Mel­bourne Cup con­tender snared

Matamata Chronicle - - Motoring -

It’s 13 years since Mike Moroney be­came the first Mata­mata trainer to sad­dle up a Mel­bourne Cup win­ner and now he be­lieves he has the am­mu­ni­tion for a re­peat next Tues­day.

The big hope to repli­cate Bal­ly­more Sta­bles’ land­mark vic­tory by Brew in 2000 is Voleuse de Coeurs.

In spite of her French moniker – which to the best of my knowl­edge trans­lates to ‘‘heart stealer’’ – the mare is Ir­ish-bred and has done all her rac­ing in the Emer­ald Isle. Most im­por­tantly she has the right form to say she’s a real chance in next Tues­day’s A$6.2 mil­lion na­tion-stop­per.

Mike Moroney has his blood­stock agent brother Paul to thank for Voleuse de Coeurs fall­ing into his lap af­ter she had been spot­ted as a likely Mel­bourne Cup con­tender ear­lier this year. Paul spends much of his time th­ese days based in the United King­dom and Voleuse de Coeurs caught his at­ten­tion when win­ning a stakes race over 14 fur­longs ( 2800 me­tres) in Ire­land in May. That fol­lowed her win in the 3200-me­tre Ir­ish Ce­sarawitch last year and col­lec­tively made a com­pelling case in Paul’s hunt for likely Mel­bourne Cup ma­te­rial.

He was un­able to nail a deal, how­ever, and in mid-Septem­ber had to sit and watch as the fouryear-old mare went on to score a six-length win in the Gr. 1 Ir­ish St Leger at the Cur­ragh. Other scouts with sim­i­lar am­bi­tions were also on the trail of Voleuse de Coeurs but Paul didn’t let up and when their ne­go­ti­a­tions fell through, he re­turned with another bid on be­half of the pow­er­ful Hong Kong- based Sun In­ter­na­tional Group and fi­nally se­cured her at what has been de­scribed as a ‘‘sub­stan­tial seven-fig­ure sum’’.

Voleuse de Coeurs had un­til then been in the sta­ble of lead­ing trainer Der­mot Weld, the Ir­ish­man who paved the way for what has be­come an an­nual invasion of north­ern hemi­sphere-trained Mel­bourne Cup as­pi­rants when he pro­duced Vin­tage Crop to win the 1993 Mel­bourne Cup. Der­mot added another Cup with Me­dia Puz­zle in 2002 and as a fur­ther re­minder of their depth of tal­ent, last year’s race was to­tally dom­i­nated by Ir­ish-breds, with the first seven fin­ish­ers bred in Ire­land.

A fur­ther par­al­lel in re­gard to Voleuse de Coeurs is that Vin­tage Crop’s last win be­fore he headed south 20 years ago was also the Ir­ish St Leger, a fac­tor that hasn’t been missed by her new trainer.

‘‘I’d have to rate her my best Mel­bourne Cup prospect since Xcel­lent (third in 2005),’’ Mike said when your rov­ing reporter caught up with him in Mel­bourne last weekend. ‘‘Watch­ing her race re­plays and talk­ing to peo­ple, she’s ob­vi­ously a very good stayer.’’ Voleuse de Coeurs was on the last char­ter flight car­ry­ing car­ni­val can­di­dates, ar­riv­ing in Mel­bourne 11 days ago and sta­bled since at the spe­cially ap­pointed quar­an­tine cen­tre at Wer­ribee race­course just south of met­ro­pol­i­tan Mel­bourne.

Mike had some con­cerns about her lack of body­weight when he first laid eyes on her, but ev­ery day since he’s seen the im­prove­ment in her. ‘‘Of all the horses I’ve had travel down from the UK she’s taken it the best of any,’’ he said. ‘‘She’s eaten ev­ery­thing we’ve put in front of her since she landed and when I took her out for a pick af­ter she had worked the other morn­ing she did as good a job as your lawn­mower would.’’ Af­ter keep­ing Voleuse de Coeurs to light du­ties for the first week, Mike has been able to step her work up and on Tues­day morn­ing her Cup rider James McDon­ald was due to test her in her first se­ri­ous gal­lop. James might have missed out in the Cox Plate on Kiwi hope It’s A Dun­deel but still rode two fea­ture win­ners on the Moonee Val­ley pro­gramme, and Mike is more than happy to have en­gaged him for the big one.

‘‘The own­ers had a bunch of rid­ers on their list – mostly in­ter­na­tion­als – and they set­tled on James af­ter know­ing what he achieved in Hong Kong and also hav­ing rid­den in Europe. He’s right up with the best jock­eys in Aus­tralia now and has what it takes for a race like the Mel­bourne Cup.’’ While Voleuse de Coeurs is on the top 10 list of Cup qual­i­fiers, Mike also har­bours hopes of at least one other run­ner, with lesser lights Araldo and Garud en­gaged in Satur­day’s fi­nal chance qual­i­fier, the Lexus Hand­i­cap. That’s the same race that Brew won and thereby snuck into the Cup field in 2000 and Mike hasn’t given up hope that he may get the chance of a de­cent sec­ond-string prospect.

As al­ready re­ferred to, im­ports make up the bulk of Mel­bourne Cup run­ners th­ese days, but New Zealand is likely to still have one run­ner, the Roger James-trained Silent Achiever. While she’s trained in Cam­bridge, the 2012 New Zealand Derby win­ner has a strong lo­cal con­nec­tion, be­ing by Waikato Stud sire O’Reilly and reared at Valachi Downs, the Hin­uera Val­ley nurs­ery be­long­ing to Silent Achiever’s Christchurch owner Kevin Hick­man.

Mike Moroney

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