Mornington trainer Grahame Begg is now all set to saddle his very first runner in the Melbourne Cup this year (see top runners).
His Lunar Flare bagged a golden ticket to ballot exemption when winning the Bart Cummings at Flemington on Saturday, a hard-fought victory gained by just half a length.
Extra Distance No Worry for Flare Team
There aren’t many races offering ballot exemption in the Melbourne Cup. That is one of the reasons Saturday’s Group Three, 2500-metre event was so important.
Grahame Begg’s seven-year-old mare Lunar Flare was very tough in scoring in the Bart Cummings. The daughter of Cup winner Fiorente reached the lead when it counted to get the better of Chris Waller’s Francesco Guardi and race favourite Interpretation (Maher & Eustace) to set up a date with destiny on November 1.
Now, Lunar Flare has booked a place in the Cup field in which she will carry only 51kg. Her jockey Michael Dee has also spoken out to say that going a further 700 metres in the Cup should be no problem for the mare.
While moving up to 3200m put her into the unknown, the way she saw things out on Saturday is crucial. She was very strong through the line and looked as though she had more to come this season.
On Saturday, she showed a nice turn of foot alongside a stayers’ attitude. That is a deadly combination in terms of the Melbourne Cup. She must surely be on many punters’ shortlists now.
Moonee Valley the Next Stop
Grahame Begg has had to wait a little for a Melbourne Cup winner. Clearly delighted at having his first coming up, he did train last year’s Caulfield Cup runner-up, Nonconformist.
He wants to go one better in the Cup and has already nominated Lunar Flare’s next outing. She is set to attempt to defend her Moonee Valley Cup crown on October 22. She will then head straight back to Flemington for the big one just 12 days later.
The key thing to remember about Lunar Flare is that Saturday was likely not her peak. This was the third run in a planned prep.
The team appears to know this time around exactly what is needed in terms of getting her ready. Their aim right from the start was to get her into the Melbourne Cup this time after winning the Moonee Valley Cup with her last year, so her being fully qualified now takes off all the pressure.
There was an element of luck in winning on Saturday, as there often is. Francesco Guardi clipped heels before being shunted to the back of the pack, only to run on late and grab second place. With a better run, Chris Waller’s runner may well have caught and passed Lunar Flare.
That’s not for Begg and co. to worry about though. It is now all systems go for October 22 and November 1.
Read more news about the Melbourne Cup.