Shamus to return in bid to join the greats

Trainer Danny O'Brien began plotting Shamus Award's Cox Plate defence moments after the three-year-old colt created history at Moonee Valley on Saturday by becoming the first maiden to claim Australia's $3 million weight-for-age classic.

Owner Viv Oldfield confirmed to The Australian yesterday that he and fellow owner Sean Buckley had spoken to the Flemington trainer about trying to emulate the deeds of former Cox Plate champion So You Think by successfully defending the crown the following year.

The former Bart Cummings-trained So You Think claimed his first Cox Plate as a three-year-old colt in 2009 before returning the following year to become only the ninth horse in history to go back to back.

The list includes some of the great champions of the turf, Phar Lap, Sunline and Kingston Town, who won three in a row.

"I said to Danny after the race, 'So You Think came back and defended his crown and won it so I suppose we'll have an attempt at doing the same'," Oldfield said yesterday.

"I know you can't compare him to So You Think and we wouldn't even try to do that but at the same stage (of their careers) Shamus Award was rated higher on their form ratings."

The owner also praised the Moonee Valley Racing Committee for using its discretionary powers to include Shamus Award amid criticism that having a maiden in the field devalued the prestigious race.

The colt had finished third in the Caulfield Guineas and was made the first emergency before gaining a start after champion mare Atlantic Jewel was scratched with a tendon injury.

Shamus Award jumped to the front for the 2040m race and held off an early challenge from Fiorente, who finished a gallant third, and the fast-finishing Happy Trails, which was second.

"What was interesting was that for a horse that everyone said had no chance he wasn't $126 -- he was only $26," Oldfield said.

"They kept him reasonably safe for a horse that was supposed to be just an ordinary maiden.

"We thought we were definitely a top six chance for sure, with a bit of luck we could get a place, and if we got kissed on the dick by a fairy we could nearly win it."

Oldfield returned home to Alice Springs yesterday after watching the race with 100 other happy patrons at his pub, Fifth Quarter in West Lakes, Adelaide.

It was also back to earth yesterday for teenage jockey Chad Schofield. He travelled to the Gippsland region in Victoria for the Sale Cup. He was on the favourite Rhythm To Spare but could not repeat Saturday's heroics and the horse finished third behind the winner Mouro.

O'Brien had a rare quiet day yesterday and said that he had spent Saturday night celebrating Shamus Award's win with about 25 others at the Tea House in Melbourne's Chinatown.

"We had the Plate with us and there were plenty of other people in the restaurant who got a photograph with it and enjoyed it," said the astute O'Brien.

"We were more than happy to share the glory of the Plate."

O'Brien said Shamus Award was going for a well-deserved spell but his next challenge would be the Australian Guineas at Flemington in March before a likely tilt at Sydney's rich autumn carnival.

"We would love to win that (the Australian Guineas). For a colt, it's a really good stallion (making) race," O'Brien said.

"Then we'd give some thought to heading up to Sydney for the All Aged, George Ryder and maybe the Doncaster, although he'd cop a fair bit of weight now for being a Cox Plate winner.

"The Cox Plate is historically a race that if you're good enough to win it you're good enough to go out there and win a few more Group Is.

"Octagonal and So You Think went on to win multiple Group Is after winning their first Group I in the Cox Plate and we'd like to think this colt can do something similar."

Story by Stuart Honeysett and Photo by Jay Town, to view full The Australian story click here