Spring gallops in

You will have to have eyes for more than one horse when watching the group 2 Liston Stakes, the listed Cockram, Quezette and Vain Stakes and other races at Caulfield tomorrow — as well as those fighting out the finish, you need to look at those running on towards bigger spring highlights.

Gallopin, trained by Danny O'Brien, may be in the first category; he certainly is in the second. He will start in the Weary Dunlop Research Foundation Handicap, the 1600-metre race in which O'Brien's Caulfield Cup winner Master O'Reilly resumed last year with second placing.

The Caulfield and Melbourne cups are Gallopin's goals, O'Brien saying "we've got pretty high hopes" and TAB Sportsbet rating the Pins five-year-old a $35 chance in opening markets.

"It's been a two-year grooming process to get him going into the spring in the right physical condition with the right handicap," O'Brien said. "You want to be going in with 51 (kilograms) rather than 56. That's the way we've managed his career."

Weights will be released early next month and while O'Brien is happy Gallopin will be among the lightweights, he knows to make the field the gelding has to perform as Master O'Reilly or another stablemate, Caulfield Cup runner-up Douro Valley, did in their lead-ups — Master O'Reilly won the Winning Edge and Douro Valley the Naturalism to qualify.

Gallopin was touted as a potential cups runner when he won the Bagot Handicap (2500 metres) at Flemington on New Year's Day, his fourth success on end and his seventh for O'Brien after being sent from New Zealand as a three-year-old by owners Len and Steve Phillips.

Steven Arnold rode the gelding in the Bagot, after which he said: "They are not good horses he is beating, but it's just the way he does it — he's got something else to give." O'Brien added: "I think you'll find he's a bit better than most Bagot winners."

Oakleigh, in 1887, is the only Bagot winner to win the Caulfield Cup in the same year and no horse has won the Bagot-Melbourne Cup double in the same year. Only Astrolin, with 58.5 kilograms in 1983, has carried more weight than Gallopin (58 kilograms) to win the Bagot in the past 50 years.

O'Brien said this week: "He had six weeks off after the Bagot and had a light preparation in the autumn — he ran here on Anzac Day over a mile. He had another month off and has been back in work since late May. He's in great order."

Master O'Reilly, who disappointed when favourite in the Melbourne Cup, will start his second cups campaign in the Makybe Diva Stakes (1600 metres) at Flemington on September 6. Douro Valley will step out a week earlier in the Memsie Stakes (1400 metres) at Caulfield.

Lords Ransom, recruited from Perth, will start in a 1500-metre race at Moonee Valley on August 23. He, like Gallopin, has to qualify.

O'Brien said he had some exciting spring prospects apart from the cups entrants, but "for me the biggest thing is to try to win the Melbourne Cup — it's just so clearly the biggest race in Australia by such a margin it's the race you want to win. Master O'Reilly can perform better, and Lords Ransom and Gallopin are untapped stayers. We can certainly win other group 1s in the spring, but there's only one Melbourne Cup.

"Every year that goes by, it is going to be harder to win. You can see Ballydoyle getting serious about winning it this year and I don't think if they win it once they'll drop off ... Aidan (O'Brien, who trains at Ballydoyle in Ireland) was amazed when here last year. It left him speechless."

There will be plenty to talk about at Caulfield tomorrow, and at all city tracks as the carnival lead-ups hot up.

By Stephen Howell

To view full Age story click here

Photo by Bruno Cannatelli