Wheeler back for another Cup, 20 years on

New Zealand trainer John Wheeler would love to cap off his career with a Melbourne Cup.

“I’d love to win it because it would be my 25th Group One winner in Australia which would be really cool,” Wheeler said.

“It would be a milestone and I’d be happy to die with 25, especially if it culminated in a Melbourne Cup.”

Twenty years after his last crack at the Melbourne Cup, Wheeler is back with a five-year-old gelding he part-owns.

Pentathlon, who came seventh in Saturday’s Lexus Stakes, will jump from barrier four with Mark Du Plessis aboard.

“We’re still a chance in the race,” Wheeler told AAP.

“From four he should be able to put the horse to sleep and come into the race late. I just hope he can do it.”

Wheeler came agonisingly close to winning both the Melbourne Cup and Caulfield Cup with Veandercross in 1992, only to be the bridesmaid both times.

The $6.2 million Cup still has a strong appeal.

“It’s a euphoric experience to have a horse in the Melbourne Cup, it really is,” Wheeler said.

“It’s an old cliche but it’s the race that stops a nation. It stops New Zealand too, don’t worry about that.”

Wheeler is best known for training outstanding 1990s galloper and 11-time Group One winner Rough Habit, with both in the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame.

Wheeler, who won a Cox Plate with Our Poetic Prince in 1988, has been winding down his training operation.

He now has about 20-25 horses in work, down from 70..

Although he hasn’t won the Melbourne Cup, the canny kiwi has an impressive record in Australia with distance horses having won nine Great Eastern Steeplechases at Oakbank in South Australia and four Grand Annual Steeplechases at Warrnambool.

“I’ve won a lot of jumping races but that’s my sort of my hobby. I own a lot of them.

“The flat racing is my business.”

He has no plans to leave the racing industry completely.

“I just love everything about it but I don’t want to die just training racehorses. I’d sooner play golf and do other things as well.”

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