Sunday, 5 November 2006
Japanese trainer Katsuhiko Sumii has selected Pop Rock over Delta Blues as his best chance of taking out Tuesday's $5 million Melbourne Cup at Flemington.
Sumii said everything had gone well with both stayers since they ran terrific races in the Caulfield Cup.
Delta Blues finished a close third to Melbourne Cup favourite Tawqeet at Caulfield, beaten a long neck and a short neck, with Pop Rock running on nicely to finish seventh, only 1-1/2 lengths from the winner.
"I'll go for Pop Rock because his condition is improving and he's at his peak at the moment," Sumii said through an interpreter.
Sumii explained that he did not take Pop Rock to Flemington last Tuesday for a track gallop because he felt he was "ready".
"We didn't want to show him the racetrack to make Pop Rock more frustrated so we decided not to go to Flemington," he said.
"On the other side Delta Blues needed to have the opportunity to see the track and it was definitely a good experience for him."
Delta Blues is a lazy horse according to Tanaka and he said there was nothing unusual about the rider hitting him with the whip over the last 200m of his solo workout at Flemington.
Neither horse was seen on the Sandown track on Sunday morning as they did fast work on Saturday.
"We're very happy with their final trackwork which was yesterday morning," Sumii said.
Six-year-old stallion Delta Blues was ridden by Nash Rawiller at Caulfield, but will be ridden on Tuesday by Yasunari Iwata, one of Japan's best jockeys who had a commitment in Japan at the time of the Caulfield Cup.
Pop Rock, also a six-year-old entire, will again be ridden by two-time Melbourne Cup winning jockey Damien Oliver.
Sumii was happy with the middle of the field barrier draws for Delta Blues (11) and Pop Rock (12).
"Delta Blues is a tough horse but the only concern is the jockey is riding in Australia for the first time," he said.
Both Pop Rock and Delta Blues, who has won more than $4.9 million in stakes, are both high up in betting markets with Pop Rock fourth favourite at $8 and Delta Blues sixth favourite at $12.
Before coming to Australia, Pop Rock defeated last year's Caulfield Cup runner-up Eye Popper, albeit with a 3.5kg weight advantage, when he won his fourth straight race in the Group Two Meguro Kinen (2500m) on May 28.
Eye Popper was Japan's first Melbourne Cup runner last year and was well fancied at $5 but finished only 12th behind Makybe Diva on the unsuitably rain affected track.
Delta Blues won the Group One Japan St Leger (3000m) in October 2004 and was third to Zenno Rob Roy and Cosmo Bulk in the Japan Cup (2400m) the following month.
His most recent win was in the Group Two Stayers Stakes (3600m) last December.
More recently he was third to Japan's champion galloper Deep Impact in the Group Two Daishoten (3000m) on March 19 and ran 10th to the same horse in the Group One Tenno Sho (3200m) on April 30 before a spell.
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