Monday, October 2, 2023

Former Soccer Player Eyeing More Melbourne Cup Success

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Abhinab Ghosh
A 26-year-old sports writer and an aspiring football coach who has road-tripped across the Scottish Highlands, but has never been to Wales. Sucker for cliff-hangers and catchy riffs. Known to be a grunger and not to be a stranger.

A former budding soccer star is on a mission to pocket a bumper payout by winning the Melbourne Cup for the second successive year.

Irishman Noel Greenhalgh initially headed to Australia during the 1980s with the sole ambition of winning a professional soccer trophy.

However, in addition to getting his hands on silverware during his time with Brisbane City, Greenhalgh also developed a passion for Australian horse racing. He dreamed of one day winning the Melbourne Cup after buying his first racehorse in 1989, but had to wait 33 years before achieving the feat.

Greenhalgh’s decision to acquire part-ownership of Gold Trip pay dividends when the horse stormed to victory in last year’s race. Having tasted success in the ‘race that stops the nation’, Greenhalgh is understandably eager to repeat the feat this year.

He has tasked joint trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace with preparing Gold Trip for another tilt at race and will have been delighted by the horse’s recent outing. Running over an unfavourable 2,040 metres distance, Gold Trip ran a race full of promise by powering home late to finish fourth.

Eustace said he was delighted with the performance and believes the horse will come on for the run in his next assignments.

“He’ll almost certainly go to the Turnbull (Stakes) and then Caulfield Cup third-up,” he said. “He’ll have three weeks until now to the Turnbull and then two weeks to the Caulfield Cup.

“He’s had foot issues in the past but he’s had a very clear run with his feet. He’s pretty pleased with himself as well.”

While Eustace was happy with Gold Trip’s return to action, his display did not cause a ripple with most online bookmakers.

Gold Trip is available at odds of around 20/1 on leading Melbourne Cup betting sites, with bookies happy to lay a horse who will have to carry a big weight this year. Given how difficult it is to go back-to-back in the race, it is little wonder that Greenhalgh has other weapons in his armoury.

They include the Chris Waller-trained Francesco Guardi, who former jockey Shane Dye claimed would have won the race last year had he raced in it.

The horse was taken out of the Melbourne Cup prior to romping home in the Moonee Valley Gold Cup, leading Dye to claim the owners had dropped a major clanger.

However, Greenhalgh recently confirmed the horse will line up in the race this year, and odds of 12/1 put him among the more fancied runners for the event.

“He is a very, very, very exciting horse and now he has had virtually a year to prepare for the Melbourne Cup,” Greenhalgh said.

“You know how good Chris (Waller) is at getting his horses ready for grand finals. Don’t worry, I’ve told Chris that this horse will be racing in the Melbourne Cup this year.

“Before this horse went to Melbourne last spring, we were running him around in 1,800m and 2,000m races in Sydney and he was showing us little.

“But then he went to Melbourne and ran second in the Bart Cummings after nearly falling and then cruised home in the Moonee Valley Gold Cup.

“It had always been suggested to us that we wouldn’t see the best of him until he got out to distances over a mile and a half and beyond. He is regally bred by Frankel out of a Group 1-winning mare.”

The former Brisbane soccer player also has a couple of other strings to his bow as he part-owns Melbourne Cup hopefuls Soulcombe and Saint George.

Top British jockey Hollie Doyle has offered to ride Soulcombe and the horse is currently vying for favouritism with Irish raider Vauban in the ante-post market. However, Greenhalgh says Francesco Guardi is the horse he will be backing to emerge victorious in the Melbourne Cup this year.

After missing a recent engagement at Moonee Valley due to the wide barrier he received, the five-year-old is scheduled to run in a Group 1 event at Flemington.

A solid run there would have Greenhalgh dreaming about enjoying another memorable day at the prestigious Melbourne Cup meeting.

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