O'Brien replaces Weld as Cup Dampener
The mischief is being made by another Irishman, and Dermot Weld is concerned it might cost him a Melbourne Cup.
The man who made an art-form of convincing the VRC to adjust the Flemington track to a texture that precisely suited his horses is back again with another live Melbourne Cup chance.
Profound Beauty will tomorrow become Weld’s 10th Cup runner – and the signs suggest she may also be one of his best.
The only thing is, she prefers dry tracks.
Weld, who remains the only European to train a Melbourne Cup winner, had developed a routine on his previous half dozen trips to Australia.
First he’d play down his horse’s chances; they would travel poorly, lose weight or have their little ways about them.
With his enthusiasm under a tight rein, he’d then start on the track condition.
It would start with "all we want is a safe track" and develop into something approaching a threat to pack up and go home if water wasn’t dumped on Flemington.
But this year it’s the Coolmore team of owner John Magnier and trainer Aidan O’Brien that’s running the soft track campaign – and Weld is hoping not too much notice will be taken of them.
Profound Beauty doesn’t like it too wet and there hasn’t been a peep out of her trainer about the state of the track.
The irony of the role reversal wasn’t lost on him at Sandown today as he supervised Profound Beauty’s final gallop.
"You have to pass the baton to someone else at some stage," he said.
"They’re very good at everything they do at Coolmore."
Old habits, however, die hard, and in the absence of a complaint about the track, Weld couldn’t let things go on Cup eve without putting out a "slow" on his mare.
Weld is concerned that this Melbourne Cup will be different from the others his horses have run in, thanks to the O’Brien team.
He says he has a doubt about Profound Beauty’s ability to run a strong 3200m, particularly if the O’Brien runners set the sort of pace they are expected to.
"If it was any other Melbourne Cup I wouldn’t worry about her getting the trip, but this one will maybe be run a little bit quicker," he said.
"It’s obvious that there’s going to be plenty of pace in the race all the way.
"Maybe it’ll be a different Melbourne Cup this year.
"Instead of slowing up down the far side, they’ll probably run it all the way."
Then comes the wink and the nod.
Asked if he was surprised at the volume of money that has poured onto Profound Beauty – one punter alone backed her to win $2 million today – Weld replied a little too quickly: "Not really."
"I’ve taken the trouble to send her here, and I haven’t been for a few years," Weld said.
"I trained her mother and she was a very good mare.
But just in case anyone thought he was tipping Profound Beauty, the great trainer toned it down.
"If it was a real true run race she might not get home.’
"I just have huge regard for Septimus, huge regard.
"He’s a very, very talented racehorse."
So he is.
And so is his.
By Mike Hedge