Master O'Brien's diploma

THE 2007 Group I MRC Caulfield Cup was a nightmare for some, a perfect day for others.

The odds for what happened in the 10 minutes before the jump would have been at the most extreme, but history will record that Maldivian and Eskimo Queen, pronounced first and second favourites going to the start, did not run.

That was the nightmare for trainers Mark Kavanagh and Mike Moroney and their respective owner-clients.

But that's racing, as they say, and trainer Dan O'Brien and his group of owner-clients will take the day as one of the best that could be experienced.

O'Brien was fairly pumping watching the the final 300m of the $2.5 million feature unfold. After 2400m, his two seasoned geldings, Master O'Reilly and Douro Valley, had burst clear of the pack to have the race to themselves. At the post, it was Master O'Reilly the winner, and a comprehensive one at that, given a near-perfect ride by Vlad Duric.

Douro Valley, a six-year-old Encosta De Lago gelding, has never been racing better, but he found his stablemate simply too good on the day.

Princess Coup, the best mare in New Zealand beyond 2000m, was also given a superb ground-saving ride by Glen Boss, and tried her best in the straight, taking third place. NZ-trained she may be, but she is 100 per cent Australian-bred and another glowing example for her sire, Encosta De Lago.

There will be many to marvel at the triumphant win by Master O'Reilly, and they include this writer. He provides a shaky link to the belief that NZ can still produce a type to match those wonderful stayers and Caulfield Cup heroes of yesteryear - Lord Reims, Mr Lomondy, Ilumquh and, going back to the original mould, Rising Fast.

Raced by Mr and Mrs Bill Sutcliffe and Ms J.Mawer, Master O'Reilly came off the Canterbury property, in New Zealand's South Island, of David and Pat Jones.

The Joneses bred him and sold him as an unraced two-year-old for $70,000 at the 2004 NZ South Island sales.

Why he did not appear on a racetrack until as a late three-year-old, taking third place in a maiden at Moe, country Victoria, is not known. But it was a crucial period of inactivity for Master O'Reilly for him to grow into himself and mature into the long-distance runner he has become.

That Master O'Reilly was set for a big spring season became patently clear when O'Brien produced him for his seasonal debut over 1600m at Caulfield in mid-August.

Master O'Reilly charged late and failed by a neck to run down Rubiscent, receiving only 0.5kg from that son of Rubiton.

The worth of the form spilled out one month later when Rubiscent trounced Miss Finland in the Group I MRC Underwood Stakes (1800m) - although Master O'Reilly in the meantime had bolted in over 2000m at Flemington.

Master O'Reilly has been a model of consistency from the beginning and going into the Caulfield Cup, having won the Group II Winning Edge in somewhat lesser company over the cup course and distance eight days beforehand.

He had run 18 times for seven wins and six minor placings - significantly with four of his wins at 2400m and further. To the $336,000 he had won up until Saturday, he added a further $1.5 million to his bank account after the Caulfield Cup. Do not think trainer O'Brien was kidding in his post-race interviews that Saturday was a bonus - the grand final comes up on November 5, in the Group I $5.1m Melbourne Cup.

In light of his conclusive win at 2400m on Saturday, Master

O'Reilly realistically appeals as one who will be even better suited to the 3200m of the Melbourne Cup. He owns a simple, totally relaxed style of racing that will aid him to outgrind anything that wants to run with him.

Master O'Reilly is by O'Reilly, who perennially engages Volksraad (by Green Desert) and Pins (by Snippets) for the honour as NZ's second-best stallion after Zabeel - sire, incidentally, of the hapless Maldivian.

Foaled by the Group I Golden Slipper Stakes winner Courtza, O'Reilly matched his own sire Last Tycoon, a Group I sprinter-miler, in a brief racing career in which he netted the prestigious three-year-old feature the Group I Bayer Classic (1600m) and then toppled the older horse in the Group I WRC Telegraph Handicap (1200m).

Master O'Reilly is the third winning foal of Without Remorse, by Bakharoff, a Group I juvenile winner in England by The Minstrel, one of Northern Dancer's English Derby winning sons.

The unraced Without Remorse is a half-sister to Unpretentious, a Group II WATC WA Oaks winner and runner-up in the Group I WATC WA Derby. This is the family of high-class Imposing mare Solveig, a triple Group I winner including the 1985 NZ Oaks, and of Sobig mare Soliloquy, whose wins included the Group I Lion-Brown Sprint in New Zealand.

by Tony Arrold - The Australian

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