Irish horseman William Mullins is hoping his progressive stayer Wicklow Brave can earn a shot at the ‘race that stops a nation’ and head down under for the 2016 Melbourne Cup this spring.
The Beat Hollow gelding was last seen racing at Glorious Goodwood on July 28 where the veteran finished just two lengths away fourth to Big Orange in the £312,100 Group 1 Qatar Goodwood Cup (3218m).
Michael Bell’s Goodwood Cup winner Big Orange took out the two mile feature for the second year in a row.
Big Orange is best known to Aussie punters for his close fifth behind Darren Weir’s 101/1 roughie Prince Of Penzance in last year’s $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington Racecourse.
Connections of Big Orange are sweating on his Melbourne Cup weight allocation this season before confirming plans to head back down under for a second go at taking out the famous Flemington Race 7 on Tuesday November 1.
Wicklow Brave meanwhile is also being considered for a Spring Cups campaign in Victoria this year after the gallant Goodwood Cup run.
“He stayed on really well,” Mullins told the media this week.
“Andrea Atzeni rode him and it was the first time he had sat on him.
“He’s not the easiest of rides and he just thought he might make a little bit more use of him the next time, but it puts him in the Melbourne Cup picture.”
The Goodwood performance was a notable improvement on Wicklow Brave’s sixth to the Queen Elizabeth II-owned Dartmouth, another Melbourne Cup prospect, in the £225,000 Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes (2414m) the month before.
The European seven-year-old hasn’t won a race since May last year, something Mullins is hoping to change when the Grade 3 winner and Grade One placed hurdler and flat-racer has his next start.
Mullins, who prepared last year’s Melbourne Cup runner-up Max Dynamite, is looking at either the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup (3300m) at York later this month or Irish St Leger for Wicklow Brave to boost his ratings in ahead of this year’s edition of the world’s richest handicap.
“Hopefully we’ll get another run into him and if just keeps improving, we’ll be in Melbourne come November,” Mullins added.
Max Dynamite won last year’s Lonsdale Cup before his narrow second in the Melbourne Cup next start for Mullins.
This year’s early Melbourne Cup favourite at Ladbrokes.com.au Order Of St George, prepared by Aidan O’Brien and part-owned by goliath Australian businessman Lloyd Williams, took out the Group 1 Irish St Leger (2816m) last September.
Wicklow Brave, third in last year’s Irish St Leger, is also one of 28 Northern Hemisphere-trained horses among the 2016 Caulfield Cup nominations taken by Racing Victoria this week.
He is the sole entry for Mullins for the October 15 classic at Caulfield Racecourse and is joined by other top-rated internationals including the aforementioned Order Of St George and the fellow O’Brien-trained Highland Reel.
Highland Reel ran second to Winx in the Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) in Melbourne last year, a race O’Brien won in 2014 with Adelaide, and is nominated for both the weight-for-age feature as well as the Caulfield Cup.
Official 2016 Melbourne Cup nominations close at 12:00pm (AEST) on August 30.