Muntahaa trainer eyeing historic farewell
JOHN Gosden will chase British training history and farewell Muntahaa at the same time when the enigmatic stayer contests the Melbourne Cup.
Bidding to deliver Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum's third Cup win after At Talaq (1986) and Jeune and ('94), Muntahaa is rated as one of the classiest gallopers Shadwell Stud has sent to Australia.
Gosden, who has enjoyed a stellar season in the northern hemisphere, would become the first British trainer to win the Cup if Muntahaa salutes.
dominant Ebor Handicap winner, Muntahaa will be saddled for Gosden for the final time at Flemington before transferring to Lindsay Park.
"A horse like this, he's a five-year-old gelding, he's got little mileage on the clock and he's got a lot of talent," Shadwell racing manager Angus Gold said.
"The racing here, A it's fantastic but B there's huge prize money compared to what we have in Europe. To me it makes a lot of sense for him to stay here.
"If he takes to it mentally he's the sort of horse who could win a fair bit of prize money."
To be ridden by Jim Crowley, Muntahaa shapes as a serious player in the Cup based on his emphatic Ebor display.
"He's a talented horse," Gold said.
"We've won it twice, once with At Talaq, once with Jeune.
"Both of those horses came back and won the CF Orr next time over 1400, a Group 1.
"So, to me, you need a class horse.
"We've had a lot of horses run in the race who wouldn't have the class of his horse.
"Whether he does it or not, is up to the horse.
"That's the whole point. He's a staying horse with a touch of class and so many of the Europeans who come down don't necessarily have that.
"He won the Ebor with such a display of authority. He had his old class back."
Muntahaa started favourite in 2016 St Leger, finishing fourth (Ventura Storm was second) before losing form.
"He won the Ebor with such a display of authority and showing a bit of his old class back," Gold said.
"If he reproduced that, I think he'll there in the shake up."
Meanwhile, Muntahaa's jockey Crowley's passage to the cusp of Melbourne Cup success has followed few, if any, traditional pathways. Or conventions.
Once in racing's no man's land - a jockey too heavy to compete on the flat, yet not hefty enough to contend over jumps - Crowley spent the first seven years of his career in limbo.
Clearly talented, Crowley was badgered each summer about losing weight by his father-in-law Guy Harwood, trainer of champion Dancing Brave.
"In the summer time he would always tell me to try and sweat and go on the flat and I would think 'This is crazy'," Crowley said.
Eventually, Crowley submitted to Harwood, changing his post-trackwork habits.
"I stopped eating. Stopped calling in at McDonalds for breakfast," the Englishman laughed.
"I've got it under control. I did it and I haven't looked back.
"I was in limbo. I was probably too heavy for flat and a bit too light for jumps and I managed to get my weight under control.
"It's the best decision I ever made."
Two years ago, Crowley was crowned as British flat racing champion jockey, dethroning Silvestre de Sousa, eclipsing Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori.
Crowley, who partners the mercurial Muntahaa in the Melbourne Cup, is now retained by global giant Shadwell.
He grins at the twists and turns behind his rise to the acme of international racing.
"If you'd had said somebody is going to come from jumping and then go onto become champion rider on the flat, it's just madness," he said.
"That would be the highlight.
"And this job I have for Shadwell, it's one of the biggest jobs in the world riding for Shadwell.
"You get to ride some great horses and it's a real privilege.
"We had an unbelievable year (jockey's championship year) and everything I sat on, I won on.
"That set it up for everything."
Crowley now comfortably rides at 55kg, down from about 60kg during his jumps days.
"I don't try and ride too late all of the time," he said.
"As I've got it off me now, it's a lot easier.
"It took a while to win over the trainers because a lot would say 'Oh, he's a jumps jockey.'
"But I started riding winners, it's not an issue any more.
"Guys have come from jumps to the flat since me and they've had great success.
"Ray Cochrane started on the jumps. Since me, you've got many good lads who have gone to flat.
"You've got John Allen here in Australia, too."
In a potentially telling move, Crowley opted to come to Australia early, missing the lucrative Breeders Cup meeting, to ride at Bendigo and Flemington in readiness for the Cup.
He hopes the groundwork will pay off in the Cup.