Anthony Mithen is relieved that Runaway appears more likely than not to gain a Melbourne Cup start, but that doesn’t mean the owner is not disappointed he is not guaranteed a place.
The four-year-old was on Thursday morning handed a 1.5kg penalty for his Geelong Cup win, which takes his Melbourne Cup weight to 52kg and therefore 28th in order of entry for a start in the $7.3 million event.
He needs four higher-ranked horses to drop out – five if Saturday week’s Hotham Handicap winner is below him in the order of entry – to gain a start in the race limited to 24 runners, which Mithen considers unfair for a horse who is also a Listed VRC St Leger winner and Group 1 Derby placegetter.
“I think it’s probably appropriate,” Mithen said of the penalty. “It’s equal to the biggest (Geelong Cup) penalty in the last 20 years, so you’re starting to clutch at straws wanting to go any higher.
“I’m really comfortable with that, that’s fine. It’s just the system more so that we’ve got to have a look at and try and work out if there’s a better way that horses that are as well-credentialed as him are assured a run in our premier staying event.
“He’s won a St Leger, he’s placed in a Derby, he’s now won a Geelong Cup, so he profiles up pretty good. If one of those internationals had done all of that, we’d be fawning over them and they’d be $4 favourite. Instead we’re still scrapping and clawing to get a run.
“At 28, with natural attrition, he probably would get a run, but we are still going to walk that tightrope over that next week or so wondering and hoping for the right news.”
Runaway, under 54kg, led most of the way to score a three-quarters-of-a-length win over Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained stablemate Northwest Passage (54.5kg), with 59kg topweight Finche the same distance away third.
The 1.5kg penalty Greg Carpenter handed Runaway – a $67 chance in BetEasy’s Melbourne Cup market – was the same assigned to Caravan Rolls On in 2014 and also Media Puzzle, who completed the Geelong Cup/Melbourne Cup double in 2002.
Americain and Dunaden have also won both races since and Mithen, Stud Principal at Gnarwarre-based Rosemont Stud, said that link between Geelong’s signature event and the Melbourne Cup made it an obvious choice if the VRC was looking to bolster its list of locally-run ballot-exempt races.
“As a proud Geelong local, I’d love the VRC to get their heads together with the Geelong Racing Club and say, ‘You’ve got the race that’s in the perfect slot for internationals and the last-minute dreamers to head into that race and get a spot. We’re happy to partner with you and make that the race that can get you there’,” he said.
“That would be the logical thought process, I would think. It doesn’t detract from Flemington in any way, it’s just that the timing’s right and it would be a great thing for racing in this state and certainly this area.”