Top Irish trainer Willie Mullins is leaving no stone unturned in his bid to win the prestigious Melbourne Cup in Australia this year.
Mullins has booked six-time Hong Kong champion jockey Zac Purton to ride Absurde, thus renewing a partnership that nearly came up trumps six years ago.
Purton finished third aboard Max Dynamite in ‘the race that stops the nation’ for the Mullins stable in 2017 and is hoping to go a couple of places better this time around.
Absurde booked his place in the Melbourne Cup by winning the Ebor Handicap at York in August – a performance that had online bookmakers running for cover.
The horse was backed into 17.00 in the Melbourne Cup betting sites having previously been more than double that price before emerging victorious on the Knavesmire.
Purton will replace Frankie Dettori in the saddle at Flemington Racecourse, with the popular Italian jockey unable to get down to the 53kg weight Absurde has been allotted for the race.
After previously coming close to winning the Melbourne Cup for the Mullins stable, Purton is eager to help the Irishman secure an elusive first success in the race.
“I think he’s just a wizard as a trainer, he’s a very, very intelligent guy when it comes to training horses,” Purton said. “You can even see with the Melbourne Cup, the horses he picks to take down for the race, how he strategically places them in the lead-up races to try and beat the handicapper.
“He just knows exactly what he’s doing and I’d always said to my manager that he’s a trainer that I think one day is going to win the Melbourne Cup and hopefully we can be a part of it.
“Unfortunately, it’s been hard to get the right rides in it because the Europeans generally take their own jockeys, the Japanese like to take their own jockeys, and the rides in Australia are sewn up by the jockeys that have the connections with the owners and trainers down there.
“From the position I’m in, it’s just really hard to get that right horse and I’ve got an opportunity again, so hopefully I can make the most of it. I’ve had an amazing career, I’ve ridden a lot of great horses, and won a lot of big races but this is the one that is left that I’d love to win now.”
While Purton is dreaming of bashing the bookies aboard Absurde, his hopes of winning the race could be scuppered by another Mullins runner.
The Irish trainer also has Melbourne Cup favourite Vauban in the race and many respected pundits believe he is banker bet at odds of 5.00 to claim victory.
Vauban highlighted his credentials by defeating Absurde by seven lengths at Royal Ascot before following up with a hugely impressive victory at Naas.
The three-time Grade 1 winner over hurdles has been allotted just 55kg by the Melbourne Cup handicapper and looks thrown in based on his sparkling form over obstacles.
Mullins has lined up top British jockey Ryan Moore to ride Vauban, although his plans could change if fellow Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien books him for one of his horses.
It is unclear who Mullins will turn to if Moore is unavailable, although he has previously mentioned that Dettori could manage to ride at 55kg.
Regardless of who is aboard Vauban in the Melbourne Cup, Mullins’ assistant David Casey is confident the horse will run a massive race. He is in Australia to oversee the preparations for both of Mullins’ runners but was particularly bullish about Vauban’s chances.
“Touch wood, he seems fine,” Casey said. “He travelled well, it seems he’s eating and drinking since he came and arrived. He didn’t lose a lot of weight and he’s put it all actually back on since he came. I’m delighted with him.
“He had a little hack this morning, nothing strenuous – so, so far so good. I went over and rode him last week before he left, gave him a nice bit of work, and was very happy with him.”