Gallopin towards spring's major races

TRAINER Danny O'Brien believes planning for the Caulfield and Melbourne cups has to start 12 months ahead, and Gallopin took another step along the way with his win in the Johnstaff Projects Plate (2000 metres) at Flemington yesterday.

As O'Brien and then jockey Steven Arnold indicated after Gallopin won at Moonee Valley at his previous start, the NZ-bred four-year-old is very much a work in progress, but the indications are that they are building a very firm structure.

Arnold could not make the weight of 54.5kg yesterday and was replaced by James Winks, who was another important member of the O'Brien team while he rode topweight Arbitration.

O'Brien said Gallopin, who has now had six wins and two seconds in eight starts since he joined his stable after two New Zealand runs, was developing into a very versatile galloper.

"He can handle wet or dry tracks and can race on the pace or come from behind — all very important assets when you are talking about spring horses," he said.

O'Brien said Gallopin was further advanced than his stablemates Master O'Reilly and Douro Valley, who ran the quinella in this year's Caulfield Cup, were at the same stage last year.

"He could have been running in better races like the Eclipse at Sandown but until today we've deliberately kept him in restricted company," he said.

Gallopin will now run in the listed $151,500 Bagot Handicap (2500 metres) at Flemington on New Year's Day before going for a spell. "He might come back for a couple of runs late in the autumn but his main focus will be on the spring," O'Brien said.

Winks will probably retain the ride in the Bagot because O'Brien thinks he won't have enough weight for Arnold.

In a muddling run race, Gallopin, who eased from $2 to start equal $4 favourite, settled at the rear of the field but was able to pick them up quickly in the run home to win by ¾--of-a-length from Road To Athens ($7.50), who was in front for a long way, with Arbitration ($4) a short half head away third. Road Of Athens also finished second to Gallopin at his previous start and has the frustrating record of only two wins and 14 minor placings from 28 starts.

Even more frustrating for trainer Brian Mayfield-Smith is stablemate Mojo Pin, who finished fourth. Mojo Pin has promised much for his connections but is not the easiest horse to ride, particularly when the pace is muddling, and continues to disappoint.

As for his spring star this year, O'Brien said Master O'Reilly was nearing the end of his spell but would only have a light autumn campaign and would not be targeting the staying races in Sydney.

by Tony Bourke - The Age

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