Postcard from Australia: Fresh Nakeeta demands extra spin

Wed 1 Nov 2017

By Tom Peacock in Melbourne

Nakeeta is full of beans:

It was a fairly quiet morning at the Werribee international quarantine centre with several mooted visitors failing to show up including Olivier Peslier, who was thought to be coming to give the French contender Tiberian another spin ahead of Tuesday’s Emirates Melbourne Cup.

Briefly, the most interesting attraction looked like being the Scottish contender Nakeeta, who showed a brief display of reluctance to begin an exercise gallop before trainer Iain Jardine managed to snap him into the right mood. Nakeeta will wear a hood in Tuesday’s race.

“We hadn’t planned to give him a spin today but he was so fresh we decided to,” said Jardine of his Ebor winner, who is a general 25-1 chance.

Jardine has booked Glyn Schofield, who counts as a local rider as he is based in Sydney, but the veteran was born in England, learnt his trade in South Africa and spent many years in Asia before relocating a decade ago.

He was recommended to the trainer by jockeys agent and Racing UK presenter Niall Hannity.

“Niall said he was a very good jockey. Glyn is coming to sit on him tomorrow and do a bit of work,” Jardine said. “He’s quite a nervous type of horse but we’ve had him a long time now. He’s just improved with age and he has been really progressive this year. I think this race will suit him.”

Williams happy with O’Brien trio:

Owner Lloyd Williams has booked Frankie Dettori to ride defending champion Almandin in the Cup and his son Nick popped in to monitor the progress of their three Irish imports. Williams Sr, an incredibly wealthy if semi-reclusive businessman who has his own private trainer Robert Hickmott, has become increasingly involved with Coolmore in recent years.

The ex-Aidan O’Brien Bondi Beach and Aloft have moved to Hickmott, while a decision as to whether Caulfield Cup third Johannes Vermeer plus Joseph O’Brien’s pair US Army Ranger and Rekindling remain in Australia will be made once the dust has settled.

Rekindling arrives here after his fourth in the St Leger and Nick Williams did not seem to be concerned that he might be too young for such a tough contest.

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“I think Mahler ran very well in the race (third in 2007), if you have the right three-year-old, which he looks to be to me, I think it’s a great race for them. His Irish/English form is terrific, he’s beaten the older horses, he ran very well in the St Leger, we’re hopeful.”

US Army Ranger, as British and Irish racing fans will be aware, is something of an enigma.

“Joseph has been working hard to keep him happy, he looks to be happy, he’s certainly very well, and hopefully he runs a big race for Joseph,” he added. “Johannes Vermeer, they couldn’t be happier with him, Aidan is happy and his team is happy.”

Ryan Moore is not expected to be coming to Australia, and Williams said their jockeys were not quite finalised.

“Ben Melham rides Johannes Vermeer, Corey Brown rides Rekindling and Army Ranger, we’re still just deciding. We’ve got some people on hold for him, so we’ll just work out who rides what.”

Dynamite could be ready to fire:

On European form, one would have expected Royal Ascot winner and Doncaster Cup runner-up Thomas Hobson to be the leading contender for Willie Mullins.

On British betting, he is around a 14-1 chance with 20-1 available about Max Dynamite, the 2015 Cup runner-up who seemed to have lost his form until coming in from the cold to land a minor race at Killarney in August.

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The Aussies, though, value their own form highest and their bookmakers are offering roughly the opposite prices about the pair. Max Dynamite did look particularly well on Wednesday and Nick Williams nominated him as the biggest danger when asked to assess the rest of the Europeans.

“He looks like he’s in great form to me,” he said.

Craig Williams had zipped off before we had time to catch up with him, but the well-travelled pilot appeared to do a semi-fast piece of work on Hugo Palmer’s Wall Of Fire, who should sneak into the race.

Marmelo to tune up on Thursday:

We should get a bit more insight from Hughie Morrison on Thursday after Marmelo exercises under big-race pilot Hugh Bowman.

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Seen more frequently in France than Britain this year, the Prix Kergorlay winner shot towards the top of the betting after running what looked an ideal trial when sixth in the Caulfield Cup.

“He’ll have a more serious spin on Thursday and that should be enough,” said Morrison. “We always felt he was the right horse for this kind of race, he’s a big strong horse and he seems to be improving.

“I always thought he was better on softer ground but he has never not performed on faster ground. We’ll take what we get.”

He added: "We were confident he'd run well in the Caulfield Cup and we hope he can do it again. Hugh Bowman was very positive about him and the first thing he said was "we're in business", so what more do you need to hear?"

Appleby run continues:

Charlie Appleby has been detained on Godolphin duty at the Breeders’ Cup instead of returning to Australia, where he had such success last year.

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Thankfully, this seems to have had no effect on his performance Down Under with Folkswood winning the Cranbourne Cup and running a blinding third behind Winx in the Cox Plate.

He struck for the second consecutive time in the Bendigo Cup on Wednesday, a last-gasp chance for Flemington contenders to prove their worth as part of a colourful annual highlight at the former gold town 100 miles north of Melbourne.

Francis Of Assisi, who picked up an injury on his return to Australia this year, landed the in 2016 and this time it was the turn of Qewy. Another of John Ferguson’s former jumpers, the seven-year-old also loves the country, having won the Geelong and Sandown Cups as well as taking fourth in the big one.

Appleby had suggested that he needed to win nicely to take his place the Cup and while he only had a narrow margin, Qewy was gutsy in beating an in-form Kiwia for the all-conquering Darren Weir stable and looked a picture of vitality.

The trainer’s representative, Chris Connett, said: “He stays all day, shows his heart and ran all the way to the line, so we’re happy. The guys that have come down have really flourished, Qewy especially the last couple of weeks, he’s really started to blossom.”

Regarding plans, Connett said: “I’ll speak to Charlie, make sure he pulls up fine and Charlie will have a think.”

Jockey Kerrin McEvoy added: “It’s a big call to run him in the Cup but he stays so well. He’s got to be a top-10 chance in the Cup but we’ll leave that to Charlie and Sheikh Mohammed.”

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