Hughie Morrison’s “big, lazy boy” Marmelo is set to resume active service in Newbury’s Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes as he sets out on the long road which may lead back to Melbourne.
Saturday’s Group Three, better known as the John Porter Stakes, is a relatively sharp mile-and-a-half test for the six-year-old who was beaten just a length into second in last year’s Lexus Melbourne Cup.
Morrison confirmed a third shot at the ‘race that stops a nation’ is “on the agenda” for his globe-trotting stable star.
Newbury is therefore merely a starting point, after which the East Ilsley trainer will be able to start mapping out a summer campaign en route to Australia.
“I think (Melbourne) is definitely on the agenda,” he said.
“You’d obviously be giving the weight, and he’s a year older. We hope he retains all his ability – but they don’t always.
“He obviously enjoys it in Australia – he travelled well. So if he was in good form and it fitted into his schedule, he could well end up there again.”
Marmelo earned a Christmas holiday with his brave and close second to Cross Counter five months ago, and Morrison hopes he has found the right conditions for his return to the track.
“He had a nice holiday when he came back from Australia, got turned out for a couple of months,” he added.
“He came back in mid-January, and we’re just starting him off really.
“It’s worth having a look over a mile and a half. We’d like it soft – he likes it on the slow side of good anyhow.
“I’ve had a quick glance at it, and it looks quite competitive – but we’re hoping he can carry on where he left off.”
Nothing – including Melbourne – is yet set in stone, and will depend initially on the weekend’s events.
Last summer, Marmelo took in three French Group Twos – including victory in Longchamp’s Prix Maurice de Nieuil – and, over the same distance of one mile and six furlongs, a Listed win at York.
But Morrison said: “There are lots of thoughts about where we might go with him. I think we just have to see how we go this weekend, then go from there.
“There are lots of options for him over the next 10 months.”
It is a short journey to Newbury from Marmelo’s base high on the Berkshire downs – but most of it is downhill, and his trainer is wary that rivals based in warmer climes may be further forward.
“He’s done plenty of work,” said Morrison.
“But we’re on the top of a mountain here, and we sometimes take longer to come down than other yards.
“He’s a big, lazy boy – he doesn’t like to over-exert himself unless it’s entirely necessary, which is very wise of him.”