Geelong Cup Runner-Up All But Seals Melbourne Cup Spot

Ben H / 30 October 2023

Ashrun has all but qualified for the Melbourne Cup after finishing second in the Geelong Cup and moving to 25th in the order of entry for the race that stops the nation, only a spot away from a guaranteed start.

Amade, trained by Philip Stokes, won the Geelong Cup, but his connections said they were unlikely to press onto the Melbourne Cup setting their sights on the Group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes instead.

Needed a Top Three Finish

The second-place finish was a huge result for the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained horse. A tendon injury ruled the French import out and kept Ashrun out of action for over 1,000 days, with even Melbourne Cup winner Maher doubting whether he would ever make a successful return. However, after three starts, the Cox Plate-winning trainer is convinced that he will watch the horse run at Flemington in November.

Ashrun was gunning for a top-three finish to earn a spot in the Group 1 race being run on November 7. By running second, barring some unforeseen circumstances, the horse that would be ridden by Kerrin McEvoy in the $8-million event has all but confirmed his participation in the race that stops the nation.

A Melbourne Cup Start that was Three Years in the Making

When asked how he felt about Ashrun almost securing a starting Melbourne Cup spot, Maher couldn’t hide his excitement, saying he was “rapt” and “thrilled.” The decorated trainer looked back on Ashrun’s journey to his Melbourne Cup start and his three runs in as many years.

Even though it took them “three years to get it right,” the trainer was delighted they finally did it and praised everyone who worked with the horse, from rehab specialist Lee Evison to the owners.

Maher said that when he first looked at the tendon, he feared that, like stablemate Right You Are, Ashrun was finished and would never start a race again. However, after an against-the-odds recovery, he was now excited to have a horse like Ashrun and get him ready for the Melbourne Cup. Maher was full of praise for the owners too, commending them for “paying up” for a horse that was “three years without a start.”

Endorsed by Melbourne Cup-Winning Jockey Mark Zahra

Mark Zahra, who surprised everyone when he rode Gold Trip to victory in the 2022 Melbourne Cup, endorsed Ashrun for the Melbourne Cup after watching the import impress in the Geelong Cup and said two miles was “right up his alley.”

Ashrun was 10th in the 2020 edition of the Melbourne Cup but had to earn his starting spot through the Hotham Stakes on Derby Day, as he finished fourth in the Geelong Cup.

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Ben H
Ben Harris is the Communications Manager for KRUZEY, an AFL expert, and writer. He has one daughter that he loves dearly and four children's books... [Read full bio]

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