Trainer Johnny Murtagh is eyeing the 2014 Melbourne Cup with Mutual Regard after the talented stayer won the Ebor Handicap (2816m) at York on Saturday.
Mutual Regard has been a consistent performer in handicap events in the United Kingdom since he made his racing debut in 2011 and he claimed the biggest victory off his racing career to date when he recorded a tough win over fellow Melbourne Cup hopeful Van Percy in the Ebor Handicap.
Murtagh told The Herald that he had spoken to Racing Victoria Chief Handicapper Greg Carpenter about a potential Melbourne Cup tilt for Mutual Regard and he believes that the son of Hernando could be an ideal horse for the ‘the race that stops a nation’.
“The handicapper has said he has put Mutual Regard up six pounds for winning the Ebor so he is 112 now and hopefully that will be high enough to get us into the Melbourne Cup,” Murtagh said.
“We’ll talk to the people from Australia but I think the race will suit him as it’s two-miles and usually fast ground.
“I think fast ground is the key to him and I think he should have a little kick at the end which is what you need to win a Melbourne Cup.”
Mutual Regard was not included in the nominations for the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) that were released earlier this month, but Murtagh paid the late nomination fee to keep the five-year-old in contention for the Group 1 event.
Murtagh said that ideally he would like to give Mutual Regard a lead-up in Australia before the Melbourne Cup, but admits there are a number of options in both Australia and the United Kingdom for the talented gelding.
“Maybe we’ll go to Australia early and get him acclimatised down there,” Murtagh said.
“He is in the Champions Day in England so if we don’t go to Melbourne we have that option.
“He’s not in the Irish St Leger as I hope to have Royal Diamond for that and anyway, I don’t think running him at the Curragh over 1m6f on soft ground would do him any good at all.
“It’s a long way to go, but there are plenty of races down there that he can run in before the Melbourne Cup or after if he doesn’t get in.”
Murtagh has never trained a Melbourne Cup runner, but he rode Septimus (18th behind Viewed in 2008) and Caitano (13th behind Ethereal in 2001) in the Group 1 event.