Should Japan owner Shunsuke Yoshida accept the challenge of running Eye Popper in the Melbourne Cup (Aust-I), he should be assured of a greater representation from his country's media at Flemington Nov. 1 than witnessed the horse's grand Caulfield Cup (Aust-I) second Oct. 15.
Eye Popper came within a stride of taking the $2.5 million (Australian funds) Caulfield Cup. The 5-year-old and Shinji Fujita were caught right at the wire by Railings, the Zabeel 4-year-old's late surge taking him a short neck clear at the end.
Local hero Mummify was a similar distance away in third after bravely attempting to lead from wire-to-wire, out of the No. 17 gate and with topweight of 126 pounds.
Mummify lost a bigger battle the following day, euthanized after smashing the sesamoid bones in his left front ankle. The $5 million winner broke down badly 100 meters after the line in attempting to repeat his 2003 success.
Eye Popper was 40-1 as the first runner from Japan to contest the Melbourne Racing Club's marquee race, the second most important handicap in Australia.
Trained by Izumi Shimizu, he is by Soccer Boy, a dual group I winner by Dictus and champion juvenile of Japan in 1987, as well as champion miler in 1988. The horse was bred at the family's Northern Farm, headed by Shunsuke's father, Katsumi Yoshida.
At Caulfield, their southern ambassador was wonderfully brave after being trapped wide just off the pace in fourth. His trench warfare with the doomed Mummify over the final 250 meters was the stuff of legend, their quests blanked as Railings gave his sire Zabeel a third Caulfield Cup win.
On a hard, fast track, the 2:27.97 for the 2,400 meters was the fourth fastest in the past 10 years.
It was his first appearance since third in the Tenno Sho (Jpn-I) at 3,200 meters May 1. At Kyoto he was beaten 1-1/2 lengths, dual Melbourne Cup winner Makybe Diva seventh.
Eye Popper rated just outside the top 10 horses in Japan for 2005, to July 31. His 111 pounds was only two pounds below Tenno Sho winner, Suzuka Mambo, at 2,800 meters and over.
He has 54kg in the Melbourne Cup, the same weight he carried at Caulfield and, should he recover, in time for Flemington, must be a great chance.
At 6-1, he is currently third favorite behind Makybe Diva (4-1) and Caulfield Cup fifth Leica Falcon (5-1).