Nickajack Cave working at Werribee (Image: Racing Photos)
The 2020 Lexus Melbourne Cup might well be the one that got away for champion trainer Peter Moody.
Earlier this year, Moody and a group of connections including leviathan owners Neil Werrett and Gerry Ryan purchased a five-year-old gelding from Ireland called Nickajack Cave, with the focus being the Lexus Melbourne Cup.
The only issue was, in the end, he never got a start. And to add insult to the omission, the horse he beat two starts ago in Ireland now has his name etched in Australian racing folklore. That horse's name is Twilight Payment.
"He and Twilight Payment went first-up over 2800m this preparation in Ireland and Nickajack (Cave) got the job done on him there at set weights of 60.5kg," Moody said.
The start following that Levmoss Stakes win saw the gelding salute again in the Ballyroan, a Group 3 over 2414m.
"We as a group of connections then decided against running in the Irish St Leger rather than risk getting a weight penalty for the Lexus Melbourne Cup," he said.
"He was one of the favourite runners in the Irish St Leger but deciding not to run there and risk the penalty, unfortunately we not only beat the handicapper, we beat ourselves and didn't make the race field."
Twilight Payment's success only reaffirms Moody's belief he has the right horse to deliver him a first Lexus Melbourne Cup, but it will have to wait until 2021.
Racing fans will also have to wait until next year to see him run on Australian soil, with the import now headed to the paddock instead of Saturday's Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Flemington.
"That (the Queen Elizabeth) was a consideration but, and with no disrespect as I would love to have a runner in the Queen Elizabeth, he was purchased for a $7 million race and it's a $200,000 race," Moody said.
"The horse has been through quite a bit with quarantine and so on and he's had scintigraphy and CT scans because he has a bit of an unusual action so, once again, after discussions with connections we opted to give the horse a little break."
Instead, Nickajack Cave will be aimed at an autumn qualification for the 2021 Lexus Melbourne Cup, through the Adelaide Cup or The Andrew Ramsden.
"The ideal scenario for us would be to arrive in the Lexus Melbourne Cup with around four or five Australian runs next year," Moody said.