Barbaricus a big firmer

Danny O'Brien has emerged as the trainer best placed to solve tomorrow's puzzle for punters at Flemington, the $1 million Australian Cup.

O'Brien will saddle the likely leader Barbaricus, pictured, in a race with little obvious on-pace pressure, while stablemate Master O'Reilly is the proven stayer who will be running on.

Barbaricus has been the big firmer in TAB Sportsbet markets this week, coming in from $41 to $17, with Master O'Reilly $12 in a wide betting race.

"Barbaricus always races on the speed. He nearly pinched a Caulfield Cup and a Mackinnon. He's ready to show that form, " O'Brien said yesterday.

TAB Sportsbet's Daniel Happell said he found the race impossible to assess, with Barbaricus a bad result. "There is a fan club out there," he said.

O'Brien said Barbaricus missed the spring with a tendon strain and needed the run when fourth in last week's Futurity Stakes.

"He had a good blow after the Futurity and he's a good back-up horse. We always planned the seven-day back-up. He's ready to show that form," O'Brien said.

Master O'Reilly, who hasn't won since the 2007 Caulfield Cup, tackles the Australian Cup second-up after a 1200m sprint run in the William Reid Stakes.

"He could have run in it first-up," O'Brien said. "He virtually had a trial over 1200m. He's got a good 2000m record. He was just beaten in a Turnbull Stakes here. It's a even race, with six or seven chances."

This year's edition lacks a stand-out 2000m performer, which will result in the most open Australian Cup since Oliver Twist started $5 favourite and ran fourth in 2000.

There are "knocks" on all the leading chances.

Heart Of Dreams, the $6.50 favourite, is a distance doubt, while second favourite Shocking ($7) did not strike his best until he got to 2400m and beyond in the spring.

The only weight-for-age 2000m winner in the race is Sirmione ($14). (Littorio won the set-weights 2008 Turnbull Stakes).

Sirmione won the 2008 Australian Cup and 2007 Mackinnon Stakes and is chasing master trainer Bart Cummings' 14th win in the race.

"If he finds that form, he'll blow them away," O'Brien said.

Trainer Mick Price, who has Heart Of Dreams and Miss Maren ($12), said both were chances.

"Heart Of Dreams needs cover. He needs everything to happen for him early," he said.

Story Tim Habel, to view Herald Sun story click here

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

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