bet.
I’m lucky enough to have been to a few Melbourne Cups, and with that experience — the more I think about it — and through no real fault of their own, the Australian handicappers may well be looking like absolute bananas on the first Tuesday in November.
There aren’t many occasions when the Melbourne Cup looks like an absolute gimme.
Yes, I know, Phar Lap won at 8-11 in 1930, the only odds-on winner of the race.
But there have been many beaten at short odds including Gay Icarus, who was a 7-4 shot in 1971, and Incentivise turned over at 19-10 in 2021.
Makybe Diva won three Cups at odds of 7-1, 13-5 and 17-5.
That all said, Vauban might easily be a handicap snip.
Willie Mullins’ raider is just the type of animal Australian handicappers lose sleep at night over, because they will have no understanding of his Grade 1 hurdling form and merely see he’s a handicapper or Group 3 standard on the level.
The simple truth is that Vauban might not look out of place in a race like the Ascot Gold Cup.
And if he’s a European Group 1 stayer — and not any old stayer as he has some speed — then a weight of 55kg could look generous in the extreme.
Racing Victoria head handicapper David Hegan is clearly worried.
He said: “Most horses have a threshold. When they get to a certain weight they cannot perform to those levels but it may work out Vauban’s threshold is beyond 55kg, we can only rate him on the Flat form and what he’s done.
“We have weighted him to that.”
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Welcome, Mr Hegan, to the world of Mullins. You have no idea what you are up against!
In a match of wits I’ll take Ireland’s champion jumps trainer over the Melbourne handicappers every day of the week.
Hell, I don’t care if Hegan is built like Mike Tyson, I’d still fancy Mullins to outsmart him in a boxing ring.
Ricci’s feet are a little more grounded than mine right now.
He told me: “I think he will have to improve again to win — but he might just do that — so I think we are okay with the weights.
“I don’t think we are thrown in. In the end he got the weight in the range we were considering when we entered him.”
Of course, Ricci has gone close in the Melbourne Cup before.
Max Dynamite was second behind Prince Of Penzance in 2015 and third behind Rekindling in 2017.
Ricci added: “The Melbourne Cup is just an unbelievable race.
“I’ve had the privilege of running in it with three horses — finishing second, third and sixth and I’d love to win it. I think Willie would really love to win it too!
“Probably more than me given his history with the race.
“It’s an incredible couple of weeks and it doesn’t just stop Victoria but the nation.
“I’ve been in Australia on business in Sydney and Perth while it’s going on — and they do stop.
“It would be fantastic to win but it’s a punt as you fund all the costs yourself.
“You have to have some confidence to go down. It’s great to be able to participate.”
Today, domestically, it’s all about speed on ITV with the Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup taking centre stage over six furlongs on ground with a bit of juice in it.
Orazio has been well-backed and may well bounce back after a flop in the Stewards’ Cup, but it’s the horse who was back in eighth that day that interests me.
ALBASHEER might be a little high in the handicap but I can’t help but feel he will give us something to shout about for Archie Watson and Hollie Doyle.
My selection has been in great form recently, with a decent effort at the Curragh four runs ago followed by a fair Goodwood effort and a dead-heat at York.
He kept on well albeit down the field at the Curragh last time.
I think the son of Shamardal has decent each-way claims and after just 12 outings there could be more to come from a horse who once chased home Chindit in a Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster.
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