Wednesday 25 April 2018

Dunaden proves a steal in raid on Melbourne Cup

A copy of the Melbourne Cup photo-finish which shows the nostril of Dunaden marginally ahead of Red Cad
A copy of the Melbourne Cup photo-finish which shows the nostril of Dunaden marginally ahead of Red Cad

JA McGrath

LUCK plays such an important part in racing that those who upon it smiles are indeed blessed.

After yesterday's Melbourne Cup, won by French stayer Dunaden, there's no doubt that Sheikh Fahad al Thani from Qatar is a lucky owner.

The Sheikh collected the iconic Melbourne Cup after the closest photo-finish sprint in the 151-year history of Australia's great race, and while that victory could be considered fortuitous as there were just millimetres between the winner and Red Cadeaux at the line, it is nothing compared to how he came to own Dunaden.

Having only just come into horse racing, Sheikh Fahad wanted a horse to run for him at last year's Qatar-sponsored Arc meeting in Paris. It seemed that winning one of the handicaps was the easiest option, so he purchased Dunaden, on the advice of trainer Richard Gibson.

Melbourne Cup horses are being bought and sold for £500,000 and more, but Dunaden, which won £2.4m (€2.8m) in the richest turf race in the world yesterday, is understood to have cost just £40,000, making him one of the bargain buys of all time.

He was bought to win the Prix de Doha at Longchamp, in which he was beaten a nose, yet 13 months later he has won the Melbourne Cup.

He has no breeding to speak of, being by the Indian Ridge stallion Nicobar, out of a mare by Kaldounevees. There has not been a horse of any significance on either side of the pedigree in 50 years.

But despite all that, the horse can gallop. When Gibson accepted a training appointment in Hong Kong, his friend Mikel Delzangles took charge of Dunaden.

Sheikh Fahad has now delayed his departure to Kentucky for Saturday's Breeders' Cup, in which Strong Suit, the Richard Hannon-trained colt he owns in partnership, is set to run against Goldikova in the Mile.

For French jockey Christophe Lemaire, perhaps yesterday's win helped erase the disappointment of being aboard beaten favourite Sarafina in the Arc last month.

Who knows, while in this form he might also grab the limelight on Sarafina at Churchill Downs in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Turf.

He rode arguably the best race of his career to get Dunaden home, for there were six horses stretched across the track a furlong and a half out, with Dunaden coming fast in the centre, but with the Ed Dunlop-trained Red Cadeaux eating up the ground with his huge stride down the outside.

"He (Red Cadeaux) went a neck up, but he took that neck and he struggled, while my horse was still picking up," Lemaire said. On the line, Dunaden was sticking his neck out but at a higher angle than ideal yet still finished in front by the closest margin imaginable.

France had won for the second consecutive year and an English stable was again deprived of the honour.

Lemaire had picked up the winning ride only 24 hours before the race after local jockey Craig Williams failed in his appeals to get a careless riding ban overturned. The Frenchman walked the course the night before, and while he was aware of the huge public interest -- reflected in a 106,000 crowd -- he admitted: "You have to see it to believe it."

The perceived trend that European horses are now leaving an indelible mark on the Melbourne Cup has now become apparent. Niwot, which finished eighth, fared best of those who did not have their origins in Europe, and he is an Australian-bred son of Galileo. The race has indeed changed beyond recognition. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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