Dour Douro Valley A Lightweight Cup Hope

A dour Douro Valley outstayed the favourite Maldivian to win yesterday's Naturalism Stakes at Listed Level. Maldivian, which had been second favourite for the Caulfield Cup at $11, had his quote lengthened to $15 by bookmaker Eskander's Betstar, while Douro Valley's price plunged from $101 to $34 after his gritty performance.

After Maldivian ($2.50-$2.70F) had gained what looked like a winning break at the top of the straight, Douro Valley ($9-$10), under vigorous riding from champion jockey Darren Beadman, knuckled down to the job well to win by a half neck on the line.

Third a length away was another Cups hope Dolphin Jo ($17-$26).

Beadman finished off a frustrating day's riding on a high, after placing at all of his other rides without winning.

"I was thereabouts all day", he said.

"I knocked on the door but I just couldn't get in."

He was full of praise for Douro Valley's performance.

"It was a good solid win", Beadman said.

"I was caught three deep the whole way and just kept rolling."

"Maldivian dragged me into the race and it was a good strong finish."

With the Caulfield Cup his main Spring target, Douro Valley had to win today to ensure a start. Trainer Danny O'Brien rounded off a good day after his earlier win in the Guineas Prelude with Purrealist.

"The horse did a great job", O'Brien said.

"He worked hard throughout and I don't think he saw any cover."

"The whole preparation we knew we had to win this race to get into the Cup and he's done that so its all coming together."

O'Brien strengthened his Caulfield Cup hand by adding Douro Valley to his promising stayer Master O'Reilly which is taking an alternative route to the Cup.

"Master O'Reilly was always going to run in the JRA Cup and then the Winning Edge so we've got two really nice horses to head towards the Cup with", O'Brien observed.

"He runs very well here and now he's at career best form."

Douro Valley has had three trainers since he first started racing in December 2003. Colin Little raced him 3 times for a third placing and $2000 in prizemoney. Peter Moody then took over the reins and had 20 starts for 5 wins, 2 seconds and 2 thirds for $170,690 in stakes.

Since O'Brien took over the training in mid-2006, Douro Valley has really blossomed with $205,900 in prizemoney from 2 wins, 4 seconds and 3 thirds in 12 starts.

"Ever since we've had him I don't think he's missed a place", said O'Brien, getting his facts a little wrong.

"He's a really honest horse and I think he's just getting stronger as he gets older."

Beadman rates Douro Valley a good lightweight chance for the Caulfield Cup, in which he is handicapped on 50.5kg. "He gives himself a chance and he keeps going", Beadman said.

"I had a tough run and he still won."

But Beadman, who is about to take up a 2 month riding contract in Hong Kong, will not be returning to ride Douro Valley in the Caulfield Cup.

"Not for this weight", he said. "Too light."

By Bill Saunders - Virtual