After reflecting back on this week’s Grafton Cup win by his progressive stayer Mr O’Ceirin, Caulfield-based trainer Ciaron Maher believes more than ever they have what it takes to step up to the two miles of the Melbourne Cup 2013 this spring.
In a narrow finish after overcoming the far outside barrier, on Thursday Postponed five-year-old Mr O’Ceirin was a long neck winner of the $150,000 Grafton Cup (2350m) over the Peter Snowden-trained Yulalona.
It was a nice improvement on their lead-up sixth when defeated nine lengths as the beaten favourite in a 2040m handicap at Moonee Valley, and one Maher had always been confident the horse would make.
“I know that a lot of people were questioning my sanity going to Grafton after he failed at the Valley but he’s a very good horse,” Maher said.
“Things just didn’t go right for us at the Valley. I just had to forget that run.”
Maher is now also confident this Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival will be Mr O’Ceirin’s time to shine as they prepare for an assault on the cup majors.
Their Grafton Cup victory saw them pass the first ballot clause for both the $2.5 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 19 and the iconic $6.2 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on the first Tuesday of November.
Last year Maher had the same ambitious targets for Mr O’Ceirin but they failed to make the cut for the cup fields after injuring themselves in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) finishing 13th to Sharwardi the week before the Caulfield Cup.
Originally this spring the Caulfield Cup 2013 was to be their grand final but now Maher believes they have the staying ability to stretch out to the two miles of the world’s richest handicap.
“I always thought he would run out a solid 2400 metres, which is the distance of the Caulfield Cup,” he said on Thursday.
“After today I have no doubts he can run out the two miles of the Melbourne Cup.
“It’s a big relief that he won today as we are now a step closer to him running in the Caulfield and Melbourne cups as he’s passed a ballot for each race.”
Leading up to their spring campaign Maher plans to do lots of local beach work with the horse who is prone to foot problems.
“He’ll be back home in a couple of days and be at the Warrnambool and Port Fairy beaches,” he said.
“Mr O’Ceirin has feet issues. My brother Declan does a lot of the beach work with him.
“We’ll get him back home and take his shoes off and get him to the beach. The beach has done wonders for his feet.”
Despite their Grafton Cup success there’s still a long way to go to the Caulfield Cup and the bookies only have them rated a $101 chance in their Caulfield Cup markets which are led by crack Kiwi colt It’s A Dundeel ($7).
He is also at the same triple figure price in the ante-post Melbourne Cup odds.
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