Michael Owen out to lift Melbourne Cup with Brown Panther
Views from connections ahead of Tuesday's Emirates Melbourne Cup at Flemington including Michael Own on Brown Panther.
Last Updated: 03/11/13 3:47pm
Michael Owen has his feet firmly on the ground when it comes to assessing Brown Panther's chances in Tuesday's Emirates Melbourne Cup.
Vintage Crop's ground-breaking victory in Australia's largest sporting event 20 years ago opened up the floodgates to a host of other European challengers, but while there have been further Irish and French successes, a British one remains elusive.
Brown Panther means more to Owen than any of the other animals at his plush Cheshire stables, as he was bred from the retired international footballer's first good horse Treble Heights and taken him to the winner's enclosure at Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood as well as placing in two Classics.
The pressure is on jockey Richard Kingscote, rather than Owen, as he breaks from an agreeable stall six at Flemington.
"It's obviously totally different to what I'm used to," said the striker-turned-pundit.
"I've been in horseracing for around 15 years and to have a horse good enough to compete is fantastic - it's what you're in the sport for.
"It's a famous race around the world. The Australians have come over and won our sprints but maybe we've got the edge in the staying division and we'd love to be the first English winner."
He went on: "My horse has travelled well, he lost only 7kg on the flight, he has put that back on and is training well.
"It's a very difficult race, impossible to call, and it looks like one of the strongest Melbourne Cups for a long time, if not ever.
"He has got all the boxes ticked so far but the biggest box to tick is to be good enough to win the race, and that's the hardest one of all."
Last year's luckless fifth Mount Athos, bidding to end Luca Cumani's frustrating quest for the Cup, is drawn wide in 22 of 24, but an animated Dr Marwan Koukash will not let that ruin his dream.
"If you've got the horse you can win from any gate," said the owner.
"I was a bit disappointed with it, but I'd rather have a good horse with a bad draw than a bad horse with a good draw.
"I think he's possibly the best horse in the race, his form is solid, and he looks betther than he did last year. It means everything, it's the best racing and the biggest show in the world."
Sheikh Fahad is back once again with top-weight Dunaden after his 2011 heroics and is more guarded about the prospects of a repeat.
"He's an (Australian) eight-year-old carrying 58.5kg and expecting him to improve is a hard thing," he said.
"He had a different preparation, we were looking at the Arc de Triomphe, but after the Arc trial we decided to come here.
"But we know he runs well fresh - his win in the Caulfield Cup fresh was his best performance ever - so we're hopeful."
Another Cup-winning trainer, Alain de Royer-Dupre, runs the progressive Verema for France, while of the six British-trained runners, the unlikeliest story comes in the shape of Ruscello.
A little-known gelding, representing the improving but hardly established Newmarket stable of Ed Walker, jumped into the reckoning by earning an automatic place in Saturday's Lexus Stakes.
"The owners didn't put any pressure on at all to run again quickly," said Walker.
"I didn't want to commit before seeing how he came out the race but once he passed the vet check and I went to see him at the yard, it was pretty much a no-brainer."
Ryan Moore jets in after his Breeders' Cup magic for the mount on Marco Botti's well-travelled Dandino, who snatched second with a late drive in the recent Caulfield Cup.
"He was really trained up for Caulfield, he travelled super and was second last on the final corner, so it was a blinder of a Melbourne Cup trial," said Darren Dance of owners Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock.
"He has a good draw (four) and I'll be pretty disappointed if he doesn't make the top six. He's 100% sound and there'll be no excuses."
Godolphin has been trying to crack the two-miler for 15 years, and the team have managed to hit the runner-up spot three times.
Saeed Bin Suroor has brought across the Geoffrey Freer winner Royal Empire, and he said:
"It's an open race and you need to find the right horse. We'll be trying our best again, and everything has gone right so far."
Ed Dunlop's Red Cadeaux is also back for a third tilt, having run a nose behind Dunaden. He struggled with the slow gallop when eighth last year.
Red Cadeaux was still able to win a Hong Kong Vase and finish second in the Dubai World Cup but must break from barrier 23.
"I just hope there's a good pace in the race, we've got to put up with the draw we've got," said Dunlop.
Willie Mullins found out Gold Cup runner-up Simenon had made the cut when en-route to Australia on Friday.
"We're happy enough with the draw in 12 and everything has gone according to plan," said the dominant Irish jumps trainer.
"We just need a bit of luck in running now."