Spring plans for Vigor, while pair chase desert riches

Trainer Danny O'Brien might be looking forward to next spring with his home-track winner Vigor, who took his winning run to five straight on Saturday.

But the plans for two of his stable stalwarts who also stepped out on Saturday, the grey Barbaricus and the veteran Valedictum, are far more short-term.

Firstly, O'Brien confirmed his view Vigor, pictured, will be a spring Cups contender and the in-form stayer will be given the chance to earn a start in this year's Caulfield and Melbourne Cups after completing the quintet of city wins in the Comedy King Handicap (2520m).

It is rare for any horse to rack up five successive Melbourne wins in handicap class and although Vigor ($1.90 fav) again accounted for modest company yesterday, he promises to win much better races.

O'Brien has a good yardstick in stablemate Gallopin, who won four in a row in the summer of 2007-08 and graduated to spring class winning the Moonee Valley Cup and running in the Melbourne Cup.

However in the short-term O’Brien's focus will be overseas as his pair will be flown to Dubai on Tuesday to be readied for a tilt at the desert riches on offer during the Middle Eastern state's major racing carnival.

And on the evidence of yesterday's showing the 38-year-old trainer, who has already campaigned Glamour Puss in England and Douro Valley in Hong Kong without much luck, can expect better fortune with this foreign adventure.

Last spring the four-year-old Barbaricus improved by leaps and bounds, running third in the Caulfield Cup and second in the Mackinnon Stakes, both group 1 contests.

On Saturday, on his resumption in the 1600-metre Tauto Handicap following a disappointing effort in the Melbourne Cup when he finished 19th of the 22 starters, Barbaricus gave O'Brien plenty to be pleased about despite running ninth.

The $4.80 favourite found plenty of trouble in the run — attributable, O'Brien later said, to "pilot error" by his young apprentice Duncan Miller — before finishing off strongly in a race won by the Hey Rosie.

Miller, the 17-year-old West Australian who is indentured to O'Brien, has the pedigree to be a success in racing as he is the son of Stephen and Sharon Miller and the second cousin of legendary Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Johnny Miller.

But he is still inexperienced in the metropolitan area and O'Brien pointed out that with a more judicious ride Barbaricus could have taken much closer order.

"It was just an inexperienced rider. He had ridden a beautiful race to the 600, but then when everyone else went, he was asleep and in the wrong spot. If the horse had been able to track into it from the 600 he's right in the finish," O'Brien said.

"I am more than happy with his run, but a little bit of pilot error probably cost him the race."

Barbaricus will have a couple of lead-up runs in Dubai with his ultimate target being the 2400-metre, $US5 million Dubai Sheema Classic.

Valedictum, an evergreen eight-year-old and a group 1 winner of the Emirates Stakes over the Flemington 1600m earlier in his career, was partnered yesterday by champion jockey Damien Oliver.

The veteran, who started at $13, finished hard in fourth spot behind winner Rok Posta ($10) and O'Brien declared him on target to win on his travels although he will not be set such a daunting task as Barbaricus. Valedictum will be aimed at lesser events over 1500 to 1600m.

"He seems to be going as well as ever. He will probably run two or three times in the carnival there. I don't see why he couldn't win, pick one up. There's probably not going to be as much depth in those 1500-metre, mile races.

"For a horse like him a new environment can give him a lift. Last year we took him up to Sydney and had a few weeks there and he came out and blew them away in the last on Slipper day," O'Brien said.

"He's an eight-year-old gelding so there's not much left for him. If we can win a couple of races in Dubai then it will be a terrific end for him."

O'Brien is confident that Barbaricus can get his way into the Sheema Classic on Dubai World Cup night.

"He's obviously a very progressive horse. If he made the step from what we saw in the spring hopefully he can win a couple of those lead-ups."

The trainer could be doubly handed in the Sheema Classic as he also has the race on the itinerary for his 2007 Caulfield Cup winner Master O'Reilly, whose first target is the Australian Cup.

"If we are happy with him he will go there for the Sheema, too. Its $US5 million, a mile-and-a-half race, that's $7.5 million Australian. It rates similar to the Caulfield Cup. You just have to be there. The Australian Cup is worth a million and is probably harder to win."

O'Brien plans to use jockeys who will be based in Dubai — he mentioned Irish riders Johnny Murtagh and Ted Durcan — but said Oliver could be brought over "later in the piece".

Vlad Duric, the regular partner of Master O'Reilly, would be aboard the gelding if he travelled.

By Michael Lynch

To view The Age story click here

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

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