Syndicate director Luke Murrell reckons Sixties Groove is a better chance of winning the Melbourne Cup (3200 metres) on Tuesday than the Lexus Stakes (2500m) at Flemington on Saturday.
The problem is the six-year-old gelding has to salute first in the Lexus to get a shot at the $7.3 million race that stops a nation. Hunter syndicators Australian Bloodstock, the team behind 2014 Cup winner Protectionist, have Red Cardinal in Tuesday’s race and hope to add Sixties Groove to the field with victory on Saturday.
And some punters like their chances.
Although $9.50 with TAB Fixed Odds to win on Saturday, Sixties Groove has been one of the best backed long shots to prevail three days later. One punter had $1000 on the Darren Weir-trained import to win the Cup at $201. Two more then had the same wager at $101.
Murrell said the Melbourne Cup had long been the target for Sixties Groove but his preparation had been upset by injury, which ruled him out of the Bart Cummings Stakes a month ago.
Hopes were revived when Sixties Groove bounced back to carry 60 kilograms to victory with a rails run in the Moe Cup (2050m) on October 18.
He has drawn well in four for the Lexus Stakes but Murrell was wary of the task ahead. Eleven horses have claimed the Lexus Stakes (Hotham Handicap) and Melbourne Cup in the same year, the most recent two being Shocking in 2009 and Brew in 2000.
“Not many have done it but he’s only got 50.5 [kg] for the Cup if he could get in,” Murrell said. “He would be one of the classier horses, but I think it will be harder to win tomorrow then it would be in the Cup.”
Sixties Groove was brought from England this time last year but a foot abscess ruled him out of the spring carnival. He was on course for the 2018 Cup, winning twice over 2000m at Flemington in July, before the setback.
“I would have liked for him to have a run at 2400 before we ran at this distance, but he had a bit of shin soreness and we were going to the paddock, but then he was right and we pushed on,” Murrell said on Friday.
“It hasn’t been an ideal preparation but he’s probably the best horse in the race, which is why everyone wants to back him, but it’s whether they will look to go pretty fast there tomorrow and whether that will suit him given what he’s come off.
“Darren always thought he was [a Cup horse] but we were going to the paddock not that long ago. But he’s going good and I think he would be some hope if he got in, but there’s six or seven others thinking the same.
“It was a really good run when he won the Moe Cup, so he’s a good hope. The key to him is he’s got to run up bums and not be exposed too early, but he’s got a really good turn of speed so hopefully he gets to use that and they don’t go too hard and string out too far.
“This is the furthest he has gone so that’s the other little question as well, whether he can run the trip, but Darren doesn’t think he’ll have any trouble.”