Riding in the Lexus Melbourne Cup has long been an ambition for Jim Crowley, and next week he will finally get his chance on Muntahaa in the ‘race that stops a nation’.
Crowley has achieved plenty since making his switch from National Hunt racing to the Flat permanent more than 10 years ago.
The 2016 champion jockey will live out his dream of riding in the Flemington showpiece when getting the leg up aboard the John Gosden-trained gelding.
Crowley said: “I will be honest with you – the Melbourne Cup is a race I’ve always been mad keen to ride in.
“I’ve been lucky enough to ride in America, Hong Kong and places like that, but I’ve never ridden at Flemington, so I’m really looking forward to it
“There was a couple of times where I’ve had the chance to ride in the race, but the horse has then been sold to Australian connections and they have then put an Australian jockey on.”
While Crowley is never one to over-hype the chances of his mounts, there is a belief the Sheikh Hamdan-owned Dansili five-year-old has a real chance – having claimed a decisive success in the Ebor last time out.
He added: “Muntahaa was very impressive in the Ebor. If he turns up as did on Ebor day, he will run a big race.
“He used to be very keen a couple of years ago, but touch wood he has been really good. He ran a really good race at Royal Ascot and won the Ebor pulling a dustcart.
“I won the John Porter at Newbury on him last season, which is a Group Three, so he is a classy horse and he was well fancied for the St Leger the other year. John Gosden will have left no stone unturned.
“He is an extremely good work horse, so I wasn’t surprised in any way that he won the Ebor. I was surprised how smoothly everything went from that wide draw. To go there with a horse with a real live chance is great.”
While Muntahaa will be heading into unknown waters regarding the trip, having never raced over two miles, Crowley believes that it should not pose any problems.
He said: “He is a horse that will stay the trip. He is a big horse that will hold his own.
“I don’t think the trip will be a problem, because he took a fair bit of pulling up in the Ebor and he galloped out halfway down the back.
“Although I’ve never ridden in it, I’ve watched the race many times and I’ve spoken to jockeys who have ridden in the race, and it looks to me like they go a really good gallop and then drop anchor for a bit, then get racing.
“It is run in three stages, but I don’t think that will worry him too much, either.
“You need a massive amount of luck on the day and you need a nice draw, but the most important thing is you need to be going down there with the right type of horse – and I think he is that.”
Ever the consummate professional, Crowley has headed out to Australia early in order to make sure he is prepared for the occasion – something he feels is vital in helping his chances of success.
He was immediately into his stride too, riding winners at his first two attempts on arrival this week.
He explained: “I 100 per cent feel it is important to have a ride on the track before the race.
“I will take a few rides before the Melbourne Cup, because the boss should have a few runners there on Saturday.
“We’ve got a runner at the Breeders’ Cup (Mustashry, Breeders’ Cup Mile) – but the timing is tight, and I want to ensure I am prepared in Australia.
“I think in a race of this calibre it is important to do your homework and get down there early.”
With a number of Group One victories to his name, alongside his champion jockey crown, there is still no hesitation as to where Crowley would place victory in the Melbourne Cup among his achievements in the saddle.
He said: “To win a Melbourne Cup is incredibly difficult. The Europeans have been going down there for years and they have shown it is not an easy race to win, although they have a strong hand this year.
“It is going to be great to be a part of it, and if we win it that would be unbelievable – but it is going to be no easy task.
“I think it would top everything I’ve done so far if I win it.”