Trainer Ian Williams with the Lexus Melbourne Cup
BY STEVE JONES
Gold Mount will head to Australia without another run in Britain.
His trainer Ian Williams has decided to swerve next weekend’s $1.79 million Ebor Handicap at York in favour of keeping him fresh for his two big Spring Carnival targets.
The six-year-old is being aimed at the Caulfield Cup on October 19 before a tilt at the Lexus Melbourne Cup at Flemington little more than two weeks later.
Last year, Williams suffered the disappointment of seeing second-favourite Magic Circle finish a well-beaten 16th behind Cross Counter in the Lexus Melbourne Cup.
It has not dimmed his enthusiasm to return with Gold Mount. That’s no surprise as he looks to have found just the right type of horse to thrive in Australia.
Williams said: “He handles fast ground, he’s got plenty of speed, plenty of stamina and a decent level of ability.
“He looks to have all the attributes you need to be competitive in races like the Melbourne Cup.”
Gold Mount won the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot three years ago. Back then he was called Primitivo and trained at the predominantly jumps-orientated stables of Alan King.
His name was changed to Gold Mount when he was sold to current owner Sutong Pan and switched to race in Hong Kong.
He returned to Britain this season and Williams, a close friend of his Hong Kong trainer Richard Gibson, was tasked with the job of preparing Gold Mount for an assault on Australia’s greatest prize.
His first run for his new trainer couldn’t have gone much better as he cruised through from the rear to win a York Listed race in June. He returned to the same track a month later for a Group 3 and he ran another sound race when beaten a head by Ed Dunlop’s Red Verdon – a late non-runner in last year’s Lexus Melbourne Cup.
Now he is expected to enter quarantine towards the end of September before shipping to Australia a few weeks later.
Williams revealed: “He won’t run in the Ebor. He’ll probably go straight for the Caulfield Cup and then the Melbourne Cup.
“It’s not set in stone that he’ll run in the Caulfield Cup but it’s certainly a possibility depending on how his preparation goes from now until then.
“The Caulfield Cup is by no means a side race – it’s a huge event in itself. It needs to be seriously considered bearing in mind the prizemoney and the journey the horses are obliged to make to be in Australia.
“He had some very good form in Hong Kong. He’s a Group performer over there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be a Group performer in the UK.
“It shows his durability and his ability to cope with change. You wouldn’t imagine the quarantine or the travelling is going to phase him in any way.”
It might not have gone to plan for Magic Circle last year but Williams was impressed with the build up to the big race. He played a supporting role to charismatic owner Marwan Koukash – who threatened to strip naked for the trophy presentation if he won the Lexus Melbourne Cup - in the days leading up to the big race.
Williams said: “Melbourne on Carnival week is a one-off experience. It’s exceptional and we enjoyed it thoroughly. We’ve learnt from a few mistakes we made and, hopefully, that will stand us in good stead with Gold Mount this year but, if I told you specifically what we learnt, everyone would know.”
Despite Gold Mount’s absence from the Ebor there will still be plenty of interest ahead of the Lexus Melbourne Cup as Prince Of Arran, third behind Cross Counter last year having won the Lexus Stakes three days earlier, is expected to line-up.
The VRC will provide the winning connections of the Ebor with a once-in-a-lifetime experience for two to the 2019 Melbourne Cup Carnival. The package includes business class flights, accommodation and money-can’t-buy invitations to special events during Cup Week in Melbourne.
York will also conduct a raffle throughout the meeting to raise funds for local re-training and re-homing racehorse charity New Beginnings, with the star prize being a dream trip for two to Melbourne to enjoy the thrill of Cup week.
The VRC’s celebrated Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour will visit York this week for the four-day Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival, which starts on Wednesday, as part of the iconic trophy’s annual journey around the globe.