English-based Kuwaiti businessman Marwan Koukash has gone from a horse racing novice to an owner who now admits to going to bed with dreams – and nightmares – about horses.
Koukash’s dream to run in the Melbourne Cup was achieved when he brought Munsef here in 2009 and now he hopes to end the nightmares by winning the Cup with Mount Athos at Flemington on Tuesday.
“Everyone in the world dreams of having a runner in the Melbourne Cup,” Koukash said.
“But when you come here and you experience having a runner in the Cup then you start having what I call the nightmares of finding a horse that is more than capable of competing and actually running close.”
Two years ago Koukash spotted the horse he believed might be “the special one” when he saw Mount Athos run in The Melrose at York.
Mount Athos was sent to Ireland where he languished. He blossomed when handed to veteran Newmarket trainer Luca Cumani who will be chasing a debut Cup victory once again on Tuesday following two second placings with Purple Moon and Bauer.
Koukash said Mount Athos had all the attributes to win a Melbourne Cup.
“He’s been going from strength to strength and I think he’s the most progressive horse in the field,” Koukash said.
Mount Athos goes into the Cup with three wins from as many starts for Cumani but he hasn’t raced since August.
“It is intended, this strategy. If you look back at his form this year we only ran him three times. The first race was in the middle of May (at Newmarket) and he ran a very good race although he wasn’t fully fit,” Koukash said.
“We did not want to run him in a prep race here – just go for the Cup.
“The Cup has always been our main target and we kept him for that.”
He said if Tuesday’s strategy went well, the six-year-old would prove tough to out-run.
“We’d like to be sitting probably in the top eight, no more than five or six lengths from the pace and, provided we are in that position turning home I think we’ll use our strength which is his turn of foot and he’s probably going to be hard to catch.
“Well this is the plan in my mind, this is what I go to bed thinking about,” Koukash said.
“Since we arrived in Melbourne we’ve been living the dream and hopefully we’ll go close on Tuesday.”