Luca Cumani, Europe's unluckiest travelling trainer when it comes to the Melbourne spring carnival, is hopeful rather than confident of finally landing the coveted loving cup next Tuesday, saying he can't be anything more after a decade of failed Cup attempts.
A year ago, Cumani toured with Mount Athos, a horse he considered to be the perfect Cup contender, and he returns this year with the same horse.
So far this tour, Cumani's biggest worry is the tempo set by Mount Athos' sluggish track work partner, a horse the trainer believes was last seen in ''a rocking horse race. He's very slow.''
Mount Athos is fit and has travelled better than 12 months ago. He is due to carry the same handicap assigned last year, has the attention of leading local rider Craig Williams and, most importantly, is in better form than last year despite some mid-season hiccups.
''It's not worth the paper it's written on his form this year. But, joking aside, his two bad runs didn't pan out as they should have done but his last run was excellent. In a slowly run race he nearly managed to beat Harris Tweed and Harris Tweed was only just caught in a big race at Ascot 10 days ago so the form is strong,'' he said.
Joining Cumani at Werribee yesterday was Saeed bin Suroor, head trainer of the global Godolphin racing team and another long-time luckless visitor to the Melbourne spring carnival.
Godolphin's Cup quest began in 1998 with Faithful Son, followed by a steady trickle of horses decked out in the stable's famous royal blue silks, including its sole Australian group 1 winner All the Good, which took the Caulfield Cup in 2008.
Rapidly improving stayer Royal Empire is Godolphin's only representative this spring but bin Suroor believes the horse is one of the best of the visitors to Melbourne after an easy group 3 win over Red Cadeaux at Newbury, in August, and two group 3 placings in strong races since.
''Royal Empire is in good form, he's done his main work in England and since he has arrived he's been fresh and happy and healthy. He's in very good shape, no problem,'' bin Suroor said.
So confident is bin Suroor that Royal Empire can deliver his maiden Melbourne Cup win, that he will forgo commitments at the Breeders' Cup meeting in the US this week to stay with the horse and add the finishing touches to its campaign.
''He's a class horse and improving all the time and he'll be good enough. I prefer this horse to Crime Scene [second to Shocking in 2009] he is improving all the time and has some real confidence in himself. He has a big heart and he fights in the race really well,'' he said.
''I think the horse has a chance, a very good chance, and now we're looking for a good result.''
Also returning for another crack at the Melbourne Cup are Dunaden and Red Cadeaux, but it is the latter that has attracted most attention at Werribee quarantine centre so far.
Now an eight-year-old, Red Cadeaux has looked in fantastic order since arriving at Werribee and cannot be underestimated, according to Ed Dunlop's travelling foreman, Robin Trevor-Jones, who is stunned that the horse is considered a $51 chance for the Cup.
''People here must have short memories. Don't forget that this horse ran second in the Dubai World Cup in March and then third in the Tenno Sho, in Japan, and that race was run in much faster time than the Melbourne Cup,'' he said. ''We know he's in great shape, we know he goes well here, and he's right in the race as far as we're concerned.''