The 2013 Melbourne Cup form of Mount Athos is stronger than it was twelve months ago, according to trainer Luca Cumani and colourful owner Marwan Koukash.
Mount Athos has only recorded one race victory since his fifth place finish in last year’s Melbourne Cup, failing to fire in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes (2414m) and the Group 2 Goodwood Cup (3218m), but returned to his best form with a strong second behind Harris Tweed in the Listed March Stakes (2816m).
The chances of the Montjeu gelding took a hit when he drew gate 22 at the 2013 Melbourne Cup barrier draw this afternoon and is now on the second line of betting behind Gai Waterhouse-trained Fiorente at odds of $8.
Cumani admitted that the barrier draw was far from ideal but remains optimistic that the six-year-old is good enough to give him a breakthrough victory in ‘the race that stops a nation’ and has a great deal of confidence in the ability of leading Australian jockey Craig Williams.
“Obviously barrier 22 is a little bit wide but it is better than 24,” Cumani said at the barrier draw.
“It is up to Craig to find a position and hopefully there is a bit of pace and the field strings out a little bit and we can slot in somewhere.
“It certainly shouldn’t be a hindrance; Craig is a great jockey and he knows the track like the back of his hand.
“He has ridden in plenty of Melbourne Cups and he will know what to do.”
Mount Athos was the hard-luck story of the 2012 Melbourne Cup, flying home late to finish fifth behind Green Moon, and will carry the same weight (54.5kg) that he carried twelve months ago.
Cumani said that it is fair that Racing Victoria Chief Handicapper Greg Carpenter did not increase the weight of his star stayer and believes that his Melbourne Cup lead-up form is stronger than it was heading into last year’s race.
“When you finish fifth you shouldn’t really go up in the weights; it was a good race but it wasn’t a winning race,” Cumani said.
“He is in really good form.”
Mount Athos is owned by British entrepreneur Marwan Koukash and the enigmatic owner remains full of confidence that the Ormond Stakes winner can win the 2013 Melbourne Cup, despite the poor barrier draw.
“I said it before; at least I have a good horse and a bad draw which is better than having a bad horse with a good barrier,” Koukash said.
“Last year my horse was drawn in eight and the way that he started the race he may as well have drawn barrier 24.
“He still came out and ran a very and if he hadn’t been tampered with he could have won the race.
“I’m not too pessimistic about barrier 22 and I still believe that I have the best horse in the field.”
Koukash agrees with Cumani’s assessment that the preparatory Melbourne Cup form of Mount Athos is stronger than it was in 2012 and said that he is absolutely delighted with physical condition of the stayer that holds a special place in his heart.
“He looks stronger than he was last year and he will run a big one,” Koukash said.
“He is in fantastic form and physically he looks better than what he did last year and is working better.
“The performance in his last race was incredible and the horse that finished ahead of us (Harris Tweed) won a Group 1 event recently.”
Cumani is chasing his first victory in the 2013 Melbourne Cup at Flemington on Tuesday after just missing out on winning the Group 1 event with Purple Moon (2007) and Bauer (2008).