Sydney raider Viking Legend is ready to take on a quality field of gallopers in this weekend’s Glasshouse Handicap at Caloundra, former Kiwi jockey Chris O’Brien engaged for the ride aboard the Ross Simpson and Tracey Barnes co-trained four-year-old.
Elvstroem gelding Viking Legend is one of 18 final acceptors for the $175,000 Listed Glasshouse Handicap (1400m) on Caloundra Cup Day this Saturday, connections hopeful that the appointment of Stradbroke Handicap winner Sincero’s regular rider O’Brien will be the key to the horse’s success.
O’Brien has had the privilege of riding Stephen Farley’s gun three-year-old Sincero for nine rides to date, producing eight wins and a second, but missed out on the mount in the prestigious $1 million Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap at Eagle Farm.
Sincero won the race in a narrow finish over hot favourite Beaded with Jason Taylor aboard, O’Brien unable to make the 50.5kg lightweight for the Stradbroke.
Now he is looking forward to Saturday, his debut appearance in the sunshine state, and a hopeful stakes victory with the multiple Group 1 placed Viking Legend having partnered with the horse for the first time at Randwick on June 11.
First-up after a spell of over nearly 15 months, Viking Legend ran a credible fifth beaten less than a length by winner and subsequent Takeover Target Stakes conqueror Title in a Benchmark 95 over 1400 metres at Randwick on the same day Sincero soared to their Stradbroke win in Queensland.
“It was a terrific effort,” O’Brien said of Viking Legend’s first-up run.
“The track was bottomless and at one stage he was about 15 lengths from the leaders but he was beaten only a length.”
Before their injury-enforced year in the paddock, Viking Legend enjoyed a strong 2009 – 10 racing season, staking their claims as an emerging turf star when finishing third to Monaco Consul in the 2009 Victoria Derby and later second to Shoot Out in the 2010 Randwick Guineas where during the run he suffered a nasty tendon tear.
The Randwick run at the start of this month was Viking Legend’s first appearance under the preparation of Warwick Farm training team Simpson and Barnes, the horse transferred to their stables after their sever tendon injury when under the training of Gai Waterhouse.
“He had an operation to cut the check ligament and then a long time resting,” Simpson explained.
“We bought him into the stable for a couple of short preparations trotting on a firm road.
“He spends a lot of time now on the water walker and the leg is iced every day but so far there has been no soreness with the tendon.”
The comeback galloper faces a tough test in the Glasshouse Handicap facing off against the likes of defending champion Woorim, Gerald Ryan’s last-start Ipswich Eye Liner Stakes champion Adnocon and the in-form Mystical Grey seeking their fifth win on the trot.
Robert Heathcote’s Show A Heart gelding Woorim will seek back-to-back wins in the Glasshouse having defeated Adnocon by a length 12 months ago.
The 58.5kg topweight of the field on Saturday, Woorim is set to be ridden by top Brisbane-based hoop Damian Browne, who although is a rival to O’Brien in the race, is also one of his close mates.
“Damien and I rode together a lot in the South Island of New Zealand when we were apprentices and we’ve stayed close mates,” O’Brien, who is hoping to pick up a few tips from Browne on how to best handle the Caloundra track on Saturday, said.