Luca Cumani has been a regular spring visitor over the past decade, but this year he is set to arrive with the Melbourne Cup favourite and, for the first time, a Cox Plate challenger among his team.
Mount Athos was moved to the top of Melbourne Cup betting after he completed a hat-trick of wins and the progression from handicap to group 3 company in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.
Only three runs back, the son of Montjeu won a handicap at Newmarket before taking out the Silver Cup at York. He furthered his Melbourne Cup credentials by showing a good turn of foot to race to 3¼-length win at Newbury.
His quote for the Melbourne Cup was cut to A$17, making him favourite after having been as long as A$71 when TAB Sportsbet released its opening market.
Mount Athos' owner, Marwan Koukash, has booked his ticket to Melbourne and was enthusiastic after the watching the win.
''Melbourne here we come!'' he told the Racing Post. ''That was fantastic, beating group 1 horses. I always had confidence in him. He will go into quarantine and go to Australia early.''
Cumani has twice run second in the Melbourne Cup with Purple Moon in 2007 followed by Bauer, by the narrowest of margins, in 2008.
His team will include Quest For Peace for the OTI racing syndicate and the trainer expects both stayers to be well weighted in the Melbourne Cup, which is likely to be Mount Athos's only run in Australia.
''After this, I would think [Mount Athos] will go up to 53.5 kilograms, which is the same as one of our other hopes for the race, Quest For Peace,'' Cumani said after the Freer.
''The plan is for him to go into quarantine for two weeks starting on September 12, then travel to Australia on September 27 or 28.''
Cumani could also bring Afsare, which was second in the Arlington Million in Chicago on Saturday, for the Cox Plate. However, it is Mount Athos which is causing the most interest.
''He has been backed right the way through betting and Luca knows what sort of horse you need to bring to Melbourne,'' TAB Sportsbet's Glenn Munsie said. ''It was an impressive win, the best Cup trial so far this year, and given the lack of Cup horses that have started their preparation in Australia and the early money for him, it is not surprising he is favourite.''
Also at Arlington, Australian-owned Jakkalberry won the American St Leger in track record time and was trimmed from A$35 to A$26 by TAB Sportsbet for the Melbourne Cup.
-Sydney Morning Herald