Athos favourite for Melbourne peak


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The Independent Online

Much to the hosts' alarm, Australia's greatest race – and one carrying a richer prize than any other contested on grass – is being increasingly monopolised by European raiders. At the same time, however, the Melbourne Cup has become a thoroughly maddening quest for trainers based in Britain. Last year, when six of the first seven had been stabled in the European quarantine barn, the nose defeat of Red Cadeaux was Newmarket's fourth near miss in five years. The publication yesterday of the weights duly renewed attention on the trainer who surely deserves the breakthrough more than any other.

Luca Cumani was foiled by just half a length with Purple Moon in 2007; and by half a millimetre, seemingly, with Bauer in 2008. Last year, Bauer missed the cut by one, and Cumani's two other runners had to settle for fifth and 12th. But bookmakers now believe that the handicapper has finally given him the slack he needs to satisfy his craving on 6 November.

Mount Athos, unbeaten in three starts since joining Cumani from David Wachman, has been set 54kg (8st 7lb). In contrast, Dunaden and Americain, who won the last two runnings for France, are being asked to emulate Makybe Diva – in her unprecedented third success – by shouldering 58kg. Coral promptly cut Mount Athos to 7-1 favourite from 10-1, with Dunaden, Americain, Green Moon and Red Cadeaux next on 16-1.

Closer to hand, proceedings today are enlivened by the Guinness Kerry National – the valuable showpiece of one of Ireland's great festivals at Listowel – and a couple of Listed races on the Flat. The one at Sandown alertly honours John Dunlop, who last week announced that he will retire at the end of the season, while the ATR John Musker Stakes at Yarmouth has drawn no less a filly than Timepiece. She escapes a penalty for her Group One success last summer, and was beaten barely a length apiece by Snow Fairy and The Fugue in two recent starts at that level.

British jumps trainers have a culpable reluctance to go for big money in Ireland so it is good to see David Pipe send over the rejuvenated Premier Dane today. But the most intriguing runner is Themoonandsixpence, unraced since a narrow defeat in the 2010 Galway Plate and making only his fourth start over fences. His trainer, Willie Mullins, reckons him "straight enough" but cautions that the soft ground may not suit.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Anjaz (3.50 Yarmouth) This very well-bred filly improved for her delayed comeback when fourth in a far better race at Haydock last time.

Next best

Byron Bear (5.50 Beverley) Has proved equal to this modest rating in the past, and looked back in top form when tangled up in traffic last time.

Where the money's going

Masterstroke is 10-1 from 14-1 with Paddy Power for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.