With overseas raiders dominating the order of entry and betting for the Melbourne Cup, Australia could certainly do with a home grown standard-bearer – even if he is a recovered crock who has battled against debilitating ailments to find his way back to the track.
The Team Hawkes trained Maluckyday might not have won the listed Bart Cummings over 2500 metres at headquarters on Saturday – the glory and the $72,000 first prize went to the $3.60 favourite Tanby, himself a handy and progressive stayer from the Lloyd Williams camp who could, depending on what happens, be one of the leading local contenders for a big race himself over the next few weeks.
But, if Maluckyday can stay sound and continue to improve, the six-year-old son of Zabeel might just end up becoming the prime hope of the home side come the first Tuesday in November.
Maluckyday looked to have the world at his feet two years ago when he rapidly moved through the grades to win the Lexus on the Saturday before the Cup to force his way into the field for the centenary edition of the great race, eventually running second to French star Americain, with legendary galloper So You Think in third.
But a series of illness and injuries, including pneumonia, kept the Nick Moraitis owned galloper off the track for over a year, making many doubt that he would ever be able to return and fulfil the promise he had shown as a four year old.
But Wayne Hawkes, who oversees the Flemington operation of the stable he runs with his father John and brother Michael, never lost the faith and belief that the horse could come back.
Two promising runs at his first two starts after that 12 month absence suggested his confidence was not misplaced. The horse was able to finish within 6.5 lengths of Sincero in the Group 2 Memsie Stakes over an unsuitable 1400 metre trip at Caulfield on his reappearance, and then finished a similar distance behind well fancied Cox Plate candidate Ocean Park over 1800 metres at the same venue in the Group One Underwood Stakes a fortnight ago.
Back to a much more suitable distance in the Bart Cummings, Maluckyday showed that he was on the way back.
In rear for most of the race, the $5 chance worked home strongly under Dwayne Dunn from seventh position at the 400 to finish a length down on the Damien Oliver ridden winner with the game and improving staying mare from the Pat Carey yard, Dame Claire, a head back in third spot at $8. Maluckyday was trying to concede 3.5 kilograms to the winner, and five to the third.
Hawkes was enthusiastic and not a little emotional after the run by the horse he declared the best he had thrown a saddle over in the relatively short five years that he has been a trainer in his own right.
“I am really happy with him, it was a great effort. Here in about four and a half weeks time (Cup Day) is when I want him at his top.
I am not sure where he goes next. We have not made any concrete plans with him. He was probably a bit unlucky not to have won from where he was. He had pneumonia which kept him off the tracks so long. He looks super in the coat so that’s telling you that he feels good inside, but you never really know until they win. He all but should have won; it was as close as you get to winning without winning.
“It’s all right to be out the back and running nice sectionals, because plenty of horses do that week in and week out, but to get your head past the post first is another effort. I have been training only about five years, but he’s the best horse I have ever put a saddle over by a hundred yards.
Nick Williams was, not surprisingly, upbeat about his galloper’s prospects over the next six weeks as Tanby is just another in a flotilla of cup chances ready to do duty for the Williams stable.
“We have always had a big opinion of this horse. He’s come through the grades well. We knew he wasn’t ready at Moonee Valley, he was a little above his race weight. He’s done a bit more work, that race brought him on and I think it was a pretty soft win in the end. He didn’t have the best run in transit, but he put paid to them very easily. It’s either the Caulfield Cup or the Moonee Valley Cup, we will have to wait and see how he pulls up.
“The Melbourne Cup is still a month away, anything can go wrong. We were going pretty well at this point last year. With these stayers its not like sprinters, you have got to put so many miles into their legs, it’s so easy for something to go wrong.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.