Sport Horse Racing

Thursday 22 August 2019

O'Brien happy with Melbourne hopeful

O'Brien: "His two runs were good and he didn’t get a clear passage in the straight last time." Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Thomas Kelly

Aidan O'Brien will bid to cap a record-breaking season with a first victory in the Emirates Melbourne Cup in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

The Ballydoyle handler, who recently set a new best for Group One winners in a year, saddles Johannes Vermeer in the 'race that stops a nation' at Flemington.

Winner of a Group Three at the Curragh in July, the four-year-old son of Galileo has paid his way Down Under, finishing second in the Ladbrokes Stakes and third in the Caulfield Cup.

O'Brien said: "Everyone is happy with him down there. His two runs were good and he didn't get a clear passage in the straight last time. But whether he wants that (two-mile) trip, I'm really not sure."

Frankie Dettori is another who has enjoyed a year to remember and he, too, is seeking a maiden success in the Cup.

The ever-popular Italian has picked up the ride on last year's winner Almandin, which is trained by Robert Hickmott and owned by Lloyd and Nick Williams.

"It's brilliant to get the ride on Almandin. I have ridden for the owner before, so fingers crossed he can do it again," Dettori said.

Willie Mullins has three chances, led by Max Dynamite, which came within half a length of glory in 2015.

"We didn't enter Max Dynamite in really big races (this year) as we felt he had enough weight if he stayed sound and everything came right," said Mullins.

"He won an ordinary race at home, but at least that showed us that he's back in form and we think he's in good form. He's got a nice weight, a nice draw and a good jockey (Zac Purton). What more can we ask for?

"Thomas Hobson has been as fit as a flea all along. We've been winding him down here rather than winding him up. He doesn't need any winding up. He's got a fantastic jockey (Joao Moreira) who can ride from very deep out on the track and get a position.

"We had the Melbourne Cup in the back of our mind for Wicklow Brave, but we ran him a lot more this year - we ran him everywhere. He's surprised me that he's stayed in form all year. If he gets the run of the race, you never know what'd happen."

Nakeeta would be a fairytale winner for Scottish trainer Iain Jardine and is anything but a forlorn hope having won the Ebor at York in August.

"Heartbreak City gave us the ambition to come here because obviously he nearly pulled it off (winning Ebor and Melbourne Cup last year) and our lad has got a very similar profile," said Jardine.

"I think he's got a genuine chance. I wouldn't have brought him over here just to be part of the Melbourne Cup.

"I'm not like that and don't want to have runners in big races unless they have a chance. I enter my horses in races I think they can win. The quicker they go the better. That would suit us."

Adding further strength to the European challenge is the Hughie Morrison-trained Marmelo, winner of the Prix Kergorlay in France, which enjoyed a nice prep run when sixth in the Caulfield Cup.

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