Jockey Lisa Allpress got her hands on the Lexus Melbourne Cup trophy last Friday and she’s hoping for a repeat on the first Tuesday in November.
Allpress has been booked to ride Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m) winner Ladies First in the A$7.3 million Gr.1 Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 6 and she was part of the team which met at trainer Allan Sharrock’s New Plymouth stable when the 18-carat gold trophy continued its tour to 37 destinations across the globe.
It’s the 16th anniversary of the Melbourne Cup tour and this year, for the first time, it travelled to Europe, starting in London on July 10, going through the United Kingdom and Ireland, and after New Zealand it will head to South Korea on September 8-9 and then make its way through Australia to be at Flemington for the big day.
Sharrock’s stable was its first New Zealand stop and on hand to greet the contingent, which included Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Sheila Laxon, were the Ladies First camp, consisting of owners Fiona and Humphrey O’Leary, Sharrock and his partner, the mare’s strapper Emma Davies, and Allpress.
Allpress is thrilled to be given the opportunity of riding in her first Melbourne Cup, but she’s keeping her feet on the ground.
“I’ve never let myself believe it would happen and I won’t believe it until we’re there walking around the birdcage, but it’s such a thrill to have the chance,” Allpress said.
“It was exciting to hold the Cup and I even kissed it. I just hope I can do the same in November.”
The closest Allpress has come to riding in the Melbourne Cup was a couple of years ago with Pentathlon, who wound up ninth with Mark Du Plessis in the saddle.
“I was a good chance to ride him, but I broke my leg in Japan,” she said.
Injury also ruled Allpress out on Ladies First’s three wins earlier this year, including the Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m) when ridden by Johnathan Parkes. But she has a great record on the Dylan Thomas mare, having ridden her eight times for six wins, a second and a fourth.
“She’s never gone a bad race for me and I’m looking forward to getting back on her,” she said. “I might have to wait until her second run back because they’ll probably claim in the first one.”
Sharrock has pencilled in the open 1400 metres at Waverley on August 18 as the launching pad for Ladies First’s Melbourne Cup preparation.
“She’ll then go to the three days at Hawke’s Bay,” Sharrock said. “She’ll run in an open 1600 (September 1), then the open 2000 on the second day (September 22) and on to the Livamol Classic (2040m on October 6).
“If she’s going well and still on target, she’ll then go over for the Moonee Valley Cup over 2500 metres, then it will be 10 days to the big dance, the Melbourne Cup.
“I’m pretty happy with her. She had six weeks in the paddock after she won the Auckland Cup then another six weeks pre-training with Jaimee-Lee Lupton before she came back to me.
“She’s surprisingly forward and I’m not doing a lot with her yet. She’s not a robust mare.”
It will be a special thrill for Whangaehu Valley farmers Humphrey and Fiona O’Leary if Ladies First does get to line up in the Cup as they also have the warhorse Who Shot Thebarman on track for a fourth attempt at winning it.
“Not bad for Whangaehu Valley if they end up with two in it,” Sharrock said.
Who Shot Thebarman won last year’s Gr.2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup (2500m), but an elevated temperature saw him withdrawn on the eve of the Melbourne Cup. He ran third in the Melbourne Cup in 2014, then 11th in 2015 and fifth in 2016.
Who Shot Thebarman is trained by Chris Waller for the four O’Leary brothers Shaun, Michael and Humphrey who all farm in the Whangaehu Valley, and Danny, who farms at Marton. – NZ Racing Desk