Cup winner to come out swinging on home turf
A second successive Melbourne Cup triumph is Vow And Declare's ultimate 2020 goal but, in a warning to rivals, Danny O'Brien says the gelding is now entering his "hitting zone".
On an extended preparation designed to peak on November 3, Vow And Declare will contest the William Newton VC Handicap (2600m) at Flemington on Saturday.
Burdened with 61kg on a 56kg minimum, Vow And Declare's handicap does not deter O'Brien because of the race conditions.
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"He's ready to step to 2600m, it's a nice race for him to run in and he's still in (competitive at) the weight scale," O'Brien said. "This race is part of the program heading towards the Melbourne Cup. The Andrew Ramsden is next (on May 16).
"All we're doing is rolling through the program, but we're still expecting him to be winning these races.
"If you look at his record at 2400m and beyond, he's had four starts for two wins (Melbourne Cup and Tattersall's Cup) and two seconds (Caulfield Cup and Queensland Derby). At 2400m and beyond, that's where he's genetically placed to advantage. He's in his hitting zone."
O'Brien was delighted with the four-year-old's work over 1600m on Tuesday, describing it as "terrific".
O'Brien will start boom galloper Russian Camelot in the 1700m Peter Armytage Handicap at Flemington in preparation for the South Australian Derby (2500m) at Morphettville on May 9.
Quarantined in Adelaide as part of a mandatory two-week self-isolation period, John Allen will be an interested onlooker as Damien Oliver partners Russian Camelot.
"He looks like a smart colt, but obviously has a lot to prove yet, I'm interested to see how he runs," Allen said, pointing to possibly the only chink in Russian Camelot's armour. "Only slight worry he's six months younger than (the other horses) being northern hemisphere bred."
ARCHIE CONFIDENT RASCAL WILL RELISH SPRING
Ballarat trainer Archie Alexander expects drier tracks in Melbourne to bring the best out of Cups contender Young Rascal during the spring carnival.
Beaten Sydney Cup favourite Young Rascal, formerly trained by William Haggas, has won six of 12 career starts, including the Group 3 Manion Cup at Rosehill.
Alexander will take control of the five year-old gelding next month after OTI Racing secured a 50 per cent stake in the exciting stayer.
The Caulfield Cup (2400m) looms as the major spring target for Young Rascal.
"I'm not saying he'll win the Melbourne Cup, but he's good enough to run in the Melbourne Cup and Caulfield Cup," Alexander said.
"You couldn't judge him on (Sydney Cup) a heavy track over two miles (3200m), for me, if he's going to be anything he's more a Caulfield Cup horse than a Melbourne Cup horse.
"On better ground, mile-and-a-half (2400m) he's going to be a really good horse."
Alexander has not had a Cups runner since OTI Racing's Lord Fandango finished fourth in the 2017 Caulfield Cup.
But Young Rascal, rated a $26 chance with TAB for the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup, has the potential upside to deliver the Group 2-winning trainer Alexander a breakthrough Group 1.
Haggas is expected to brief countryman Alexander on Young Rascal in coming weeks.
"He's an exciting horse for the spring," Alexander said. "Especially this year, it could be a very different looking spring if the Europeans don't get here.
"From a selfish Australian point of view it would be good if they couldn't get out here for a year (but) it's good for the sport if they can get out here."
Young Rascal showed promise in England as a three year-old, winning the Group 3 Chester Vase before finishing seventh in the Epsom Derby.
"Any horse good enough to run in the Derby is a proper horse, but that was last year," Alexander said.
"Horses can improve or stay the same, but horses (like Young Rascal) can really thrive down here when they get on cricket tracks, a different tempo (and) different training regime.
"You get some nice weather in the spring, it can really lift horses up."
GRIFFITHS PLOTS TILT AT GUINEAS
Like the single malt Scotch whisky namesake, exciting sprinter-miler Glenfiddich will only get better with age, according to Cranbourne trainer Robbie Griffiths.
Still reeling after the narrow Group 1 defeat last Saturday in the Champagne Stakes at Randwick, Griffiths confirmed Glenfiddich would now be spelled for the spring and tilt at the Caulfield Guineas.
"One of the guys said 'what was the margin' and I said 'Oh (about) five million (dollars)," Griffiths said.
A Group 1 would see $200,000 Magic Millions purchase Glenfiddich's potential stud value skyrocket.
"He's run in the best races and just needed a bit more luck on Saturday and he's a Group 1 winner," Griffiths said. "He got beaten by a superstar in King's Legacy, but it had to work hard to beat him."
The son of Fastnet Rock owns a record of one win and three seconds from nine career starts.
It has not been without frustration, including a bungled start in the Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes and costly stargazing when hitting the front in Adelaide only to then get "beaten a whisker".
He finally broke through to win at Mornington last month but then failed on a wet track in Sydney before the bold second to King's Legacy.
"I'm really looking forward to him as a three year old," Griffiths said.
"Fastnet Rock never won at two, he became a superstar at three … based on genetics he should really improve out of sight as a three year-old."
MAHER FILLY SPARKS INVESTIGATION
Racing Victoria has confirmed a prohibited substance was detected in a blood sample collected from the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained racehorse, Piccatric.
The Racing Analytical Services Limited (RASL) report relates to a post-race blood sample taken from Piccatric after the filly won her 1427m at Sale on February 28.
RASL reported the blood sample contained the diuretic Frusemide, a prohibited raceday substance. Anti-bleeding medication Frusemide, which was detected in the reserve portion of the blood sample also, is used by veterinarians to prevent respiratory bleeding.
Piccatric has had four starts for one win.
The Fastnet Rock filly has not raced since finishing seventh at Morphettville on March 21.
Maher and Eustace were notified about the irregularity March 31 and on Monday Racing Victoria confirmed the "B" sample finding.
Stewards will continue the investigation.
Originally published as Cup winner to come out swinging on home turf