LUCA CUMANI had cause to feel a little hard done by after another fruitless Melbourne Cup campaign on Tuesday as Mount Athos, a horse that many experts believed was the perfect beast for the world's most famous race, was beaten in incredibly unlucky circumstances.
The stars seemed to align for Cumani after seven years of failed attempts and gut-wrenching narrow defeats as Mount Athos looked to be the horse to deliver his coveted Melbourne Cup. The horse was in career-best form but still to peak, had enjoyed a trouble-free preparation, was in the race with a winnable weight and had drawn an ideal barrier. All that Britain's best jockey Ryan Moore had to do was avoid trouble. And avoid it he did as Mount Athos cruised in midfield with cover behind Sanagas, seemingly poised to pounce until the 600 metres when he encountered the brutish bulk of former winner Americain, which twice pounded into Mount Athos as the field turned into the home straight.
"He got a couple of bad bumps on the bend, he got knocked around," Cumani said. "He has passed 10 horses in the last furlong [200m] and had the fastest finish in the race, but it was hard for him with the pace. I was surprised by how slow they went, they [the leaders] slowed it right down to a walk. You can't do much about that."
Cumani's other runner, My Quest For Peace, was also a victim of the slow speed and struggled to quicken with the urgency required to win the race. "He's not a sprinter, that's not his race, and he couldn't pick up with those horses," he said.
One European which did pick up off the slow pace was Jakkalberry. The 80-1 outsider gave his local fans an incredible thrill as he charged to the line.
Managing part-owner Darren Dance, whose company Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock bought Jakkalberry from Italy last year, said his team would continue to chase the world's best staying races with the seven-year-old, starting with the Japan Cup in December.
"I told anyone that would listen three months ago that he would run top five and everyone laughed at me. He has run a great race, he's a great stayer and we've all had an incredible day. He'll go straight to Japan now," he said.
Although his trainer Dermot Weld had avoided calling for rain before the race, sole Irish representative Galileo's Choice was never comfortable on the firm track and faded into 20th place despite enjoying a perfect run.
Popular backmarkers Dunaden and Red Cadeaux could not get into the race and battled to the line to finish 14th and eighth respectively.
"They just went too slow, it's as simple as that, unfortunately," said Red Cadeaux's trainer Ed Dunlop.
And Godolphin could not manage a fairytale send-off for long-time stable rider Frankie Dettori as Cavalryman struggled to run into the finish from the tail of the field. Hopelessly placed turning for home, the former Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe placegetter ran home into 12th but never threatened.