O’Brien primes triple threat for strong Underwood

Flemington trainer's Danny O'Brien and Mark Kavanagh have described Saturday's $352,000 Underwood Stakes (1800m) as the strongest race in Australia in the past 10 years.

"This field is outrageously strong," Kavanagh said. "It's a fair dinkum race of top class horses."

And rival trainer O'Brien endorsed Kavanagh's opinion. "I cannot remember when Melbourne had a weight-for-age race to match the depth in the Underwood Stakes," he said.

O'Brien, who will saddle up three runners including second favourite and Caulfield Cup favourite, Vigor, predicted it would be the best weight-for-age field of the spring.

Statistics support the trainers. There are 14 winners of Group 1 races in the Underwood Stakes field and one of them – the New Zealander Maco'reilly did not even make the cut and is first emergency.

Kavanagh's Whobegotyou is race favourite at $2.50 and he will also run Maldivian in the event.

O'Brien said Whobegotyou deserved to be the favourite for the Underwood Stakes, but predicted it would be his toughest test.

"He is not a dominant weight-for-age winner; in fact he has won only one race in the past year," he said.

O'Brien said Vigor, who is pictured above beating Typhoon Tracy in the Makybe Diva Stakes with Master O'Reilly running into third, had won his only start at weight-for-age and was shaping as the best horse he has trained.

"Vigor has won six of his past eight starts and probably was unlucky in the other two," O'Brien said.

If Vigor wins the Underwood Stakes - he is a clear second favourite at $5.50 - his price for the Caulfield Cup will be slashed. He drops 8kg on Saturday's weight-for-age 59kg to 51kg in the Cup.

O'Brien is also delighted with Master O'Reilly, the 2007 Caulfield Cup winner, and said his third placing in the Makybe Diva Stakes was a career best first-up run.

"Master O'Reilly is going as well as when he won the Cup," O'Brien said. "He will have one more run (in the Turnbull Stakes) before this year's Caulfield Cup."

Eight-year-old Douro Valley is O'Brien's third runner in the Underwood Stakes and he said the veteran probably would need the run to get him closer to top form.

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

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