Mount Athos' owner Marwan Koukash has dismissed concerns over the stayer's wide draw for the $6 million Melbourne Cup tomorrow, declaring the inter- national raider will win the famous 3200m race.
The $9 second favourite will jump from barrier 22. He was an unlucky fifth last year from barrier eight.
Koukash said starting positions were irrelevant because horses had won from wide draws in the past.
He insisted talent was more important than barriers and believed the Luca Cumani-trained seven-year-old had the profile of a Melbourne Cup winner.
"When you look at the statistics of where horses have won from which gates … it doesn't mean anything," Koukash said.
"If you've got the horse that is capable of winning the cup, you can win from any gate.
"Certainly I'd rather be on him in gate 22 or 23 or 24 than the majority of the other horses and drawn one."
Koukash said Mount Athos was stronger and in better form than last year when he made ground late in a race that suited horses in the first half of the field.
He was thrilled that Craig Williams would ride the gelding and said no other jockey was more prepared for a wide draw. Koukash was bullish his Melbourne Cup dream was set to come true.
"You shouldn't doubt it. We will win," he said.
"It will mean I have achieved my biggest dream in racing.
"I always said I will keep trying and I will never stop racing until I win the Melbourne Cup.
"The Melbourne Cup is the ultimate aim for me. It's the cup I want to win more than anything else now."
But the owner of Dunaden, Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, believes his 2011 winner has Mount Athos' measure.
Though he conceded it was unlikely an eight-year-old could improve, Dunaden relished travelling to Australia and enjoyed the spacious surrounds of Flemington.
The topweight was originally set for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe before a change in plan to focus on the Melbourne Cup.
Sheikh Fahad said Mount Athos wasn't in the same form as last year.
"I think we've got Mount Athos covered," he said.
"I'd be worried about him if he was running here last year. Last year's horse has got older. I think the others are more capable of improving than him."
Another international fancy, Voleuse De Coeurs, is now prepared by Melbourne-based New Zealander Mike Moroney, a renowned trainer of stayers, after a change in ownership last month.
The horse was previously in the care of dual Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Dermot Weld, and Moroney said credit would stay with the Irish legend if Voleuse De Coeurs saluted.
"He's spent most of the time with her and done the right things with her all the way through," Moroney said.
"I'm a great believer that when you get a horse and they go on with it, it's the trainer that had them before that should take the kudos because they've done the right thing by them all the way through."
Weld hadn't planned on running Voleuse De Coeurs in this year's cup, preferring to target the 2014 edition.
But Moroney said the mare, who is unbeaten in her races over 3200m, would have carried more than 54kg if connections had waited another 12 months.
Despite jumping from barrier 21, the five-year-old daughter of Teofilo remains firm at $15 in fixed markets.
Sydney trainer Gai Waterhouse is yet to win the Melbourne Cup but punters believe she can combine with WA jockey Damien Oliver to claim the richest prize in Australasian racing with Fiorente.
Runner-up to Green Moon 12 months ago, Fiorente drew ideally in gate five and has been well supported to be a clear $7 favourite."If you've got the horse that is capable of winning the cup, you can win from any gate."" *Marwan Koukash *, the owner of Mount Athos