A decision to target the Melbourne Cup fresh this year has almost achieved the dream result for connections of English-trained stayer Marmelo at Flemington.
And despite coming so close to winning Australia’s most famous race in his second attempt with Marmelo, trainer Hughie Morrison was understandably proud at the performance of the stayer to run second to the younger and lighter-weighted Cross Counter.
Marmelo, with Winx’s jockey Hugh Bowman aboard, saved ground on the inside from back in the field turning for home and then hit the front inside the final 200m before the Charlie Appleby-trained Cross Counter charged by him late to win by a length.
“Great ride. Great horse. He came virtually from last to nearly first,” Morrison said.
“He came through beautifully, chased down the leading horse (A Prince Of Arran) and then just got run down.
“It’s fantastic to be second in the Melbourne Cup. But to be second when you’re nearly there…but great credit to Charlie (Appleby).
“I always thought he was the horse to worry about. A (northern hemisphere) three-year-old.
“Marmelo has run his heart out.”
Morrison brought Marmelo to Australia last year and the horse ran an eye-catching sixth in the Caulfield Cup before starting equal favourite in that year’s Melbourne Cup.
He didn’t repeat his Caulfield performance in the 2017 Melbourne Cup, finishing ninth.
Connections learned from that experience and went into Tuesday’s race without an Australian lead-up run.
Morrison admitted it was only for a split second that he thought Marmelo might have been going to win when he made his charge closest to the inside.
“I wasn’t sure at first we were going to run down the third horse (A Prince Of Arran) and then when we went past him I just saw the red cap (of Cross Counter) coming,” he said.
“It’s a great thrill to achieve as much as we have done. Everyone has done a great job.”
Morrison said he would love to come back for another crack at the Melbourne Cup, hopefully with Marmelo.
“I think we certainly should consider it,” he said.
The second placing was also the closest Australia’s premier Group One jockey Hugh Bowman has come to winning the Melbourne Cup.
“He ran his race,” Bowman said.
“(I’m) disappointed, but proud of the horse. Congratulations to Hughie for bringing him over in such good order.”