Mustajeer at home in Ireland (Credit: Ger Lyons Racing)
By Steve Jones,
Mustajeer booked his ticket to the Lexus Melbourne Cup with victory in the Ebor.
The six-year-old, trained in Ireland by Ger Lyons, was fourth behind Muntahaa in York’s summer showpiece 12 months ago and he returned to snatch glory in Europe’s richest Flat handicap.
Powerful syndicate Australian Bloodstock had taken a gamble buying into Mustajeer and it paid off in some order when the 16-1 shot held off Red Galileo, Desert Skyline and Raymond Tusk in the closing stages under jockey Colin Keane.
The total prizemoney for the Ebor had been upped to £1million ($1.8million) for the first time.
Having hit the jackpot in the 2,816m contest, Mustajeer now has two of Australia’s greatest races in his sights.
He will go into quarantine next month before joining Newcastle trainer Kris Lees for a crack at the Caulfield Cup and the Lexus Melbourne Cup.
Lyons wasn’t at York to pick up the prize. After watching Mustajeer grind out victory he said: “Fantastic performance. I’m off to cut the grass.”
His daughter Kerri was left to oversee Mustajeer’s final Ebor preparations.
She said: “He was trained for this race so the fact he’s pulled it off is brilliant. That doesn’t normally happen in racing.
“A large percentage of him has been bought by Australian Bloodstock so that’s his last run for us. It was a nice way for him to sign off.
“He’s going down to Australia to join Kris Lees. Hopefully, it will be the Caulfield Cup and then the Melbourne Cup. That would be a dream come true.
“I’m not an expert on Australian racing but he gets the trip and he’s already got good form.
“We knew he’d run well but you never know in these big handicaps what could happen.
“Everything just worked perfectly for him. He can get a bit worked up at the start but we managed to keep a lid on him this time.”
David Spratt, who still owns a chunk of Mustajeer, scooped a once-in-a-lifetime trip for two to the Melbourne Cup Carnival to watch his star take part in the $8million world-renowned race.
He said: “It’s a thrill, a huge thrill. It’s just unbelievable.
“We’ve always known he’s a proper horse.
“Fair play to Australian Bloodstock. He’s a six-year-old gelding and he needed to hit the target.
“They deserve all the success they get for taking the risk.
“We told them everything about the horse so I hope that gave them a little bit of confidence to buy into him.
“Hopefully, we can all be happy and win together.”
Charlie Fellowes was another happy man after his Prince Of Arran – third in last year’s Lexus Melbourne Cup – finished eighth in the Ebor.
He said: “I’m delighted. He had a setback, a bruised foot, earlier this week after a piece for work and he didn’t leave his box for about 36 hours. It looked, at one point, like he might not run.
“He’s run a blinder and that’s booked his flight back down to Australia.
“The prizemoney is so good down there I’m going to try to take home as much of it as possible.”
The Lexus Melbourne Cup trophy took in York on its global tour. With Cross Counter having become the first British-trained winner of the Cup 12 months ago, there looks likely to be another strong raiding party this year.
VRC Chairman Amanda Elliott said: “I think York should be congratulated for making the Ebor, a handicap race, a £1million race. I’ve never seen a better field assembled and I think it’s fantastic.
“It’s been a traditional pathway race. We’ve had a lot of successful horses come from York to Melbourne and long may it last.