Cup invader comes ''home''

THE first of the spring cup invaders has flown in under the radar because the horse, the American Tacit Agreement, will race as an Australian after being bought by a syndicate that includes Flemington trainer Danny O'Brien.

"He's eaten his head off," O'Brien said on inspecting the $300,000 buy at the Sandown quarantine centre on the edge of the racecourse yesterday. "He's a big, strong, good-doing sort of horse and he looks nice and bright."

The gelding, a six-year-old by northern hemisphere time, became a seven-year-old on landing in the southern hemisphere on Friday night, having shared the flight with David Hayes' mare Anamato, who returned after running third in the American Oaks last month.

Tacit Agreement will be at Sandown for two weeks in the care of O'Brien's strapper/track rider Billie-Jo Drage before moving to Flemington.

O'Brien said Tacit Agreement was pushed towards Australia by American David Bernsen, who knew the form in both countries.

"He's been pretty keen to get an American horse down here and put quite a few up, and this is the one we ended up zeroing in on," O'Brien said. "There's not a lot of options for horses like him in the States, older horses that are effective at a mile-and-a-half (2400 metres) and beyond.

"The trainer over there (Marty Wolfson, of South Florida) is pretty convinced that the two miles (3200 metres) is probably his best trip."

That is the distance of the spring plum, the $5 million Melbourne Cup, at Flemington on November 6.

Melbourne bloodstock agent Rob Roulston brokered the deal, which has Queensland studmaster Jon Haseler holding 35 per cent and Bernsen and O'Brien sharing 15 per cent. Three unnamed partners have the other 50 per cent.

Tacit Agreement, by Unbridled, finished his US career with three stakes wins, one by six lengths over 2000 metres in June. In July 2006, he won the $300,000 Turf Marathon Handicap by seven lengths. He has won seven of 20 starts.

"It's a group of guys keen to have a crack at the Cup," O'Brien said of the new ownership. "He's a gelding, his only worth is as a racehorse.

"He hasn't done a heap of racing. He's a horse that's probably still on the way up. His best racing's been his last three or four starts."

Drage saddled the gelding yesterday and walked him on the track.

O'Brien said the plan was to give Tacit Agreement two starts before the Melbourne Cup, probably over 2000 metres at Flemington early in October and then in either the Geelong Cup (2400 metres) or the Moonee Valley Cup (2500 metres) later in the month.

He did not rule out a start in the other big cup, the 2400-metre Caulfield Cup on October 20. TAB Sportsbet has Tacit Agreement at $51 for both races.

The "official" overseas invasion will not start until late this month. Leigh Jordon, Racing Victoria's director of racing operations, said Hong Kong pair Viva Pataca and Viva Macau, trained by John Moore, were the first due, on August 27, with the Japanese and European runners expected late September or early October.

There are more than 60 international entries for the cups and the weight-for-age Cox Plate (2040 metres) on October 27, but Jordon estimated that with return travel costing as much as $120,000, only 10 or 12 would come.

Cox Plate entry Silver Tree won a group 2 race in the US at the weekend and Purple Moon, in both cups, won over 2400 metres at Goodwood.

by Stephen Howell - The Age

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