Thursday 19 September 2019

Irish Champions Weekend will tell the tale on Joseph O'Brien's Melbourne Cup hopefuls

Trainer Joseph O'Brien
Trainer Joseph O'Brien
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Irish Champions Weekend will tell the tale about how many of Joseph O'Brien's five Lexus Melbourne Cup entries will head Down Under later this year.

Last year's Irish Derby hero Latrobe, Master Of Reality, Twilight Payment and exciting three-year-old Buckhurst are all set to stake their claim for 'the race that stops a nation' as O'Brien eyes another famous triumph after lifting the Australian showpiece as a rookie trainer two years ago.

That quartet all hold entries in the Group One Irish St Leger on Sunday at the Curragh and could face off against each other with Downdraft the only one of the quintet not hitting the racecourse on what is a huge weekend for Irish racing.

O'Brien, who will dust off his saddle to ride in the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland on Sunday, stressed that their plans are quite fluid, however, and that they could end up with different targets depending on how they perform this weekend.

"They'll all have to run and then we'll liaise with owners and make our final plan then. In an ideal world, I'd run all of them in the Melbourne Cup but invariably that doesn't happen," O'Brien said.

"There's a good bit of water to go under the bridge before then, they all have to run well in their prep runs here and they have options, not just in Melbourne so there's plenty of good races to be won at the end of the season.

"There's races in America and things as well. There's great prize money in Melbourne and we've been lucky there before so it'd be nice to have something going there.

"Irish Champions Weekend will tell a lot, that'll be all their last runs and after that they'll probably have to travel outside of Ireland so we'll see how they run first and then a decision will be made on what they do and where they go for the rest of the season."

O'Brien is happy with the the acquisition of Twilight Payment, purchased by Australian owners Lloyd and Nick Williams from Jim Bolger as they seek a seventh Melbourne Cup win, the most recent of which came with the O'Brien-trained Rekindling in 2017.

"He's a nice recruit," O'Brien said of Twilight Payment. "He's settled in well, obviously we don't know a huge amount about him yet, but he's a nice horse for sure and the form of his win at the Curragh (in the Group Two Curragh Cup) is working out well."

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