Aga Khan targets Emirates Melbourne Cup

Victoria’s famous Spring Racing Carnival has scored a major endorsement with the news that His Highness the Aga Khan IV will have his maiden runner in the $6.2 million Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) this November.

The 49th and current Imam of the Nizari Ismailism, which counts more than 15 million followers worldwide, is one of the world’s largest and most successful racehorse owners and breeders.

His colours will be worn on the first Tuesday in November by classy mare Verema who is trained by Frenchman Alain de Royer Dupre – the man who guided Americain to an historic victory in the 150th Cup in 2010.

At her most recent start at Deauville on 18 August, Verema showed a blistering turn of foot to win the Group 2 Prix de Kergorlay (3000m) – the same race Americain won en route to his Cup triumph.

“His Highness the Aga Khan is delighted to have his first ever runner in the Melbourne Cup,” Georges Rimaud, French manager of The Aga Khan Studs, said in confirming his participation overnight.

“Verema is an improving filly that has won two consecutive Group 2 staying races against the colts. She likes good ground, travels well and is very consistent.

“Her trainer, Alain de Royer Dupré, who previously won the Melbourne Cup with Americain, believes she has the right profile to be competitive in this race, so His Highness decided to let her take her chance.”

Racing Victoria’s (RV) international recruitment officer, Leigh Jordon, said the Aga Khan’s decision to send Verema down under was another significant step in the internationalisation of Australia’s most famous race.

“His Highness the Aga Khan is one of the most influential owners and breeders in the world, so we are delighted that he has decided to send his first runner to Australia for this year’s Emirates Melbourne Cup,” Jordon said.

“We have seen French horses win two of the past three Cups and Verema will arrive in Melbourne with a similarly impressive formline. Fit and well, she will be one of the hardest to beat at Flemington, particularly with Alain de Royer Dupre overseeing her campaign.”

Verema has never finished further back than fifth in 12 starts amassing four wins and three placings. She has been ridden in all bar one appearance by Christophe Lemaire, the man who steered Dunaden to victory in the 2011 Cup.

The Aga Khan has expanded his interest in Australian racing in the past 12 months shuttling the nation’s champion stallion Redoute’s Choice to his French stud to stand the 2013 northern hemisphere breeding season.

The Aga Khan has owned or bred the winners of many of the world’s great races including multiple Prix de l’Arc de Triomphes, Breeders Cups, Irish Derbies, Irish St Legers, Irish Champion Stakes, Ascot Gold Cups, Hong Kong Vases and King George & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

He counts 2012 Australian Cup winner Manighar and Her Majesty The Queen’s recent Ascot Gold Cup winner Estimate amongst the horses he has bred.