Raiders aim to fly out on Flemington high
JOSEPH O'Brien hopes to erase the misery of The Cliffsofmoher's Melbourne Cup demise when crack Irish colt Latrobe contests the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington.
O'Brien was devastated by the death of The Cliffsofmoher, who was trained by his father Aidan, after the raider fractured a shoulder early in the Cup.
"It's unfortunate," he said. "Horses can be injured in a field. It's unfortunate it happened in the Melbourne Cup."
Ballydoyle foreman TJ Comerford said Aidan O'Brien was distressed by the fatal injury to The Cliffsofmoher, one of several European horses either euthanased or seriously injured during the spring.
Joseph O'Brien said Latrobe had settled in well after connections decided to bypass the Cup and target the Mackinnon.
"Very happy with him, he seems to have travelled down well and we're looking forward to the race now," he said.
"We decided, after talking with Lloyd and Nick (Williams), not to go to the Cup because he doesn't have near the miles in him that Rekindling had coming down here last season.
"Rekindling was a guaranteed stayer. Latrobe is a less mature colt.
"That's why we decided he was a Mackinnon Stakes horse."
Latrobe will be ridden by Mark Zahra, who replaces the suspended Hugh Bowman.
O'Brien praised Charlie Appleby's effort to win the Cup with Cross Counter, a veteran of just seven starts pre-race.
"Fair play to Charlie and his team," O'Brien said.
"They did a fantastic job.
"They mapped out a plan and it was a plan well executed."
Aidan O'Brien has four runners in the $1 million VRC Sprint - US Navy Flag, Spirit Of Valor, Intelligence Cross and Fleet Review.
Intent on cramming more trophies into a bulging cabinet, Appleby hopes to bookend the spring carnival with Group 1 glory at Flemington on Saturday.
Appleby will saddle Blair House in the $2 million Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) and Jungle Cat in the $1 million VRC Sprint Classic (1200m).
With victories already in the Melbourne Cup with Cross Counter and the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes with Jungle Cat, Appleby has been the most successful of the marauding international trainers.
Sharing the spoils with Saeed bin Suroor (Caulfield Cup with Best Solution and Caulfield Stakes with Benbatl) and Charlie Fellowes (Lexus Stakes with A Prince Of Arran), Appleby will fly his team back to Dubai on Sunday.
But not before a departing tilt at Flemington's riches, where he hopes to add to his 13 Group 1s internationally this season.
Blair House faces nine rivals in the Mackinnon, including fellow raider and Irish Derby winner Latrobe.
"I'm very confident," Appleby said of the Caulfield Stakes runner-up."He's come out of that last run well and we purposely skipped the Cox Plate.
"We felt we couldn't reverse the form there with Benbatl, let alone Winx, so we purposely gave that a swerve so we could gointo the Mackinnon with fresh legs.
"He looks great.
"I feel that they've got us to beat on Saturday."
Appleby will retire Jungle Cat after he takes on the cream of Australian sprinters.
"This is his swan song. He's been a yard favourite," he said.
"Obviously his career highlight was winning the Al Quoz, then coming over here to win the Sir Rupert Clarke was a great achievement for him.
"We're dropping back to six (furlongs) and he's retiring for a reason - he's getting a bit older now - and he's taking on the proper sprinters over here.
"It will be tough for him but one thing about him, he won't lie down."
William Buick will ride both Blair House and Jungle Cat.