Gibson backs ex-charge Dunaden to take crown

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2011, 12:00am


Richard Gibson says he will not regret his Hong Kong move for a minute if his former charge, Dunaden, wins today's Melbourne Cup.

Dunaden was one of the horses Gibson left behind in France when he relocated to the city four months ago and the entire will start second favourite in today's Flemington feature.

Rather than wondering 'what if?', Gibson prefers to look at the positives and finds immense satisfaction in the continued development of the five-year-old.

'I feel a lot of pride. He is a horse I bought privately and he is a horse that has gone up dramatically in the handicaps since I bought him. It's great he has continued to improve this year. It's really great the owners have got a huge live shout in the Melbourne Cup.'

Gibson walked away from a thriving stable in France, most of his 30-plus team heading to Dunaden's new trainer, Mikel Delzangles. The affable Englishman remains on good terms with the horse's owner, Qatari royal Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, even knocking back an all-expenses paid trip to Melbourne to watch the race.

Dunaden matches the profile of 2010 winner and this year's race favourite, Americain, and has strong form around the fellow French-trained galloper. Both won the Geelong Cup as a lead-up in impressive fashion, carrying the same weight and received the same Cup penalty - three pounds - for their respective victories.

Top French rider Christophe Lemaire takes the ride on Dunaden who carries 120 pounds in the Cup, eight pounds less than Americain. He also meets the Alain de Royer Dupre-trained stayer three pounds better at the weights than in August's Prix Kergorlay at Deauville, when he beat Americain home after enduring a tougher run in transit.

Gibson said the expected cut in the ground also worked in Dunaden's favour.

'This horse has been running topweight in handicaps and he has a preference for soft ground,' Gibson said. 'Now that he has learnt to relax, he stays well. His improvement has been continuous for the past 18 months. If you take a line through Americain, this horse has beaten him already this year and he's carrying eight pounds less. He has got to be one of the huge shouts in the race.'

Gibson's situation brings to mind the early Hong Kong experience of trainer David Hall, who left behind a strong stable in Australia, including 2003 Melbourne Cup winner Makybe Diva. That mare went on to become the first horse to win three consecutive Cups, picking up a Cox Plate along the way.

Whether Dunaden wins or not, Gibson seems assured he has made the right call.

'Moving to Hong Kong was all about the challenge,' he said. 'I had always aspired to train here, it was one of my professional goals. I can't think of a more exciting place to train.'

Four Hong Kong-based jockeys have rides in the race: Gerald Mosse aiming for back-to-back wins on Americain, Brett Prebble on English stayer Moyenne Corniche and Darren Beadman (Precedence) and Tim Clark (Older Than Time) are on outsiders.

Neil Callan, who begins another Hong Kong riding stint this month, takes the ride on Prix Kergorlay winner Jukebox Jury.