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Red Cadeaux’s trainer Ed Dunlop jokes that his men on the ground in Melbourne are “like an old married couple” caring for a spoiled only child. But they are the secret to Dunlop’s international success and Red Cadeaux’s two near-misses in the Melbourne Cup.
His constant travelling companions are foreman Robin Trevor-Jones and rider Steve Nicholson, both 52 and genuine horsemen.
“I’m just here for the race,” Dunlop said when he arrived for a fourth shot at the Melbourne Cup with the twice runner-up.
“The trainer is in there [he points to the Werribee track and Trevor-Jones]. He knows the horse and knows what is going on.
“Steve and him are a good team and they do it well.”
For the three years Red Cadeaux has hopped around the world – Australia, Dubai, Hong Kong, Japan – If he had frequent flyers he could upgrade to first class but that wouldn’t be necessary.
“He travels in a box by himself, we pay extra for that,” Nicholson said. “You do this, you do it right.
“Everything right has to be done right.”
Before him there had been Lailani, Ouija Board and Court Masterpiece for Dunlop and his team. Mare Snow Fairy was the latest star from the Dunlop yard, winning in England, Ireland, Japan and Hong Kong.
“I have been very lucky, now I have travelled 29 group 1 winners in seven countries over 18 years,” Trevor-Jones said in a matter of fact way. It is not boasting but he could be the best traveller of horses in the world.
Red Cadeaux accounts for one of those, the Hong Kong Vase, but his seconds in the Dubai World Cup and in two Melbourne Cups have his prizemoney at more than $6.3 million. He is a favourite of Trevor-Jones.
“When you go aboard with them as much as we do with him they become special. You know them,” he said.
The former National Hunt rider is the benchmark for travelling.
“You learn a massive amount doing this,” Trevor-Jones said.
“You see other trainers that are coming here and they are using 90 per cent of my stuff. They are saying where’s this, where’s that and they haven’t got it.
“It is the experience of me going around the world. I know what you need normally to keep a horse going when they are aboard.
“And you need so much. That’s why I have a truck full of medical gear and a truck full of other gear. You just need so much stuff.”
While having the right horse is the starting point, the right man on the ground is just as important. Timing is imperative.
“The hardest thing is having them right on the day and it is only one day,” Trevor-Jones said. “You don’t want them getting there the week before or having them there the week after.”
Watching Nicholson and Trevor-Jones work together with their old horse is amazing. Trevor-Jones walks out out with his going stick to test the ground then Nicholson arrives on Red Cadeaux.
“Look,” Trevor-Jones said.
“All right,” Nicholson replies.
“It gets firmer as you go out, so be careful and stay around here,” Trevor Jones says moving to the centre of the track.
Red Cadeaux does his work and the men are pleased as they try to line up their hopes in the Melbourne Cup.
“Things have gone quiet smoothly. You always have your little issues but things have gone well. Things have gone pretty well,” Trevor-Jones said.
“You have to respect the lad that rides him all the time, you got to take his word for how he is going.”
Nicholson thinks about it for a minute and gives a measured response.
“He seems no different to the other times but you have to realise he was five, six in your terms, the first time we came here. He is nine now and it does catch up with us all,” Nicholson said. “He still seems fine but you notice more and more as they get older niggly little problems.”
“The closer the race gets the more problems you see. Your eyes start playing tricks on you,” Trevor-Jones adds. “He has 57kg and is older but gee I would like to get my hands on that Cup. I saw it the other day and it is beautiful.
“He is ready. We are happy.”
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