Melbourne Cup favourite Admire Rakti flying under the radar

Still a mystery … Admire Rakti at Werribee. Photo: Vince Caligiuri Still a mystery … Admire Rakti at Werribee. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

Still a mystery … Admire Rakti at Werribee. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

Still a mystery … Admire Rakti at Werribee. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

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Only a few days out from Australia’s great race and it appears you would have more chance of scaling the barbed wire walls at Werribee and riding Admire Rakti to victory on Tuesday yourself than diving deep into the camp of the Melbourne Cup favourite.

It has had Cup fanatics in a quizzical mood. Has there been a Melbourne Cup in recent history where the favourite has gone so Des Hasler on us and been just a blip on the race radar? Of course, it is through no fault of their own.

Apart from owner Riichi Kondo’s chest-beating and veiled threat to go home if Admire Rakti was penalised for his Caulfield Cup win in the Melbourne Cup weights, the Japanese iron horse still remains something of a mystery.

Greg Carpenter kept international relations at ease with a straight-down-the-middle 0.5 kilogram penalty after the Caulfield Cup, forcing the Japanese to shrug, ‘What was all the fuss about going home?’

Sure, his stablemate Admire Inazuma has done his best to attract the headlines with a blink-and-you-miss-it savaging of the Cup favourite a couple of weeks ago, but in truth there has been little else to tell about Admire Rakti.

Track touts suggest his workload at Werribee has been limited – at best – since a herculean Caulfield Cup win. Just maybe that run took more out of the tank – supposed to be so superior to anything we’ve got to offer – than we first thought?

But he is still solid at the top of betting, worked even more solidly in his final serious gallop at Werribee on Friday and then trainer Tomoyuki Umeda smiled and greeted the media briefly before leaving without any headline-grabbing quotes.

Perhaps the one most under the pump has been Umeda’s trusty interpreter, mildly embarrassed when he stumbled over the translation of one of the trainer’s responses with a press pack intent on digesting every word.

“We’re really happy he’s favourite now and his condition is so good so we hope he can answer the punters,” the response came to a question about favouritism.

Compare that to the Red Cadeaux camp, which had bleary-eyed trainer Ed Dunlop accosted by the media contingent at Werribee on Thursday almost the moment he had cleared customs.

He fronted up again on Friday – with at least a few hours sleep under his belt this time – as his team put the final touches on the nine-year-old’s preparation.

Dunlop could be the best international advertisement the Melbourne Cup has ever had, yet is still to take it away. Yet you get the impression the Japanese – always struggling to give because it is often lost in translation – might just be the ones who get to take it away.

“Last start in the Caulfield Cup some people didn’t know what we raced [in], but after he won the Melbourne Cup people understood he’s going to go to the Melbourne Cup,” Umeda said of the response to the Melbourne spring in Japan. “Lots of people are looking at the race.”

And Umeda appears to have been studying the Caulfield Cup too, declaring Kris Lees’ Lucia Valentina the main danger to a Japanese success on Tuesday.

The remark would have pleased the flag-waving jingoists, who no doubt are far more receptive to a footy-mad trainer who calls steel city at Newcastle home leaving with the spoils rather than the land of the rising sun.

“Because all competitors are strong, mainly the Caulfield Cup third [placegetter] because we run together and she’s only got 53 kilos,” Umeda said. “She is the one we have to beat.”

Maybe they already have in dodging the Melbourne Cup media machine.

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