Gallopin to the Cup

New Zealand-bred stayer Gallopin gained a one-kilogram penalty for winning the Moonee Valley Cup yesterday — an extra impost that will probably gain him a start in the Melbourne Cup and give Flemington trainer Danny O'Brien a third contender in Australia's greatest race.

Gallopin, a $7 shot, prevailed in a driving finish under James Winks to win the Group 2, 2500-metre event by a head from Baughurst ($4.60 favourite), with Ice Chariot ($5) 2¼ lengths back in third place.

Racing Victoria's chief handicapper Greg Carpenter immediately announced a one-kilogram penalty for Gallopin, which takes his Cup weight to 52 kilograms and leaves him 30th in the order of entry. With normal attrition rates, the five-year-old gelding by Pins can expect to get a start alongside stablemates Master O'Reilly and Caulfield Cup placegetter Barbaricus.

O'Brien admitted that the opposition this year — headed by Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien's Cup favourite Septimus — was stronger than it had ever been, but he was optimistic that Gallopin would acquit himself well.

Certainly, the trainer said, he had been very keen on Gallopin's chances yesterday. "I don't think I have ever been as confident going into a big race as I have been today," he said.

"The horse has had a good preparation. His work since he's come back (to Melbourne from Sydney) has been sensational and I'm not at all surprised he has won today. I have just got a really good opinion of this horse as a stayer. When he gets out to these sorts of distances he's a very good horse.

"We are stepping into probably the strongest Melbourne Cup that I have seen, but he's had the right preparation for it."

O'Brien has targeted Gallopin at the Cup since he got the horse, building him up through the classes until he had the experience to be competitive in such a stamina-sapping test as he will face on Tuesday week.

"He had a good spring last year in the lesser-grade races and capped it off with the Bagot win, and getting out to these distances that suit him today you have seen what he can do," the trainer said.

"We have got our home-track advantage, we know the horse is going to run a strong two miles, he's down in the weights, I am sure he will run well."

By Michael Lynch

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Photo by Age photographer John Donegan

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