Aussies caught in raider hysteria

Danny O'Brien says the Aussies are paranoid about the strength of the European raiders in tomorrow's Emirates Melbourne Cup.

Flemington-based O'Brien, who with three runners leads the local defence of the Cup, said the supposed superiority of the Europeans was based largely on speculation.

"We have seen Mad Rush and you'd expect him to run well and Bauer, but he's (only) coming off a Geelong Cup win," he said.

"The rest of them ... we don't know. They may run terribly, it's happened before.

"It's been an hysterical over-reaction, it's a one-sided argument."

O'Brien is pushing the case for the locals.

He is supremely confident the find of the spring Barbaricus ($21), Master O'Reilly ($26) and Gallopin ($41) will be serious contenders.

And he declared the Aidan O'Brien game plan of a truly run Cup would suit his three runners perfectly, including on-pacer Barbaricus.

"I'm happy for Aidan to make the pace for us. We'll be able to bludge in the run instead of sitting in the breeze like we did in the Caulfield Cup and on Saturday."

O'Brien declared Barbaricus "incredible odds" at $21.

"His run in the Caulfield Cup was as good as Mad Rush's and he's $5 and we are $21," he said.

Barbaricus has been a revelation this spring with his Caulfield Cup third at $101 and a last-stride defeat in Saturday's Mackinnon Stakes, pictured above.

Remarkably, he's by sprint sire Lion Hunter, and that's something wise racing men are struggling to get their heads around. If he was by Zabeel he would surely be one of the favourites.

"He doesn't know he's by Lion Hunter. He's run great races in the Caulfield Cup and Mackinnon and that is proven Melbourne Cup form. And he drops so much in weight (8kg)," O'Brien said.

As jockey Stephen Baster pointed out: "I won't be carrying 10 kilos of lead on Tuesday."

O'Brien said Barbaricus's Cup quest was a long-range plan.

"From the day we broke him in he showed signs of being a stayer.

"He was always relaxed and had a big engine. We deliberately held him back from the Derby last year and gave him a light autumn with one run and set him for the Cups. We were quietly confident he would run well in the Caulfield Cup and he ran a bottler."

O'Brien said Barbaricus and Master O'Reilly were the proven Group 1 performers, while last-start Moonee Valley Cup winner Gallopin had to take the next step.

He said Master O'Reilly's barrier six was ideal.

"He'll get the race run to suit and from that barrier can be ridden a bit closer and get a run through the field like he did when he won the Caulfield Cup."

Master O'Reilly ran eighth when favourite in last year's Melbourne Cup but the jury is out on whether he can stay.

"We won't know until Tuesday whether it was one run too many last year or if he can't stay," he said.

He said Gallopin needed to prove he could step up to Group 1 level.

"He loves Flemington and I'm sure he'll run the 3200m right out."

By Tim Habel

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