O'Brien off to Gallopin start

Four wins at Geelong on Thursday provided Flemington trainer Danny O'Brien with the perfect opening to the spring carnival.

Today he will launch a two-state attack with the Group 1 The Metropolitan at Randwick his prime target with emerging stayer Gallopin.

Despite Gallopin finishing fifth at his most recent start at Caulfield, O'Brien didn't hesitate in sending him to Sydney for a crack at feature race glory.

"It was probably a bit of my doing that he got beat last time," O'Brien said yesterday. "I wanted Steven [Arnold] to go forward on him, and he was probably a bit too close to them. He still fought on pretty well though. It was a good enough run for me to push on to The Metropolitan."

O'Brien booked Danny Nikolic for the ride on Gallopin last week, and said he expected Gallopin, which has won seven of 16, to give a good account of himself.

"It is by no means an easy race," O'Brien said. "You have a horse like Red Lord that is in good form and is going to be very hard to beat as well as an AJC Derby winner in Fiumicino, which is also back in winning form.

"But Gallopin is still on the way up. He has only been lightly raced, and he gets his chance with 53 kilograms on his back."

At Flemington, O'Brien will have two runners in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes with last season's Caulfield Cup winner Master O'Reilly and Irish import Alexander Of Hales lining up against the Horse of the Year, Weekend Hussler.

"Master O'Reilly is on track for another good spring," O'Brien said. "He turned in a cracking run first-up in the Makybe Diva Stakes and has come on from that. The step up to 2000m is good for him, and I expect him to be hitting the line hard again."

Alexander Of Hales, part-owned by Paul Makin of Starcraft fame, is having its third run for O'Brien and hasn't done much since resuming from more than a year away from racing.

The David Hayes-trained Zagreb, which won the race in which Gallopin was last in action, also lines up in the Turnbull. Champion jockey Damien Oliver also links with O'Brien today, riding Alexander Of Hales in the Turnbull while Vlad Duric sticks with Master O'Reilly. Oliver also has group 1-winning mare Absolut Glam in the Blazer Stakes for O'Brien.

Oliver, who rode five winners at Geelong on Thursday, including four for O'Brien, takes over the mount on Absolut Glam from James Winks, who was aboard when it resumed with a close second to Typhoon Zed in the Manikato Stakes.

"Absolut Glam ran great when she resumed at Moonee Valley," O'Brien said. "She didn't get a lot of room in the straight but got to the line well.

"The step up to 1400m is perfect for her, and she has drawn well in barrier six. And Damien [Oliver] is in great form too. She'll be very hard to beat."

O'Brien is also represented at Flemington today by Bombard (Beyond Sportswear Stakes), and the colt will race in the colours made famous by three-time Melbourne Cup winner Makybe Diva.

"He's a nice colt and has had the benefit of one run back from a spell now," O'Brien said.

By John Schell

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Photo by Bruno Cannatelli, to view Bruno's website click here