Mount Athos new Cup favourite

After another stylish win in the UK, Luca Cumani’s Mount Athos has assumed Melbourne Cup favouritism

Mount Athos is the new TAB Sportsbet favourite for the Emirates Melbourne Cup following his stylish victory in the Group 3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes (2600m) at Newbury (UK) on Saturday night (AET).

The UK-trained galloper, who opened at $71 and is now unbeaten in three starts for premier trainer Luca Cumani, had his price slashed from $26 to $17 for Australia’s greatest race, which will be run on 6 November at Flemington.

Dr Marwan Koukash, one of England’s most prominent and successful owners, declared his in-form horse was bound for Melbourne after the runaway win.

“Melbourne here we come!” Koukash told the media post-race. “That was fantastic, beating Group 1 horses. I always had confidence in him. He will go into quarantine and go to Australia early.”

Mount Athos, ridden by Ryan Moore, won the Freer on good to firm ground by 3.25 lengths from another Spring Carnival nominee, Brown Panther, with 4 lengths further back to last year’s Melbourne Cup runner Modun in third.

English St Leger winner Masked Marvel, who was tipped to feature amongst next month’s Melbourne Cup entries, was a somewhat disappointing fourth.

The win was Moore’s 100th this season and Mount Athos was trimmed to as short as 10/1 for the Cup with some English bookmaking firms.

Moore was impressed with the performance and said the win was even easier than it looked.

“It was a tough race,” he said. “They went off quite hard and we were racing from a long way out. I was in front sooner than I’d wanted but he got the job done very well.’

Moore said that Mount Athos had a superior turn of foot and his blend of speed and stamina makes him the right type of horse to potentially end the heartbreak Cumani has experienced in Melbourne with his two Cup runners-up Purple Moon (2007) and Bauer (2008).

Cumani, who was stuck in traffic and couldn’t make it to Newbury in time to see the race, said: “I listened to it and it sounded like an ideal prep for Melbourne. Let’s just hope the handicapper isn’t unkind to him.”

By Steve Moran

Snitzerland sizzles in Sydney

Fillies too sharp for boom colt in San Domenico Stakes

All Too Hard had his colours lowered at his return to racing, but the winner of today’s San Domenico Stakes is still expected to be a major player in Melbourne this Spring Racing Carnival.

Golden Slipper runner-up Snitzerland showed that she had come back in outstanding fashion when she scored an impressive all-the-way win in the $125,000 event.

The 1100-metre event was the first start in a campaign designed to peak in the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes at Flemington on 3 November and trainer Gerald Ryan said Snitzerland would now head to Melbourne for the Group 2 Danehill Stakes (1200m) at Flemington on 8 September.

“It (the Coolmore) is a fair way down the track, but that’s the aim and I’ll just nurse her until we get there,” Ryan said. “She’ll have three weeks until her next run, but she’s going good.”

The daughter of Snitzel scored a resounding 1-3/4-length win over Magic Millions winner Driefontein in the Group 3 event. All Too Hard was a further length away third.

The half-brother to champion sprinter Black Caviar, who started the $2.20 favourite, was slow to begin and was left with too much to do in the home straight.

The Rosehill meeting wasn’t a kind one to high-profile favourites with Sportingbet Cox Plate entry Said Com beaten as a $1.45 favourite in the 1400m Spring Preview Handicap.

The Chris Waller-trained four-year-old had to settle for third behind the Gai Waterhouse-prepared Kontiki Park and Nextanix.

The day’s other feature was the $100,000 Listed Starlight Stakes (1100m), which went the way of $4.60 chance Mrs Onassis, who is a stablemate of Snitzerland.

Elle now part of the Elite

Unbeaten record maintained with impressive Quezette Stakes success

Elite Elle emphatically passed the biggest test of her burgeoning career with an impressive win in today’s $120,000 Lister Quezette Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield.

The daughter of Shamardal had yet to taste defeat in three runs going into the Listed event, but had the shadow of Blue Diamond winner Samaready looming large at her first try in Black Type.

She responded with one of the most impressive wins of the first meeting at Caulfield for the 2012/13 racing season.

The three-year-old lapped up the heavy 9 track conditions, which Samaready clearly detested, to score a soft one-length success.

Trainer Tony Vasil said his filly was obviously advantaged by the conditions, but it was a great result at her first test against the A graders.

“We identified this race quite a few weeks ago and as much as went to plan, I was a bit taken aback when Samaready was in it,” Vasil said.

“I do think that the track being very heavy has helped this filly very much, but it gives you a bit of an idea where she slots in as far as the standard of opposition goes. She proved too classy today.”

Elite Elle jumped well from a wide barrier and found the spot outside leader after 400m. Champion jockey Damien Oliver edged to the lead rounding the home bend and although issued a challenge from Agueda in the straight, kicked strongly over the concluding stages.

Elite Elle, the $4 second elect, scored from Agueda ($13) with Ephemera ($12) five lengths away third.

Samaready ($2.30 fav) was under pressure 600m from home and jockey Craig Newitt reported that the daughter of More Than Ready was never comfortable on the heavy track.

Oliver said the track helped Elite Elle, but it was an impressive performance and should be a chance in anything she contested in similar conditions.

“Now and again you get on one that goes through a soft track like it’s good and she’s a classic example of one of those,” he said.

“She’s a filly that’s come through the winter and you’ve just got to see how far you can get with her. She’s certainly going to cash in now while the tracks are wet.”

PSYCHIC MICK STARS IN VAIN STAKES

South Australian youngster Psychic Mick overcame wet track concerns to demolish his Victorian rivals in today’s listed Vain Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield.

Sent out an easy second favourite with bookmakers, Psychic Mick sat second for much of the race before accelerating brilliantly in the the home straight to zoom past Cheyenne Warrior and win by a three and a quarter length margin.

Named after his yearling sale buyer and senior part owner Michael Duffield, Psychic Mick was racing for the first time since a stylish win at Morphettville on June 2.

That win was the third in three runs for the exciting son of Eliza Park based stallion Shinzig.

Plucked from last year’s Magic Millions Adelaide Yearling Sale, from the Eliza Park draft, Psychic Mick cost just $10,000.

“”We bought him from the sales in Adelaide and my brother-in-law Mick (Duffield), he bought him on a premonition,” delighted trainer Daniel Clarken said after the race.

“Lauren (Stojakovic), who strapped the horse today, asked Mick ‘what do you want to look at’ and he said he didn’t have a catalogue or anything.”

“He said he wanted to look at lot 118 – he had a premonition. So went and had a look at him and the rest is history.”

“That’s how he got his name,” he added with a laugh.

“We pulled him out (at the sales) and he was a good type of horse. We thought he would have to spend a bit more money than what we did but we bought him with one bid for $10,000,”Clarken added.

Clarken was more hopeful than confident leading into today’s race – his first outside his home state.

“It’s hard to line up the form from Adelaide, but he couldn’t have done anymore at home and his trial the other day was very good.”

“He travelled well to the corner and really let down nice,” Clarken added.

Psychic Mick holds an entry for the $1 million Group One Caulfield Guineas (1600m) in October and connections are confident he will relish slightly longer distances.

“I’ve always thought he would be a miler,” Clarken said.

Winning rider Chris Symons was delighted with the success – giving him plenty to smile about on his birthday.

“It was a really good win,” Symons said.

“We didn’t go out there with a game plan – just to have him where he was happy.”

“He appears a versatile horse. I just put him in the spot and he did the rest,” Symons added.

The first stakes winner for Danehill’s CF Orr Stakes winning son Shinzig, Psychic Mick is the first named foal for the Melbourne winning Bianconi mare Super Fund.

Super Fund, a winner at 1200 and 1400 metres, is a half sister to the stakes placed and 26 time winner Lascaux – a one time Aussie galloper who was sold to Macau where he earned over $1.7 million.

Atlantic Jewel to miss spring

The Spring Racing Carnival has lost its second drawcard runner

Unbeaten superstar Atlantic Jewel is injured and will not race during the Spring Racing Carnival.

Trainer Mark Kavanagh said the daughter of Fastnet Rock was found to be lame after a gallop yesterday morning and scans revealed that she was suffering from an injury to a lateral branch of super flexor tendon extending to the end region of the pastern.

While the four-year-old is out of the running for the $3 million Sportingbet Cox Plate (2040m) on 27 October, which she was the $4 favourite, Kavanagh expects that she will get the chance to add to her record of seven wins from as many starts next year.

“We will continue to assess the injury and it would be my opinion at this stage that she will be unable to resume full training for eight weeks,” he said.

“It may be the end of the spring, but it’s not the end of the horse.”

Atlantic Jewel is the second unbeaten superstar to be ruled out of the spring in the past fortnight following earlier news that champion sprinter Black Caviar would not race again in 2012.

She was poised to assume the mantle of spring headline act following a stunning three-year-old season that was highlighted by success in the Group 1 Schweppes Thousand Guineas (1600m) and a seven-length romp in the Group 2 Wakeful Stakes (2000m) during spring and a victory over the older horses in the Group 1 All Aged Stakes (1400m) at Randwick in April.