(Image: Karen Photography)
By Steve Jones
Aidan O’Brien is preparing to give his Lexus Melbourne Cup hopefuls their final runs before heading to Australia.
It promises to be a busy few weeks for the Ireland-based trainer as he has 11 horses entered in the $8 million Flemington prize.
Two of those, Constantinople and Cape Of Good Hope, have already left his yard on their way to join the Lindsay Park stables of David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig.
More of his nominations could be sold to be trained in Australia but it is still likely to leave O’Brien with plenty of ammunition in his quest to win his first Lexus Melbourne Cup.
His British Classic winner Kew Gardens will put his credentials to the test in the Irish St Leger a week on Sunday and he is likely to be joined by recent Group 3 winner Southern France at the Curragh.
Kew Gardens won last year’s St Leger at Doncaster before finishing seventh behind European champion Enable in the Arc de Triomphe. The four-year-old has not been seen since finishing runner-up behind Defoe in the Group 1 Coronation Cup at Epsom in May but his trainer revealed he is now raring to go.
O’Brien said: “He went a bit wrong on us and we had to stop with him but he’s back in good shape. He’s ready to start again in the Irish St Leger and he’s a possible for the Melbourne Cup.
“He stays very well – he gets a good trip. We were really looking forward to him for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot this year – we thought he was made for it. I would think that he gets further than two miles and I don’t know if you’re quick enough for the Melbourne Cup when you do that.
“Southern France has been sold but he’s still with us. The plan with him is to go to the Melbourne Cup after the Curragh. It could suit him because he’s got good form over 1m4f (2,400m). He has that little bit of class and we’ve been very happy with him since his last run.”
The Irish champion trainer is likely to run another two of his Lexus Melbourne Cup nominations in the English St Leger the previous day on Saturday September 14.
Derby also-ran Norway and Il Paradiso, third behind star stayer Stradivarius in the Lonsdale Cup at York last month, are both heading to Doncaster for the British Classic on the same day smart filly Magic Wand could take in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.
O’Brien added: “Il Paradiso is now very highly rated. He stays very well and that’s why we ran him at York. He ran a very respectable race - it was a good effort for a three-year-old.
“Norway is in good shape and he’s going to the St Leger. He’s a strong traveller but it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility 1m6f (2,800m) could suit him.
“Magic Wand might run in the Irish Champion Stakes. She’s in the Cox Plate, the Caulfield Cup and the Melbourne Cup. I always thought 1m4f was far enough over here in Group 1s but, it’s funny, that type of race can often suit that type of horse. Flemington is a very flat track and you need a horse who is tactically quick enough. It’s a daft thing but it might just suit her.
“I know Lloyd and Nick Williams are looking at Hunting Horn but he’s still here and we’re getting him ready for Champions’ weekend. He’s a horse that might suit Australia.
“South Pacific is a very possible for the Melbourne Cup as well. He’s another Lloyd and Nick are looking at. When he won at Royal Ascot it was fast ground, a strong gallop and he got the trip well.”
O’Brien went close to winning his first Lexus Melbourne Cup two years ago. His Johannes Vermeer was collared close home by Rekindling, trained by his ex-jockey son Joseph.
O’Brien’s star sprinter Ten Sovereigns could also be off to the Spring Carnival. The July Cup hero is likely to swerve this weekend’s Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock due to soft ground and that opens up the prospect of a swansong in Melbourne.
O’Brien revealed: “He’s in the Everest in Sydney but, I think, two thirds of the time the ground has been soft there. If it is soft he won’t run but he could to Melbourne for a couple of sprints where he should get better ground.”