O'Brien eyes another Sires

Danny O’Brien’s hopes of enhancing his outstanding recent record in the $220,000 Henry Bucks VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes improved this morning when his representation doubled.

The in-form Flemington horseman always had Shamus Award in the 1400-metre Group 2 event but has now gained a start with Gravitational, who like Shamus Award is raced by Sean Buckley, following the scratchings of Lannister and San Diego.

It gives O’Brien two runners in the race that he has won twice in the past three seasons, with Shamrocker in 2010 and Running Tall, pictured, the following year, but he is sticking with the highly-fancied Shamus Award as his best chance.

Shamus Award was a fine fifth in the Blue Diamond Stakes and has plotted the path trod to victory by Running Tall, but O’Brien said the colt appeared cut from same sort of cloth as his other winner.

“He’s probably more like Shamrocker,” O’Brien said. “Just being competitive at the sort of journeys he has been was good and as he steps up to 1400 metres and the mile is when you’ll see the best of him.”

Shamus Award, a son of Snitzel, finished third at his first three starts before working home solid to claim fifth in the Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m).

Running Tall and Rostova (2009) are the only Sires’ winners of the past decade to have come through the Blue Diamond, but Shamus Award’s Diamond effort gave O’Brien confidence that he can become the third.

“I thought his run was terrific,” the trainer said. “He did get a good run in the race, but he found the line really well. He just couldn’t sprint from the bend like a couple of the ones that beat him home.

“His last furlong was really good, he kept coming the whole way down the straight, and out to 1400 around Flemington, from a good barrier, I expect him to be really hard to beat.”

Shamus Award, who retains the services of jockey Nick Hall, drew barrier three but will start from two if third emergency Mista Spot doesn’t gain a start. He is a $7 chance in the TAB market with Gravitational, who drew gate 12 and has Noel Callow aboard, a $61 chance.

Favourite, at $5, is the Peter Moody-trained Weinholt, a seven-length last-start winner at Ballarat.

Shamus Award and Gravitational are among several Super Saturday runners for O’Brien, who has been the dominant trainer at Flemington in the second half of the season and is coming off a winning treble last Saturday.

Shamexpress, the horse who carried the stable’s hopes in last year’s Sires, when fifth behind All Too Hard, runs in the $1 million Group 1 Lexus Newmarket Handicap.

The 1200-metre event, the final leg of the G1 Sprint Championship, is the race O’Brien set the colt for after his Coolmore Stud Stakes placing on Derby Day and he is thrilled with how he enters the race.

“This has always been the race we’ve targeted him at and the horse is going in great shape,” he said. “He trialled really well here Tuesday and he’s ready to go to the races and run really well.

“It’s going to be a hard race to win, he’s got to reach a career peak to win it, so it’s just a matter of whether he’s got that type of ability. But he’s going in there in his best shape so we’ll find out if he is good enough.”

Shamexpress is a $14 chance in the Newmarket, which sees another Moody-trained runner – Moment of Change, $2.80 – head betting.

O’Brien’s other feature runner on the Flemington program is Keep de Rose, who resumes in the $220,000 Group 2 TAB Kewney Stakes (1400m), while he also has Thorn Star engaged in the $150,000 Group 3 Schweppervescence Trophy (1600m).

Story by Brad Bishop, to view full Racing Victoria story click here

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