Danny O'Brien Herald Sun Column - My horses are genuine contenders

Thursday morning before Derby Day, the start of the most pulsating week in Australian racing, is always busy. Yesterday it was frantic.

Apart from the 60 horses working at Flemington, two of my Melbourne Cup contenders - Master O'Reilly, my Caulfield Cup winner from last year, and Gallopin, the Moonee Valley Cup victor from Saturday - were working at Thirteenth Beach, near my Barwon Heads property.

Ideally, you would love to absorb what's happening at both places. But when you gallop horses on the beach, the schedule is governed by when the tide is out.

Yesterday it was out really early, and you simply can't be in two places at once.

While Paul Koumis and Steve Miller, respectively, worked Master O'Reilly and Gallopin, I was in the trainers' hut at Flemington watching Buffett, my Derby candidate, and Barbaricus, the third of our Cup runners, gallop.

Master O'Reilly and Gallopin went for a 2000m gallop, quickening the final 600m, along the beach. They then spent 30 minutes wading through the water.

Reports from Paul and Steve were most encouraging.

I'm a big believer in utilising the salt water for a horse's rehab. It's no great secret; horses have been going to the beach for 100 years.

But the thinking behind it is much the same as footballers wading waste-deep in salt water post-match.

It helps unlock the lactic acid out of their system, and it is the most natural way to deal with any inflammation from race day.

If you can get a horse's joints cold and free, they are more comfortable.

Mentally, it also gives the horses a break from the day-to-day routine in a stable environment, which is particularly beneficial for stayers, who have long, searching preparations.

After both Master O'Reilly and Gallopin raced on Saturday, it's what I felt both needed before a strong gallop back at Flemington tomorrow.

Our Flemington carnival cranks up at 4am tomorrow, when all the horses that will race on Cup and Oaks Day work.

By the time we get to 8am on Derby Day, we have endured a pressured morning working and assessing the horses for the week that awaits.

Then the attention switches to our four runners on Derby Day, obviously Buffett taking centre stage in the $1.5 million Victoria Derby. We also have Barbaricus (Mackinnon Stakes), Lucky Thunder (Carbine Club) and Valedictum (Salinger).

I was very pleased with Buffett's run last week in the AAMI Vase and, more importantly, it has really brought him to his top for the Derby.

He will get a lovely run from his draw, and gives me the impression he will run the 2500m right out.

For Master O'Reilly, Gallopin and Barbaricus, the Melbourne Cup has been 12 months in the planning. I'm sure I will have a little knot in my stomach between now and Tuesday hoping the last few days don't bring any unforeseen setbacks.

There's no doubt in my mind this is the strongest team of horses that I've taken into a carnival.

Every race in Cup week is a big race. Even victory in an under-card race is to be savoured. Success in a Group 1, especially the Group 1, the Melbourne Cup, lasts forever.

What does the week hold? I'm comfortable that everything that represents the stable will have a competitive chance.

After that it comes down to what happens on the day, what you trust is a fair racing surface and the skill of our jockeys.

With Messrs Oliver, Nikolic, Arnold, Bowman, Duric, Winks and Baster, our horses are in the best hands.

What will be will be, but the horses are well, particularly the Cup trio. They go into the race at their absolute best.

All we can do now is hope their best is good enough.

By Danny O'Brien

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Photo by Colleen Petch, to view Herald Sun Racing section click here

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