International Stars get ready for the Cup

The Caulfield Cup winner continued to recover from his weekend exertions at Sandown today as the Melbourne Cup favourite made the most of his rival’s absence from the training track with another stylish piece of work.

Septimus, the number one Irish hope and the $5 favourite for Australia’s greatest race, went out for his usual pair of 1600m gallops with stablemates Honolulu and Alessandro Volta and showed he was approaching the pitch trainer Aidan O’Brien intends him to be at in two weeks time.

Aiden O'Brien

The Irish St Leger winner has been described by the stable as being as good as his stablemate, the 2006 Cup fancy Yeats, but much faster.

“You’ll start seeing him work into form from now on,” assistant trainer Andrew Murphy said.

“He’ll be having a stronger piece of work on Friday and then on Monday he’ll do some more again.

“What you’ll see on race day is a horse with more speed than Yeats, a lot more speed.”

Murphy made it clear today that nothing would get in the way of the program O’Brien has set the horse and which is relayed to his team’s work riders by phone from County Tipperary every morning.

Beginning with Murphy who receives the full list of instructions, the mobile phone is then passed to Keith Dalton as he rides Septimus at a walk around the stable yard who hands it to Jayo Kinane aboard Honolulu and then to Patrick Lillis on Alessandro Volta.

The world’s most successful trainer tells each rider how fast, how long and how many times they should work the horses. How long to walk them before and after and what to feed them when its all done.

And nothing is to get in the way of the program.

Monday’s work will be conducted as the plane carrying O’Brien to Melbourne begins its final approach.

“He gets in at about nine o’clock, but we won’t be waiting,” Murphy said.

“They’re down to do that piece of strong work on Monday and that’s what’ll happen.”

Murphy, whose Irish-accented pronunciation of the name Honolulu is an absolute joy, has run the O’Brien campaign in Melbourne for the past two years.

Along with travelling head lad Tres Abbott and the stable’s own Irish vet Ciara Gibney, he makes sure everything goes as closely to plan as possible.

But like all stables, O’Brien’s Ballydoyle operation is subject to the glorious and often tragic uncertainty of horseracing.

This time last year, O’Brien was in New Jersey preparing to watch one of his best horses George Washington run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

George Washington had been a star as a young horse for Ballydoyle and his Coolmore owners and went to stud surrounded with high expectations.

But he was virtually infertile and was put back into training. His only known foal will be sold in Ireland later this month.

He ran well in his comeback races and was a warm favourite for the Classic which was run on a track whose surface was almost liquid.

George Washington made it almost to the finish before one of his legs shattered and he was put down on the track.

O’Brien then got on a plane to come to Australia to supervise the final days of training of his two Melbourne Cup horses, Scorpion and Mahler.

He arrived at Sandown to find that Scorpion had broken down and wouldn’t race again, and then proceeded to prepare his second-string runner Mahler to finish third.

When he arrives in Melbourne on Monday, O’Brien will be greeted by three fit horses and the knowledge that the local opposition is little changed from last year and that his fellow Europeans are stronger than ever as proved by All The Good in the Caulfield Cup.

“We’re just looking at our horses, nothing else,” Murphy said.

“But it’s not a bad thing that one of the visitors has shown he’s up to it.”

Septimus is a vastly superior horse to All The Good, but he has a superior horse’s weight.

“It’s a handicap, that’s why they’re all here,” Murphy said.

“It’s meant to give all the horses a chance, and so it does.”

The best chance, though, from the best and most successful stable in the world, is Septimus.

By Mike Hedge