Big Spring awaits O'Brien

It will be hard for trainer Danny O'Brien to keep his excitement in check when he arrives at Caulfield on Saturday.O'Brien will roll out several members of what is shaping as one of the best all round teams for the major spring races, not the least being the imported stayer Alexander Of Hales.

O'Brien came of age as a major spring carnival player last year when his successes included the Caulfield Cup quinella with Master O'Reilly and Douro Valley, a triumph that highlighted his impressive rise to the top echelon of the training ranks

The quality of his spring carnival team this year runs deep with the addition of Irish Derby placegetter Alexander Of Hales and Perth star Lords Ransom to a group that includes Master O'Reilly, Douro Valley, the exciting Gallopin, Group One winner Absolut Glam, Bill Stutt Stakes winner Barbaricus and several impressive three-year-old classic prospects.

Alexander Of Hales, Gallopin and the promising three-year-old Viallico will be the first of the O'Brien stars to appear at Caulfield on Saturday.

Alexander Of Hales is in for a good test at his first Australian start in Saturday's G2 Liston Stakes (1400m), a race that should give O'Brien a fair idea just where he is heading with the son of Danehill.

Formerly trained by Aidan O'Brien, Alexander Of Hales has not raced since he was beaten nine lengths into second place in last year's Irish Derby by Soldier of Fortune.

While prominent in early Caulfield and Melbourne Cup markets O'Brien has warned that Alexander Of Hales may not contest those races this spring.

"He's been out here since April and even though he ran second in the Irish Derby I doubt that he's a real genuine stayer," O'Brien said.

"Obviously we're going to find our way with him as we run him.

"It may well be that he has just a few runs this spring and then really hits his straps in the autumn."

The now five-year-old to southern hemisphere time has won two of his six starts including a G3 event at The Curragh prior to the Irish Derby.

Gallopin, a horse O'Brien expects big things from this season, runs first up over 1600m, O'Brien selecting the same race he used last year to kick off Master O'Reilly's Caulfield Cup program.

"Gallopin has furnished into a lovely horse. We're all pretty excited about his campaign," he said.

"I think he has a fair bit of class."

Viallico, a winner at Flemington in June, starts his bid for the Caulfield Guineas in Saturday's Vain Stakes (1100m) with O'Brien nominating him as one of his leading classic prospects.

Lords Ransom, transferred to O'Brien after winning seven of his 10 starts in WA including the Bunbury and Pinjarra Cups and pictured above, will have his fist start for the stable at Moonee Valley on Saturday week.

"I'm really impressed with the horse. He will have his first run at MooneeValley and work his way up as the spring progresses."

However O'Brien still rats Master O'Reilly, who won't resume until the Makybe Diva stakes at Flemington on September 6 , as his number one contender for the Cups double.

He rated the stayer better than last year after a recent trial at Werribee but admits it will be a harder task for him this year carrying more weight.

"He carried 50.5kg last year and will get something like 55.5kg this year so he'll have to be three to four lengths better," O'Brien said.

DouroValley, Lords Ransom, Alexander Of Hales and Gallopin also trialled strongly at Werribee.

Gallopin beat Lords Ransom in one heat, Alexander Of Hades won his trial and Master O'Reilly and DouroValley were placed in their heat.

"It was a pretty major step in the scheme of things and all the horses came through the trials extremely well," O'Brien said.

However all is not perfect for O'Brien as he has lost the promising stayer Villain from his spring team after he suffered a leg injury when resuming at Flemington last Saturday.

Barbaricus and Absolut Glam will be aimed at the spring's major mile races including the G1 Toorak Handicap, G1 Myer Stakes and G1 Emirates Stakes.

By Racing and Sports Racing Editor Chris Scholtz

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Photo by the West Australian