STREAMING NOW: Watch Now
CLOSINGS: View Closings

Melbourne Cup: Magic Circle aims to break curse of British trainers

It's one of racing's holy grails, but the Melbourne Cup remains a mystical prize for British trainers....

Posted: Nov 5, 2018 3:51 AM
Updated: Nov 5, 2018 3:51 AM

It's one of racing's holy grails, but the Melbourne Cup remains a mystical prize for British trainers.

Plenty have tried, but it's as if there is a curse on the British in Australia's famous "race that stops a nation." Hoping to break that spell this year is Magic Circle, trained by Ian Williams.

Animals

Continents and regions

Equestrian events

Equestrian sports

Europe

Horse racing

Horses

Life forms

Mammals

Melbourne Cup

Northern Europe

Sports and recreation

Sports events

United Kingdom

Aidan O'Brien

Sports figures

Another strong European contingent will descend on Melbourne for Tuesday's showpiece, but instead of the power houses of Godolphin or John Gosden, it is the less-heralded Williams who will be spearheading the British attack.

"It's a national event and is very exciting to be involved in," Williams told CNN Sport.

"To have a runner in such a race is a great privilege and to have a horse good enough to compete in such a race is an even bigger privilege.

"This year's event is probably one of the most competitive races the Melbourne Cup will ever have seen.

"And, of course, to win a race like this would be a huge accolade."

READ: Melbourne Cup memories: The legs that stopped a nation

READ: Wonder mare Winx romps to 29th straight win

Williams trains not out of the Flat racing heartlands of Newmarket or Berkshire's Lambourn Valley, but in Alvechurch in the West Midlands.

Not quite as racing-glamorous perhaps, but perfectly placed as he became the first trainer to win at every racecourse -- Flat or jump racing -- in the UK.

Now Williams is attempting to make more history with Magic Circle, a six-year-old gelding he bought last October for owner Dr. Marwan Koukash, a former refugee from the Middle East who has built up a multimillion dollar business in England's northwest.

Koukash has quite the celebration planned if his horse does win on Tuesday.

"I fit into my G-string now," Koukash told racing.com. "When we win nobody at Flemington is going to stop me providing the best or most colorful celebrations we've ever had or likely to have.

"I'm going to take off my clothes off, keep my tie and thong and shoes socks on. I know they're going to employ security, but I know how to evade them and I'm going to deliver."

Magic Circle was already a six-time winner when he joined Williams' 100-strong string at Dominion Stables, and he has rewarded them further with stellar victories in the Chester Cup and a Group Three race at Sandown this season.

A Group race win qualifies the horse for the Melbourne Cup, and from that moment on the famous race and its $2.8 million first prize became the focus for Williams.

Magic Circle, who will be ridden by last year's winning jockey Corey Brown, is second favorite behind esteemed Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien's Yucatan for the two-mile (3,200 meter) marathon.

Another Briton Charlie Appleby will pose a strong threat with Cross Counter for Godolphin.

READ: 'Rock 'n'roll' Frankel scoring at stud

READ: Equine stars challenging Federer and Messi

'Carnival atmosphere'

Williams is excited to be heading back for a second time after saddling a horse called Munsef to 12th in the race in 2009.

"It was one of the most amazing experiences to see a city the size of Melbourne literally grind to a halt for a horse race," he says.

"The whole atmosphere and build up the week before the race was incredible. There's an electric atmosphere."

On the day before the Melbourne Cup, tens of thousands line Swanston Street for a parade featuring cars carrying the jockeys, owners, trainers and connections of each of the 24 horses.

"It has all the pomp and glory of a carnival and a carnival atmosphere," adds Williams. "It's one of the most exciting racing experiences you can be involved with."

For European horses it's a serious undertaking, with two weeks in quarantine in Newmarket, followed by a 30-hour flight followed by a further two weeks quarantine at Werribee, a racecourse facility south west of Melbourne.

Williams' traveling head lad Fabrice Smeulders is on hand to look after Magic Circle and keep his exercise ticking over.

'Special horse'

The journey in itself isn't the barrier to victory. After all, Joseph O'Brien, son of famed trainer Aidan, led an Irish one-two-three with Rekindling ahead of his father's Johannes Vermeer and Willie Mullins' Max Dynamite last year.

Countryman Dermot Weld was the trailblazer, becoming the first non-Australian trainer to win the Cup in 1993 with Vintage Crop.

He followed it up with Media Puzzle in 2002, while trainers from Germany, France and Japan have since clinched the Cup.

European horses are regularly in the first three, but a victory still eludes O'Brien Sr. -- and the British.

"It's probably all about the horses," says Williams. "It takes a special horse to travel halfway around the world and run at its best and the English trainers haven't been as lucky as they could have been. Let's hope the luck is stacked up for one of them this year."

For all his success traveling around the UK, Williams has to fight to get noticed among the bigger yards backed by major breeding operations such as Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's Godolphin or O'Brien's Coolmore Stud-backed Ballydoyle yard.

"The big wins are always tough and it always boils down to the horses you're able to train," says Williams.

"We maybe don't have the quality in general compared with the Maktoum horses or large owners, breeders or trainers but we're lucky with what we've got.

"The challenge is to keep training winners to keep the business flowing and to keep interest in your abilities and what you achieve as a trainer to encourage people to send you the better horses to do the job with."

Whoever you are, the big prizes still mean a lot.

Visit CNN.com/horseracing for more news, features and videos

"The Melbourne Cup looks good on anyone's CV," says Williams.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 289303

Reported Deaths: 3434
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin616511100
Ramsey25903487
Anoka20522218
Dakota20096183
Washington13066109
Stearns1291098
St. Louis7935101
Scott782754
Wright702436
Olmsted626134
Sherburne538640
Clay463856
Carver432213
Blue Earth387112
Rice386033
Kandiyohi373819
Crow Wing334631
Nobles298729
Chisago29358
Otter Tail282818
Benton278642
Winona258128
Mower241323
Douglas237631
Polk234423
Morrison219524
Lyon201911
McLeod195610
Beltrami194615
Becker187512
Goodhue185727
Steele17826
Itasca176124
Isanti174316
Todd171612
Carlton165710
Nicollet150823
Freeborn14465
Mille Lacs141630
Le Sueur138110
Waseca134011
Cass12849
Brown125011
Pine12458
Meeker11308
Roseau10503
Hubbard103822
Martin101920
Wabasha9611
Redwood83718
Dodge8060
Chippewa8057
Watonwan7984
Cottonwood7682
Renville75119
Sibley7414
Wadena7376
Aitkin69826
Rock6829
Pipestone67818
Houston6422
Fillmore6320
Yellow Medicine59311
Pennington5856
Kanabec54912
Murray5493
Swift5366
Faribault5081
Pope4990
Stevens4643
Clearwater4536
Marshall4438
Jackson4361
Unassigned38759
Lake3816
Koochiching3535
Wilkin3465
Lac qui Parle3383
Norman3227
Lincoln3171
Big Stone2841
Mahnomen2704
Grant2516
Red Lake2033
Kittson1917
Traverse1360
Lake of the Woods931
Cook600

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 222064

Reported Deaths: 2319
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33019331
Linn13877164
Scott1085683
Black Hawk10730134
Woodbury10159121
Johnson935536
Dubuque907691
Story669721
Dallas624657
Pottawattamie612469
Sioux364625
Webster353033
Marshall343545
Cerro Gordo342644
Clinton319839
Buena Vista300014
Des Moines281719
Muscatine280968
Warren274011
Plymouth268941
Wapello251171
Jones227913
Jasper212443
Marion201719
Lee197916
Carroll195422
Bremer191312
Henry18037
Crawford173015
Benton166217
Tama152240
Jackson142113
Delaware140221
Washington137414
Dickinson134210
Boone134011
Mahaska125327
Wright12156
Buchanan115010
Clay11314
Hardin113010
Page11134
Hamilton10809
Clayton10715
Harrison106129
Cedar104913
Calhoun10487
Kossuth10236
Floyd102216
Mills10177
Fayette10159
Lyon10058
Poweshiek97913
Butler9746
Winneshiek95412
Iowa92312
Winnebago90223
Hancock8497
Louisa83916
Grundy83811
Chickasaw8354
Sac8297
Cherokee8134
Cass79721
Appanoose77310
Mitchell7704
Allamakee76811
Union7546
Humboldt7525
Shelby75010
Emmet74724
Guthrie73715
Franklin72921
Jefferson6852
Madison6734
Palo Alto6454
Unassigned6320
Keokuk5737
Pocahontas5532
Howard5419
Greene5160
Osceola5131
Clarke4774
Ida46813
Taylor4563
Davis4508
Montgomery44911
Monroe43712
Adair4298
Monona4212
Fremont3543
Van Buren3525
Worth3520
Lucas3216
Decatur3150
Wayne2957
Audubon2942
Ringgold2022
Adams1642
Rochester
Clear
33° wxIcon
Hi: 36° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 24°
Mason City
Clear
30° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 24°
Albert Lea
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 30°
Austin
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 28°
Charles City
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 26°
A Sunny and Mild Saturday Expected
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events