Danny O’Brien’s dual Group 1 winner Shamrocker may have performed below par last Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, but the Flemington-based horseman isn’t giving up on her and plans to target the 2012 Melbourne Cup are already in place for the daughter of O’Reilly.
As a three-year-old Shamrocker was one of the most talked about fillies during the autumn last year as she managed to beat home the boys and score the coveted Australian Guineas – Australian Derby double.
It was performances like that which saw her awarded with the 2010-11 Australian 3YO Filly of the Year honour, but she failed to come on in the spring and was unplaced in her five assignments in Victoria, four of which were at elite level.
Among her losses were a 12th to Pinker Pinker in the Cox Plate and a very disappointing 21st when beating home just two other runners to finish 17 lengths off the French-trained winner Dunaden in the ‘race that stops a nation’ at Flemington on the first Tuesday of November.
O’Brien said he blamed giving her such a testing autumn campaign, Shamrocker having been backed up after her Australian Derby triumph just seven days later when she ran a distant second to Absolutely in the Group 1 AJC Oaks (2400m) in the mud at Randwick.
“She won the Derby and then backed up in the Oaks on a very, very heavy track and I think that took a bit out of her and she never really got going last spring,” he said.
Having failed to step up in class and distance for the world’s richest handicap last year, O’Brien certainly hasn’t ruled out targeting Shamrocker for another shot at the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) held on November 6.
“We’re obviously entering this spring off a completely different situation, where she’s had the autumn off, and we’re hoping to see the benefit of that on the track,” O’Brien said optimistically.
“She’s a dual Group 1 winner, so we’re not going to keep racing her just for the hell of it.
“We’ll want to see her come back to her best to keep persevering and I don’t see any reason why she won’t.”
Shamrocker may not have performed under race conditions since last year’s Melbourne Cup but O’Brien has given her plenty of work over the past eight months which included a trip up to Queensland.
She makes her first public appearance since Melbourne Cup Day this Friday in a jumpout at Flemington to test her fitness, after which O’Brien will confirm her first-up assignment.
At this stage he is confident she will resume in either the $220,000 Group 2 PB Lawrence Stakes (1400m) under weight-for-age conditions, of the mares-only $150,000 Group 3 Cockram Stakes (1200m) both held at Caulfield Racecourse on August 18.
“We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves, coming off the break, so I’m really going to be guided by her first couple of runs,” O’Brien said.
“I’d say her second-up run will be in the (Group 2) Makybe Diva Stakes, over a mile at Flemington (on 8 September) which is her favourite track, and we’ll really start to make a few plans after the Makybe.
“I think her best distance is certainly 2400-plus, so we’re hoping to get a grounding into her and get to her some of the nice staying races.”
Along with the Melbourne Cup 2012 Shamrocker could also run in the other major spring cup, the $2.5 million Group 1 BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 20.
Shamrocker is currently paying $81 in the futures Melbourne Cup odds at bookmaker.com.au.
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