Heartbreak City: Ebor winner well treated for Australia’s showpiece
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
IT looks like no-one warned the Australians about Tony Martin before they published the Melbourne Cup weights last week.
In these parts Martin is famed for having his horses a few steps ahead of the game. Punters respect him, bookies fear him and when the official handicapper sees A J Martin next to a runner he knows to expect plenty of improvement next time.
But the legend of the man from Meath seems not to have made it down to the land of Oz, where chief handicapper Greg Carpenter last week gave Martin’s Heartbreak City a feather weight of 53kg (8st 5lb) for the world’s richest handicap.
That burden makes the Ebor winner just about the best treated horse of all 123 entries judged on RPRs – and if there is one thing we know about Tony Martin runners it’s that there’s usually more in the locker when it comes to major handicaps.
The trainer has an incredible record of getting his horses to peak on the big day, having won many of Europe’s most valuable handicaps. His CV includes the Irish Grand National, County Hurdle, Thyestes Chase, Grand Annual Chase, Northumberland Plate, Ebor, Galway Hurdle, Kerry National, Leinster National, the old Pierse Hurdle and two Coral Cups.
He’s had very few runners outside Britain and Ireland and none in Australia, but that might be how the wily handler has managed to sneak this one in under the radar as he bids to pull off one of his biggest coups.
Heartbreak City has already bested the British handicapper after landing the Ebor by four lengths last month and he could be set to pull off a similar feat on a different continent as he goes up against the Aussie assessor.
Ebor winners have a good record down under. Purple Moon went on to finish a half-length second in the 2007 Melbourne Cup off 54kg (8st 7lb) and All The Good (who won a rescheduled running of the Ebor at Newbury in 2008) won the Caulfield Cup on his next start off 54.5kg (8st 8lb).
This year’s Ebor form has already started to work out nicely and Heartbreak City left those rivals like they were stuck in treacle. He was still tanking on the bridle with less than two furlongs to go and soon skipped clear when asked to go and win.
There are the common ante-post provisos over his chance. This is a big-field handicap, which means interference, pace and even draw can have a say in the outcome.
There is also the long-haul journey, which doesn’t suit every horse, although it didn’t stop Vintage Crop and Media Puzzle taking the Cup back to Ireland for Dermot Weld, while more recently Americain, Dunaden and Protectionist have added to the European haul.
But at the price it’s a no-brainer. Heartbreak City’s running style should suit the Melbourne Cup and the manner of his last two successes suggests we may not have seen the best of him yet. At 33-1 he must be backed to continue Martin’s impressive record as the king of handicaps by taking one of the biggest prizes in racing.
Another European raider with a chance is Secret Number. I flagged him up for the Melbourne Cup last year when he missed the cut by just one place, and that is a concern again this year as his allotted burden has slipped from 52.5kg (8st 4lb) to 51kg (8st).
However, if he makes the final field he would have an excellent chance. He landed the Doonside Cup last week at Ayr with an RPR of 112 just days after the weights were announced and is leniently treated on that form.
Hartnell is another of the best at the weights for Melbourne after confirming his upturn in form by landing a Group 2 at Randwick by five and three-quarter lengths on Saturday, posting an RPR of 118.
He was only 15th in the race last year, but his ratings have improved this season and he has slipped half a kilo in the handicap to 55kg (8st 9lb).
The former Mark Johnston-trained five-year-old has a lot of top-level options open to him this season, including the Turnbull, the Cox Plate and the Cups, but trainer John O’Shea thinks the Caulfield Cup, for which he is now favourite, will be his best chance of a win.
The best performance of last week came in Canada, where Royal Ascot winner Tepin extended her winning sequence to land the Woodbine Mile, running right up to her best with an RPR of 121.
It was her eighth win in a row and she could squeeze in one more victory – potentially in either the Shadwell Turf Mile or the First Lady Stakes – before bidding to defend her Breeders’ Cup Mile title at Santa Anita on November 5.
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