By sports editor Russell Bennett
This is not a mirage – Cranbourne has a runner in the 2019 Lexus Melbourne Cup.
Mirage Dancer finished little over a length behind winner Mer De Glace to run third in the Caulfield Cup, and is primed for a tilt at the race that stops the nation.
Now trained at Cranbourne by Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young, the six-year-old former Sir Michael Stoute-trained son of Frankel impressed all with his Caulfield Cup run – his Australian debut.
Prior to that, he had an 11-week let-up.
Busuttin told the News that he was particularly pleased with Mirage Dancer’s performance following his journey out from the UK.
“He’s an old campaigner that’s been around the races a bit and he travelled over perfectly, and it was a trouble-free preparation,” Busuttin said on the Caulfield Cup run.
“You’re always there to win, and there’s nothing like winning – there’s a big difference from winning to running third and you don’t get the wider press or anything like that – but we had a trouble-free preparation, the horse travelled over beautifully, he didn’t have an issue, and he went into the (Caulfield) Cup with no complaints and had a trouble-free run in the race, so he had every chance.
“He went well, the owners were happy, and going forward he’s a chance in the Cup – without getting carried away. He’ll go there and perform well on the day.”
Clearly, Busuttin and Young are heading into the Melbourne Cup with Mirage Dancer with every confidence that he’ll run well – despite the unknown of the 3200-metre distance. He won three times over 2412 metres in England before his third in the 2400-metre Caulfield Cup.
Busuttin was quick to praise the Cranbourne Turf Club – citing its CEO Neil Bainbridge and track manager Simon Hodgson as two of the key figures behind making it what he described as “the best training facility in the southern hemisphere”.
“It’s world-class, the Cranbourne facility,” Busuttin said.
“You’ve got a lot of grass to work on there, and any trainer will tell you that grass is the optimum training surface.
“To see the club headed by Neil Bainbridge and Simon Hodgson – they’re extremely pro-trainer, and proactive. Neil and Simon do as good a job as anyone to give trainers access to the different tracks to accommodate us.”
Mirage Dancer is currently listed as a $34 chance on Sportsbet for the 2019 Lexus Melbourne Cup.
Champion Cranbourne hoop Craig Williams, meanwhile, will look to win his first Melbourne Cup aboard the sole Australian born, bred, owned and ridden horse in the field – the heavily-backed Vow And Declare.