Tuesday 13 November 2018

Yucatan leads O'Brien challenge for Melbourne glory

Aidan O’Brien: Three challengers. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Aidan O’Brien: Three challengers. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Thomas Kelly

Aidan O'Brien will fire a three-pronged assault in a bid to win the Melbourne Cup for the first time tomorrow.

The Ballydoyle maestro came as close as he has ever done in last year's renewal, with Johannes Vermeer beaten just half a length into second place by Rekindling, trained by O'Brien's son, Joseph.

O'Brien senior is back in force this year and counts the ante-post favourite Yucatan among his three challengers.

The four-year-old was a conclusive winner of the Herbert Power Stakes on his prep and will team up with James McDonald once more.

O'Brien said: "We thought the Melbourne Cup would suit him well. He's on a perfect mark and I imagine James McDonald will go forward on him."

The trainer fields two other live chances in the Ryan Moore-ridden Cliffs Of Moher, which will run as The Cliffsofmoher in the big race, and Rostropovich.

Moore's mount finished third in the Caulfield Cup in the second of two Australian starts, while Rostropovich was fifth behind the mighty Winx in the Cox Plate on his prep run.

O'Brien added: "Cliffs Of Moher is a very classy horse, but he has plenty of weight. The Cup is a tough, difficult race, but we've always thought he could have a big one in him.

"Rostropovich won a Group Three at Leopardstown and he's running off a lovely weight. He had a run to sharpen him up in the Cox Plate and Wayne (Lordan) is going to ride him."

Ian Williams is hoping the decision to dream big will pay off for Magic Circle. The six-year-old has had the 'race that stops a nation' as his target since routing his rivals by six lengths in the Chester Cup back in May.

Magic Circle then secured his place on the plane with a similarly impressive verdict in the Henry II Stakes at Sandown a fortnight later and has been specifically saved for the Flemington feature since then.

Nakeeta finished fifth in the race last year after winning the Ebor but has struggled to find the same kind of form for Iain Jardine this term.

The Saeed bin Suroor-trained Best Solution leads the seven-strong British challenge after winning two Group Ones in Germany before shipping to Australia to claim the Caulfield Cup.

A Prince Of Arran secured his place in the field for Charlie Fellowes by winning Saturday's Lexus Stakes, while John Gosden runs Muntahaa.

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