Khan begins Cup countdown next week

Opie Bosson returning to scale on Mongolian Khan after winning the Gr. 1 TV3 NZ Derby. (Photo: Race Images).

Opie Bosson returning to scale on Mongolian Khan after winning the Gr. 1 TV3 NZ Derby. (Photo: Race Images).

Dual Derby winner Mongolian Khan will return to the stable of Cambridge trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman on Tuesday to prepare for this year’s Gr. 1 $A6 million Melbourne Cup.

The New Zealand Derby-winning Holy Roman Emperor colt spent eight weeks spelling at Marc and Sarah Devcich’s Henley Park, near Cambridge, after returning home from his memorable win in the Gr. 1 $A2 million Australian Derby at Randwick.

Baker kept a watchful eye on Mongolian Khan’s progress in the spelling paddock and was thrilled with his charge as he prepares for a long, slow build-up to the showpiece Flemington 3200-metre event on November 3.

“He looks really good. He’s had just under two months out and he’s as strong and good-looking as ever,” said Baker.

Mongolian Khan is prominent in Melbourne Cup betting markets in Australia, sitting as short as on the third line of betting with some bookmakers.

He has won seven of his nine starts, including the Gr. 2 Waikato Guineas, Gr. 2 Avondale Guineas and Gr. 1 New Zealand Derby treble earlier this year before heading to Sydney, where he improved on a battling fifth to fellow Kiwi three-year-old Volkstok’n’barrell in the Gr. 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) to defeat Hauraki in Gr. 1 Australian Derby.

“He was the first horse to win the New Zealand and Australian Derby the same season since Bonecrusher and some decent ones have tried in the years since,” said Baker.

“He was in for the battle and he pulled away at the finish. I don’t want to get carried away with him, but he’s a good prospect and his record tells you that.”

Baker has had seven previous runners in the Melbourne Cup for several close misses.

The Phantom finished fourth in the 1989 Cup and returned the following year to beat all but Kingston Rule, while Harris Tweed had looked a distinct chance in both the 2009 and 2010 Cups before finishing fifth both times.

Baker believes Mongolian Khan has the right credentials to be a Melbourne Cup winner.

“He’s a real stayer and we saw that in the autumn,” he said. “You never know if they are going to get two miles, but he’s given us every indication he will and his half-brother Young Centaur won the Wellington Cup when that was a two-mile race, so he’s bred to get the trip.”

Baker plans to have Mongolian Khan ready to trial at either Te Teko or Cambridge in August ahead of a likely first-up run in the Gr. 2 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley on September 5, a fortnight before the Gr. 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield, a race the master trainer has won three times with The Phantom in 1990, Lion Tamer in 2011 and Dundeel in 2013.

“The Underwood is a good race for stayers, over 1800 metres. And then from there he will go to either the Turnbull or the Caulfield Stakes and on to the Caulfield Cup,” said Baker.

“Derby horses generally make good weight-for-age horses. He’s got the class and he’s a big, strong horse. He’s going to have to measure up to weight-for-age to be a chance in the Cup. The Cup is a lot stronger race than it was 10 years ago with the Europeans that are coming now.”

Bred by Tasmania’s Grenville Stud and raced by the Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry’s Lin Lang, Mongolian Khan has become something of an international pin-up horse already and that might just be the tip of the iceberg if connections’ ambitious plans fall into place.

In preparation for the Auckland Racing Club’s unveiling of Katherine White’s painting of the 2015 New Zealand Derby winner at Ellerslie on Monday, Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry general manager Simon Poon revealed Mongolian Khan could be in line for feature races in Hong Kong and Dubai should his Melbourne spring form warrant it.

“The Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup are definitely on the programme for him,” said Poon. “Then there’s the Hong Kong Vase and the Dubai Sheema Classic. We’ll just see after we assess the horse after the Melbourne Cup.”

In the interim, Mongolian Khan looks a strong chance to seal champion three-year-old honours at this season’s New Zealand Racing Awards function and a realistic prospect of landing supreme award, Horse Of The Year.

  • NZ Racing Desk