Downdraft secures Melbourne Cup spot with Joseph O'Brien now saddling one sixth of field
Joseph O'Brien will saddle one sixth of the field in Tuesday's Melbourne Cup after Downdraft confirmed his place in "the race that stops a nation" with a commanding display in the Group Three Hotham Stakes this morning at Flemington.
O'Brien – who won the 2017 Melbourne Cup with Rekindling – will have four chances this time around after Downdraft (9/2 favourite) joined Master of Reality, 2018 Irish Derby hero Latrobe and Twilight Payment when easing to victory by a length and a half.
Downdraft had ran a fine race in defeat when third behind Hunting Horn – trained by Joseph's father Aidan – in the Group Two Moonee Valley Gold Cup last Saturday and stepped things up another notch under Irish jockey John Allen.
The progressive four-year-old will not be hit with a penalty as O'Brien, 26, goes in search of another famous triumph and connections were delighted to grab the last spot in the Cup field.
"We've had this horse for a couple of years. Joseph has been extremely patient with him," Terry Henderson of the OTI Racing syndicate said. "It's a great thrill for all the owners and the stable to have another horse in the Cup, a horse with a real show."
Downdraft will return to Flemington on Tuesday for his third run in a week but Henderson – as well as Allen – are not worried about having to race again in three days' time and believe that the Camelot colt has a live chance.
"He's not a particularly strong-looking horse but inside he has plenty of determination," Henderson said. "Joseph was very happy to run him and be confident that if he ran well today he could back up."
Cork-born jockey Allen added: "If he backs up good, he'll be in there with a right chance hopefully. He seems to have a great attitude, obviously I don't know a great amount about him but I believe Joseph is pretty confident that he can handle it.
"The race last Saturday was only like a piece of work to him. That got him spot on for today and he never looked like getting beaten."
Downdraft will carry 8-6 in the €5million Australian showpiece which takes place in the early hours of Tuesday morning (4.0am Irish time) while Willie Mullins' True Self, also owned by OTI Racing, has a small chance to sneak into the 24-runner field.
Should two more contenders fall away before then, Mullins' mare (which currently lies in 26th) will make the field and become an eighth Irish runner with Aidan O'Brien also saddling Il Paradiso, Magic Wand and Hunting Horn.