Damien Oliver will be given licence to ride Russian Camelot with freedom in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) as the boom import looks to cement Cox Plate favouritism on Saturday.
Chasing his third Group 1 victory, Russian Camelot will face only five rivals at the Heath but trainer Danny O’Brien is unconcerned his stable star might fall victim to opposition tactics.
“I don’t think so. I think we’re drawn to get a nice run, whatever Damien wants to do,” O’Brien said.
“Whether he wants to be outside the leader or one out, one back, he should be in a position where he’s in control of his destiny.
“It shouldn’t matter.”
Veteran Gailo Chop, who returned to form with a tenacious fourth in the Underwood Stakes behind Russian Camelot on September 26, is among four horses in the Caulfield Stakes seeking Underwood revenge against Russian Camelot.
Humidor (second), Arcadia Queen (third) and Harbour Views (sixth) are the others to re-emerge from the Underwood Stakes.
Australian Derby winner Levendi is the only “newcomer” to join the fray as Russian Camelot attempts to emulate the deeds of Winx and So You Think by winning the Caulfield Stakes and the Cox Plate in the same year.
Winx notched the second of four triumphs at The Valley after defeating just two rivals — Black Heart Bart and He Or She — in the 2016 Caulfield Stakes.
Six years earlier, So You Think downed Alcopop and Whobegotyou in a six-horse field at Caulfield before landing his second Cox Plate.
Russian Camelot firmed on Friday from $1.55 into $1.50 with the TAB for the Caulfield Stakes and is a pronounced Cox favourite at $2.80 ahead of internationals Armoury and Sir Dragonet, both $9.
“(He) couldn’t be any better,” O’Brien said.
“He’s third-up now, his two runs have been terrific, (and) stepping out to 2000m should be an advantage for him.”
O’Brien heads to Caulfield with seven runners and is keen to gauge Orderofthegarter’s progress.
Already guaranteed a Caulfield Cup start after winning the Naturalism Stakes, the import is one of two O’Brien entries in the Herbert Power Stakes (2400m).
The other is VRC Oaks winner Miami Bound.
The winner of the Herbert Power is guaranteed a Caulfield Cup start next Saturday.
O’BRIEN RAIDERS CLEARED IN FEED SCARE
Ten elite Irish-trained horses in quarantine at Werribee for the spring carnival have tested negative to Zilpaterol, a substance some Australian veterinarians believes potentially could provide an anabolic effect.
Six horses trained by Aidan O’Brien and a further four prepared by his son Joseph have been cleared of having the substance in their system after samples were analysed by Racing Analytical Services Limited.
The tests were ordered after the O’Briens were forced to withdraw horses from last weekend’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe meeting at Longchamp after Zilpaterol was detected through suspected feed contamination.
Racing Victoria classifies Zilpaterol as a beta-agonist, which is permitted for therapeutic use but is a prohibited substance in a horse‘s system on race day.
The adrenergic agonist is widely used in the cattle industry to improve feed efficiency and muscle definition, a process leading vet Glenn Robertson-Smith said provided an anabolic effect.
“It’s an unfortunate situation and it is one which will provide Racing Victoria with an ethical and moral dilemma given the way it views anabolic steroids,” he said.
“This substance is not an anabolic steroid, but it can be argued it has an anabolic effect.
“If a horse – and we’re not saying these horses have – has the advantage of such an effect because it was in their system at some stage, it does give rise to a dilemma.”
RV ordered the samples from Aidan O’Brien’s Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, Armory, Magic Wand, Tiger Moth, Santiago and Wichita.
Swabs were taken from Joseph O’Brien’s Buckhurst, Master Of Reality, Pondus and Twilight Payment.
All tested negative.
SATURDAY’S Hamilton Cup meeting has been transferred to next Wednesday after the course was considered too damp for safe racing after heavy rain.
MITCH Aitken will face three charges stemming from last month’s Warracknabeal meeting.
He has been charged with two counts of breaching Racing Victoria’s COVID-19 protocols and a third charge of giving allegedly false or misleading evidence.
The charges will be heard by the Victorian Racing Tribunal on a date to be fixed.