Tony Martin is famous for major handicap successes but the Co Meath trainer is set to have two chances to break his Group One duck on the flat this Sunday in France and Rome, and then also aims to produce a Group One result in the most valuable handicap of all, the Melbourne Cup, with Heartbreak City in less than two weeks' time.
The “Race that stops a Nation” is worth a massive $6.2 million (€4.33m) and despite it being a handicap has Group One status in Australia. Heartbreak City has landed one major handicap this season in August’s Ebor at York and will fly the Irish flag in Tuesday week’s Melbourne Cup alongside Aidan O’Brien’s Bondi Beach and the Willie Mullins-trained Wicklow Brave.
Martin has never been to Australia but has spoken to O'Brien and Mullins about what to expect and following the decision of the Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock team to buy into Heartbreak City, the renowned Brazilian jockey, Joao Moreira, Hong Kong's leading rider, will be on board Martin's runner.
“I don’t know anything about him but all the talk in Australia and Hong Kong is that he’s very good. He was very keen to ride the horse and he definitely does ride. He’ll do a bit of work with him before the race,” Martin said.
“We’re testing the water a little bit but I couldn’t be happier with the way our horse has travelled over. He ate and drank and lost only one kilo which was brilliant. The boys I’ve got over there have sent me videos and he looks healthy and well so the first part of the job is done: now we’ve just got to get through the next couple of weeks.
“I talked to Aidan and Willie and they gave me little hints and told me what they could. But I couldn’t be happier with the way it’s gone so far. He’s a versatile horse. He got two miles over hurdles at Galway and it was quick enough when he won at York so I wouldn’t have worries about the trip or fast ground,” he added.
Heartbreak City is a 14-1 shot in ante-post betting for the Cup and if he wins it will complete a remarkable rise to the top for a horse who failed to win in his first seven starts over hurdles when first arriving in Ireland from France as a three year old. In the first of them, at Gowran three years ago, he beat just two in a field of 11 in a maiden hurdle.
However through almost two decades training, Martin’s ability to improve horses has been well established, often to the cost of bookmakers. She’s Our Mare won the 1999 English Cambridgeshire while Leg Spinner landed the 2007 English Cesarewitch and Arc Bleu the 2008 Northumberland Plate. It is over the jumps however he has combined major handicap victories with Grade One success. Bog Warrior was his first in the 2011 Drinmore Chase while Benefficient won three times and Dedigout once at the top level.
It has been an up and down 2016 so far for Martin. During the summer he memorably required a High Court injunction to allow Pyromaniac run in the Galway Hurdle despite the horse being suspended under “non-tier” rules. The trainer’s fortunes have improved considerably in the autumn however and could take a massive surge this Sunday.
Prix Royal Oak
Quick Jack is set to take his chance in the €350,000 Prix Royal Oak, the French St Leger, at Saint-Cloud and Laganore, a winner of Newmarket’s Pride Stakes earlier this month, will contest the €275,000 Group One Premio Lydia Tessio at the Capannelle track in Rome. The newly-crowned British champion jockey
will again ride Laganore in Italy.
"He was keen to ride Laganore again and if Ryan Moore is in Paris on Sunday he'll ride Quick Jack," Martin indicated. "Quick Jack has been running in handicaps but Order Of St George and those horses ran at Ascot on Saturday so they won't be running again on Sunday and as far as I can see there's only about three above our horse on ratings. We'll know after the confirmation stage but the plan is for Quick Jack to run in France. The ground should be fine for him.
“There’s a couple of 112 rated fillies in Laganore’s race, and a 110, but she’s fit and healthy and well and entitled to take her chance, just like the other fella.”