O'Brien cup quartet on show

It may be a relatively low-ranking night-racing card, but for Flemington trainer Danny O'Brien, tonight's Moonee Valley meeting will tell him much about his prospects of winning a second successive Caulfield Cup next month.

O'Brien paid up for six of the 80 horses remaining in the running for the Caulfield Cup after second declarations this week, and four of those will be on show tonight. Only leading trainer David Hayes, with seven, paid up for more horses in the $2.5 million cup.

Of most interest tonight for O'Brien will be the performance in the JRA Cup of former Perth horse Lords Ransom, who is seeking a win and a hefty penalty to make the cup field.

O'Brien will also saddle up cup hopeful Barbaricus in the final race and during the night will gallop his Caulfield Cup quinella horses of last year, Master O'Reilly and Douro Valley, between races.

Master O'Reilly, Douro Valley and Irish Derby runner-up Alexander Of Hales have already cemented a spot in the Caulfield Cup for O'Brien, but Lords Ransom, Barbaricus and Gallopin must win a race in the next 22 days to claim a place.

O'Brien said yesterday that he was still unsure whether Barbaricus would chase a cup spot but said he had not given up hope Lords Ransom could claim a berth either tonight or in the Winning Edge Stakes on October 11, despite coming off a poor run when hot favourite at Flemington this month.

"You can't be really sure if he was affected by a virus that went through Flemington at the time but he certainly raced flat and he had a little discharge out of his nostrils a few days after the race," O'Brien said of Lords Ransom. "Even if it puts them off their game 5 or 10%, it's enough to stop them.

"But we treated him and that cleaned right up now. It certainly hasn't taken anything out of him."

The JRA Cup has a classy line-up, with Lords Ransom against the likes of group 1 winners Devil Moon, Casual Pass, C'est La Guerre and Anamato.

"The race will give us a real guide as to where we are with him because it's a pretty good little race," O'Brien said of Lords Ransom. "If he can win or go close, then hopefully we can progress on to bigger things down the track.

"Obviously, we'd like to win the race and get a penalty of one, maybe one and a half, kilograms to lift him into calculations for the Caulfield Cup.

"But it's always been the plan to go to the Winning Edge (Stakes) a week before the Caulfield Cup. That's the program Master O'Reilly had last year. He ran third in the JRA Cup and then won the Winning Edge before winning the cup.

"I was very pleased with his first-run for us (third at Moonee Valley last month) and his form in Perth is very encouraging, so I'd say I am cautiously optimistic that he can get there."

O'Brien said Master O'Reilly would benefit from a strong gallop with Douro Valley tonight as he will have a month between running in the Makybe Diva Stakes and tomorrow week's Turnbull Stakes at Flemington. He said Douro Valley would run next in the group 1 Yalumba Stakes before backing up in the Caulfield Cup.

By Andrew Eddy

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Photo by the West Australian