Marmelo during at trackwork session at Werribee l(Image: Racing Photos)

Lexus Melbourne Cup remains Marmelo's main mission

By Tom Peacock

Opportunities to see Marmelo prior to November 6 could be few and far between with trainer Hughie Morrison prioritising a second serious bid for the $7.3 million Lexus Melbourne Cup ahead of other targets.

The $7 joint-favourite for last year’s Flemington classic led the field into the home straight, only to weaken in the final 250m and eventually fill ninth position.

Marmelo has barely put a foot wrong since his return from Australia, reappearing to run the outstanding French galloper Vazirabad to within a neck in the Prix Vicomtesse Vigier (3000m) and winning both the Grand Cup (2800m) at York and the Prix Maurice de Nieuil (2800m) back in Paris.

Yet another trip to France awaits now, whilst Morrison anticipates swerving the Caulfield Cup further down the line despite his five-year-old having run an eye-catching sixth last October.

“I think he’ll probably run in the Prix Kergorlay (3000m) at Deauville on the 19th of August and will probably be entered in the Grand Prix de Deauville (2500m) a week after as a back-up,” Morrison explained. 

“He gets all these breeders and owners premiums in France, he’s won about €225,000 of those and about €250,000 in prize-money.

“I think our inclination is to go straight to the Melbourne Cup. We’ll probably go over there in October, we may even give him a run in September if we think he’s very well, so then he goes into quarantine without having to gallop him.”

Considering Marmelo’s season to date, Morrison said: “I think he’s probably run to the same level two if not three times this season, which is great.

“It doesn’t leave us much in hand with the handicapper going into the Melbourne Cup but as long as he doesn’t go up in the weights he should be there with a place chance, I’d think. I think if it was soft ground we might be able to get a bit of improvement. He’s proved he can go on fast ground but I don’t think, like a lot of horses, they want to be going on fast ground forever.”

Morrison doesn’t anticipate those exploits to have affected his rating for 2018.

“I think the indication is he’ll stay as he is at the moment. His rating was based on what he achieved last year in the Kergorlay and I don’t think he’s achieved anything significantly more than that this year. The British handicapper has kept him the same and I should think the Australian handicapper will leave him at 55kg.”

Marmelo was bred by Edward and Christabel Goodwin at their stud near Maidenhead in Berkshire but a share was acquired by property magnate Ozzie Kheir prior to the 2017 Cup.

Morrison hopes that luck will change for the ownership syndicate, as he enjoyed his first visit to Flemington.

“It was a great trip. Any excuse to get away at the end of October for a couple of weeks is a good thing,” he said. “Half of him is owned by Australian interests, they’re all Melbourne people so they loved it, and they added to our entertainment as well.

“The race was tough, he had a bad draw and I don’t think we’ll ride him like last year again, but you live and learn. The winner Rekindling was tucked in and switched off, but he had a better draw than us.”

The trainer, based a few miles from the Lambourn major training centre, has seen the 2018 Lexus Melbourne Cup as it made its formal visit with VRC Chairman Amanda Elliott.

He expects Roger Charlton’s fast-improving Withold to be tough to beat.

“We all had lunch in Kingsclere and Roger was telling me he’s not running his horse again because he thinks it’s going to get in. We are going to be giving 7 or 8lb (just over 3kg) to their horse, which is a hell of a lot.

“Last year I worried something would go wrong, now I assume he’s going to get there so the wheels will definitely bounce off somewhere!”