Americain on track for 2011 Melbourne Cup

She feeds him, grooms him, talks to him in two languages and is totally devoted to him.

In return, he follows her around like a faithful dog and plays like a big puppy – even though he is a 530kg thoroughbred stallion.

Stephanie Nigge and the Melbourne Cup champion Americain share the sort of relationship they make movies about.

It is also the sort of relationship that is vital to the French stayer’s prospects of claiming a second Melbourne Cup next Tuesday.

“I think we are very close,” Nigge said.

“Everything we do is for him, we think only for the horse.

Nigge, 24, is the daughter of a German racehorse trainer and, as she was last year, is supervising Americain’s Cup preparation for trainer Alain de Royer Dupre who will remain in France until the weekend before the race.

Proof of her ability was on show at Moonee Valley on Saturday when Americain won the Moonee Valley Cup (2500m), confirming his place at the head of Melbourne Cup betting.

The Valley run was Americain’s first start since August when the significance of Nigge’s role in his preparation was seen from a different angle.

Having the second run of his current preparation, Americain finished a disappointing 10th of 13 in the Prix Kergorlay, a race he had won the previous year.

“He stumbled coming out of the gates and the ground was a bit firm for him,” said the horse’s Australian part-owner Gerry Ryan.

“But the real reason was that Stephanie wasn’t with him.”

Ryan explained that Nigge had injured a knee in a riding accident and required surgery and had been away from Americain for a couple of weeks.

“Without her, he was just one of the horses in Alain’s stable,” Ryan said.

“He wasn’t getting the special treatment.”

The relationship between a woman and a stallion such as Americain can sometimes be troublesome, particularly as the horse grows older.

But in this case, it is clear who’s the boss.

“Stephanie speaks to him in French most of the time,” Ryan said.

“But when he’s naughty she speaks to him in German.

“He knows the difference.”

In a Melbourne Cup market dominated by foreign-trained horses or those recently imported from Europe, the French dominate.

Americain holds the top line at $4.80, with the the Mikel Delzangles-trained Geelong Cup winner Dunaden next at $8, followed by the German pair Lucas Cranach ($9) and Illo ($15) with the English runners Jukebox Jury and Bauer next.

23 Oct 2011


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