Athens aims for Cup dou­ble

The Sportsman Special Issue - - 80 - By MATHEW TOOGOOD

IT might only be early March but al­ready trainer Brian May­field­Smith has the spring on his mind.

May­field-Smith will start Road To Athens in the Group Two Ade­laide Cup (3200m) on Mon­day and is us­ing the race as a pointer to the Red­oute’s Choice geld­ing’s Mel­bourne Cup prospects.

May­field-Smith has made it no se­cret a Mel­bourne Cup win would ful­fil his train­ing ca­reer.

The master horse­man went close in 2006 when Maybe Bet­ter was beaten only by the Ja­panese duo Delta Blues and Pop Rock.

And then Maybe Bet­ter’s at­tempt to win the race that stops the na­tion last year was left in tat­ters when he had to be scratched on race morn­ing.

May­field-Smith said Mon­day’s Ade­laide Cup was a good chance for him to see if Road To Athens can join Maybe Bet­ter on a Mel­bourne Cup trail in the Spring.

The Ade­laide Cup has been a tar­get of his for a while be­cause I wanted to find a lesser op­tion over two miles to see how he could shape up look­ing ahead to the spring,’’ May­field-Smith said.

The Mel­bourne Cupis def­i­nitely a race I want to win. It’s get­ting harder to win ev­ery year but you can’t give up.

I have got pretty lim­ited chances com­pared to some oth­ers but I’ve just got to keep throw­ingmy­hat into the ring ev­ery year.’’

Road To Athens was an eye­catcher in the Lord Reims Stakes last start, rat­tling home at the end of 2600m from near the tail of the field to fin­ish third be­hind other Cup fan­cies Ex­alted Ego and Sad­dler’s Story.

It showed he can run a very strong 2600m with the task he was set,’’ May­field-Smith said.

But 3200m is a dif­fer­ent ball game all to­gether and you don’t re­ally know how they’ll go un­til you run them.’’

Road To Athens trav­elled home af­ter his last start in Ade­laide and has done very well ahead of the Cup, pleas­ing his trainer with his track­work and his ap­pear­ance.

He looks re­ally good and he’s very bright,’’ he said.

That part of it is all good.’’ What isn’t so good, how­ever, is the bar­rier draw and the task he might have to be set by Corey Brown.

The geld­ing has drawn bar­rier 23 but will start from gate 20 in the 20 horse line-up af­ter the emer­gen­cies are taken out.

When asked what he thought of his geld­ing’s chances, May­field­Smith quipped: I hope he has a com­pass’’.

It’s go­ing to be hard from there. He’ll have to go back be­cause if he goes for­ward and com­mits too soon he could get caught and he’s still got 3200m to run...he’s not proven at the dis­tance yet.’’

But, de­spite the bar­rier, May­field­Smith re­fused to ad­mit de­feat and said the re­sult would be de­ter­mined by whether or not my horse gets a good run or not’’.

I would be a hel­luva lot keener with a bet­ter bar­rier. He can still win but he’ll need a ter­rific run. And that’s in the lap of the gods.’’

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