NAKEETA was certainly lucky to earn a spot in this year’s Melbourne Cup and come Tuesday afternoon at Flemington, at least two Bathurst residents are hoping he is lucky again.
Bathurst’s Mick and Stacey Whittaker own a small share in the British gelding via Australian Thoroughbred Racing, so have their fingers crossed the Iain Jardine trained galloper can feature.
The eight-year-old Sixties Icon x Easy Red gelding carries their hopes after it was decided Tiberian – another stayed they own a small share of – would not return for another shot at the Melbourne Cup this year after running seventh in 2017.
“We were kind of hoping that Tiberian may well have come back, but they decided part-way through the preparation that we’d probably pass on him. So he stayed over in France and has raced over there,” Mick Whittaker said.
“It [Nakeeta share] was purchased with the intention to come back for the cup, but then that almost didn’t happen.”
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As Whittaker indicated Nakeeta was lucky to be included in the field for the $7.3 million Melbourne Cup (3,200 metres). After finishing 7.25 lengths off the pace in the Ebor Hanidcap (2,816m), it came down to the result of Saturday’s Victoria Derby as to whether or not he would get the nod.
“He ran in the Ebor, he ran well in the Ebor, but he just got held up in midfield in a bit of a collision between horses. That ruined our chances there,” Whittaker said.
“On Saturday we were sitting at 25, then we went up to 24 when a horse [Red Verdon] got scratched. Then we had to sit and wait for the derby and hope that Gai Waterhouse’s horse didn’t win, it was Thinkin’ Big.
“For us thankfully Thinkin’ Big didn’t win and we were in, the last horse in.”
While Nakeeta came from 14th at the 400m to finish fifth in last year’s Melbourne Cup, is carrying the same weight (53 kilograms) and has drawn well in barrier three, he is one of the outsiders for Tuesday.
Some markets on Monday had him at odds as long as 91-1 given he was beaten by 14.25 lengths when 13th in the Moonee Valley Cup last start. Still, Whittaker is hoping he can do better than that suggests.
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“Gee whizz, it’s a hotly contested field, horses like Yucatan, Best Solution, Marmelo – you can just rattle them off. But we know that our horse can run two miles and no-one gave him a chance last year – no-one gave Tiberian a chance either – but one ran five and one ran seven,” he said.
“We’ve got a bit better barrier this year, we’re barrier three, so it’s a bit more exciting having an inside barrier. Hopefully he can just sit midfield and has got a good sprint in him at the end.
“If we can just get some open space and a bit of luck, who knows? We are probably not expecting him to win, but I think if he ran sort of top eight, I think that would actually probably be a major success. If he could run anywhere in the placings – one, two, three – it would be beyond my wildest dreams.”
The cup starts at 3pm.