Most visitors to Australia return with memories of koala bears hugging eucalyptus trees or performers hugging each other at the Opera House. The images are not so gentle for Mark Johnston. The Middleham trainer has travelled to Victoria twice and on both occasions he has needed a telescope to locate his runner in the Melbourne Cup. Quick Ransom was 23rd in 1994 and Double Trigger 17th when favourite last year; results which Johnston is finding hard to distance from his mind.
Yesterday, Double Trigger won on his first outing since the Melbourne Cup, and in the aftermath it became clear that his trainer's thoughts had already wandered some months forward and a November return to Australia. "The only way I'll win a Melbourne Cup is to keep trying and learning about the race," he said. "One or two efforts don't tell you very much.
"There are so many factors there, the travelling, the training, the quarantine and the way the race is run, but it's not an impossibility. It costs pounds 50,000 to get to Melbourne and it's difficult to persuade an owner to go back. All I want to do is keep going and keep trying and I'm sure we'll win it in the end."
Experience has taught Johnston that once in place, a Melbourne Cup horse should not be overworked. "We've learned that they've go to be very fit before they go and you musn't do too much once you get there," he said. "We did very little with Trigger compared to what we normally do but the Australians were dumbfounded about the amount of work we did."
There was no relaxation either for the chestnut yesterday, when Jason Weaver had to push his mount's ears off for virtually the whole two-mile journey of the Sagaro Stakes before collaring Grey Shot close home. Johnston was not entirely enamoured by this ride as he believes Double Trigger should be left to find his own pace.
The five-year-old will find his way back here next month for the Gold Cup, in which he is likely to meet his brother, Double Eclipse. The latter, it appears, has already emerged as Kingsley House's No 1 selection for Melbourne this autumn.
Willie Haggas has attempted no such travelling feat, but he achieved a geographical milestone yesterday when Yeast's victory in the Victoria Cup meant he had sent out a winner on every Flat course in Britain.
Haggas also supervises the career of the useful Mtoto colt Shaamit, who was detected working nicely with the well-regarded Clever Cliche from the Henry Cecil stable on Saturday. Shaamit is 33-1 for the Derby, which may look rather corpulent after his Classic trial.
Cecil was in the winners' enclosure when his debutante Distant Oasis give her rivals 10 lengths start before sauntering home in the opener. Pat Eddery missed the ride because of 'flu, but expects to be back for his Guineas mounts, Storm Trooper and Bosra Sham; Michael Kinane is standing by to ride the latter. "We put Distant Oasis in the Coronation [Stakes, at Royal Ascot] the other day so we must have thought she was all right," Cecil said. "We definitely thought she was better than a claimer." Quite right, Henry.Reuse content