Worth Aus$750,000 and run at weight-for-age, Cummings, hoping his outsider Sirmione would run well enough to force his way into the big $5 million group I Melbourne Cup over two miles next Tuesday, sat in the stands and was stunned when the race finished.
Sirmione (Encosta de Lago—World Guide), whose previous form was 15th of 16 over 10 furlongs in September, 10th of 14 over 8 ½ furlongs in October, and then 12th of 16 in the Caulfield Cup carrying just 51.5kg two weeks back, was unwanted by punters this time. He had to carry 58.5kg and his race record read 20 starts and just two wins.
But no one told the horse.
The big gelding was up against the most expensive horse in the land in favored Haradasun. He also was opposing the fading Champion mare Miss Finland, likely Melbourne Cup favorite Zipping, and two previous Caulfield Cup winners in Tawqeet and Railings, just to name a few.
On top of this, the pace was on and genuine throughout and he was back 20 lengths from the lead with three furlongs to travel—in front of just two horses in the field of 14 as they swept for home.
"But he just seemed to love the pace being on from the outset and he stormed home," gleamed his rider Peter Mertens. "I had my manager ring to see if I could get on the horse and now I have a real live chance in the Melbourne Cup. I am very happy," said the jockey.
Cummings, who has trained more Melbourne Cup winners than any man alive at 12, and who has a life sized bronze statue of himself adorning the track at Flemington as a result, said simply, "Well we are back in the Cup with a chance. He’s been a nice horse who has been looking for a fast pace and he got one here today. In his past few races he has over raced because he could not settle behind horses. He settled today when the pace was on. I will run him in the Cup and I am grateful his owners believed me and kept patient with him. Saying all that, he does seem better suited at the 10 furlongs but you can’t win the Melbourne Cup sitting in your stall at home."
Sirmione swept past New Zealand’s best galloper, Princess Coup (Encosta de Lago—Stoneyfell Road), whose run was awesome. She dawdled out of the gates and was a conspicuous three lengths behind every runner after they had gone two furlongs, yet skillfully her rider Kerrin McEvoy weaved a passage between runners and brought her home down the centre of the track like a train. Her run from a Cup’s perspective was outstanding, as was the third-place finisher Zipping (Danehill—Social Scene), who will go into the Cup the best of the Australian chances to keep the Cup on home soil.
He came from last on the bend and was astonishing with his finishing fractions.
In sad news though, Haradasun (Fusaichi Pegasus —Circles Of Gold) broke down and finished near the tail of the field. He is a group I winner and impeccably bred and the whispers around the track suggested he would soon be retired. Also Miss Finland, who finished a plugging fifth in the field, is now to be spelled and will not run in the Melbourne Cup—a race she had been highly fancied and heavily backed to win.