Gallopin to take on the world

Despite having three of the strongest local hopes of winning the $5 million Melbourne Cup, trainer Danny O'Brien believes it has become a truly international event.

O'Brien, who will have Gallopin, Master O'Reilly and Barbaricus in the Group 1 3200-metre event, says that the Melbourne Cup can only get stronger with the extra dimension of overseas competitors.

"People say to me, have you put the white flag up? I say no, I'm hopeful for the first time to have horses in the race that can truly run two miles, but if we fall short, we fall short," O'Brien said.

"We've always got to remember, however powerful the overseas build up of horses is we have one remaining advantage — it is run in our own backyard."

Gallopin secured a place in the Melbourne Cup field with his dour performance in winning the Moonee Valley Cup on Saturday.

"This has been a 12-month strategy," O'Brien said. "I went light on him in the autumn with just one view in mind and that was the Melbourne Cup.

"He probably should have won The Metropolitan in Sydney at his (second) last start but the track was rain-affected and didn't suit him.

"Master O'Reilly had no hope in the Cox Plate after they went so slow and Barbaricus ran such a fantastic race in the Caulfield Cup."

But the trainer said that that win, lose or draw, the Melbourne Cup was reaching new heights.

"Ten years ago racing became very much globalised and if we didn't have a race like the Melbourne Cup to hang our hat on, we would become irrelevant," O'Brien said.

"To have horses from all over the world coming to Australia just keeps lifting its profile. We expect the Australian Open golf tournament and tennis tournament to be truly international, so why not our most important race.

"We didn't send back New Zealand horses because they were invading our major race over the past four decades and we didn't ask Archer to walk back home after he made the trek to Melbourne."

O'Brien said that Australians should embrace the fact that the Melbourne Cup is gaining so much credibility in Europe and elsewhere and that some of the best stables in the world are not treating the race as an afterthought.

"To see the depth of international trainers and horses that are coming to Melbourne only speaks highly that the message is getting through," he said.

"It may highlight some deficiency in our breeding that is probably an issue racing will have to take on board.

"But to say let's keep the Melbourne Cup in Melbourne and don't encourage outsiders is a step backwards when the rest of the racing world is going forwards."

Gallopin was 40th in the order of entry into the Melbourne Cup and needed to win the Moonee Valley Cup and gain a penalty to improve his chances of gaining a start.

That he did, with Racing Victoria chief handicapper Greg Carpenter penalising him one kilogram, which has taken his Cup weight to 52 and elevated him to 30th in the order of entry for the 24-horse field.

"It was a driving finish but it was his best win and I've given him a kilo," Carpenter said.

By Patrick Bartley

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