Normally fierce rivals competing for championships in Hong Kong, Joao Moreira and Zac Purton will be teammates – sort of – when they ride in the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday.
Irish trainer Willie Mullins has engaged Sha Tin’s two top jockeys as part of his three-pronged attack on the A$6 million Group One, with both to wear the pale pink and fluorescent green silks of colourful American owner Rich Ricci.
The Magic Man will partner Thomas Hobson, who came second in the Group Two Doncaster Cup at his most recent run in September, while Purton jumps aboard 2015 Melbourne Cup runner-up Max Dynamite and the Australian is more determined than ever to put his name on the famous trophy.
“It would mean a lot to me now, it’s a race that every jockey in Australia wants to win – fortunately I have another opportunity,” he said.
Max Dynamite has already shown he has the ability to compete in a Melbourne Cup, but he has had just four runs in the 24 months since he last competed at Flemington after a series of injuries.
Fitness is a concern, but the eight-year-old has reportedly been flying in trackwork, with connections targeting him specifically at this race, while the barrier gods have also been helpful.
“The horse has drawn well in gate two, and yeah he is old, but he has been trained to peak in this race,” Purton said. “He is going to get a nice run in the race and I just hope there is one more big run left in the old boy.”
It’s a completely different set of circumstances for Thomas Hobson, who put his name up in lights as a Melbourne Cup contender at Royal Ascot, scoring a dominant win on the opening day over 4,014m before running second in the Queen Alexandra in the final race of the meeting.
Moreira, who finished a narrow second in last year’s Melbourne Cup with Heartbreak City, was taken by that effort but he will have to overcome an awkward gate after drawing barrier 21.
“I was really impressed with his win at Royal Ascot,” Moreira said.
“He is a horse who has come from jumping races and in those races he was a leader, but when Ryan Moore rode him at Ascot, he rode him back and he flashed home and showed he has got a turn of foot that indicated to me that he’s a horse for the Melbourne Cup. I’m very happy to be on him.”
Mullins, who also has Wicklow Brave entered in the two-mile race, is leaning towards Max Dynamite as the pick of his trio and that is reflected in the pre-race market with the 2015 runner up coming into $15 while Thomas Hobson has drifted to $19.
“Max is the classy one of the lot. Thomas Hobson and Wicklow are both very fit from summer racing. We’ve had a different plan with Max,” he said.
“Thomas Hobson is very, very fit, and has a really light weight. Could have done with a bit better draw, but you can’t have everything.”
Tommy Berry was also meant to fly the flag for Hong Kong in “the race that stops a nation”, but his mount Who Shot Thebarman was scratched on Sunday with an elevated temperature.
The Jockey Club is simulcasting six races from Flemington with the first event getting underway at 10.25am.