Luca Cumani’s great Emirates Melbourne Cup hope Mount Athos suffered his third straight defeat as he just failed to catch front-running Harris Tweed in the Listed March Stakes (2800m) at Goodwood overnight.
Cumani, who has twice gone close at Flemington with Bauer and Purple Moon, had said this week that Mount Athos represents his best chance of plundering the world-famous handicap, and the Italian-born trainer would be able to take encouragement from the six-year-old’s agonisingly narrow defeat early on Sunday morning.
Tactics and pace have played a huge part in Mount Athos’s two disappointing runs in the Hardwicke Stakes (2400m) at Royal Ascot and the Goodwood Cup (3200m), and he showed a little more on this occasion when beaten just a head under first-time pilot Richard Hughes.
George Baker employed the same catch-me-if-you-can tactics aboard Harris Tweed that worked so successfully for them at the Glorious meeting, and the pair were once again the target as the seven-strong field raced down inside the closing stages of the 2800-metre event.
Hughes had Mount Athos no worse than third throughout and although his Marwan Koukash-owned partner took time to hit top gear, the son of Montjeu ate into Harris Tweed’s margin only to lose out by a diminishing margin.
Harris Tweed and Mount Athos pulled six lengths clear of third-placed Tac De Boistron, who was making his debut for Marco Botti having been last seen finishing 23rd behind Green Moon in the Cup last November.
Cumani had taken the March Stakes in two of the last three years with My Quest For Peace winning 12 months ago before running tenth in the Cup. Drunken Sailor was beaten at odds-on the previous year after winning in 2010 prior to his Spring Carnival trip.
The trainer watched the race from his Newmarket base, but his wife Sara confirmed the Melbourne Cup would be Mount Athos’s next outing in a bid to improve on last year’s fast-finishing fifth-placed effort.
She said: “I still don’t think this is his track and the ground wasn’t ideal but he has run better than he did the last two times.
“Depending on the owner, I think the plan’s still to go to Melbourne. I don’t think he’ll run again as he likes his races spaced out.
“He’ll fly out in the second wave of horses and I believe he’ll enter quarantine on September 26th.”
Story by Martin Kelly