Darley Australia’s new private trainer John O’Shea is hoping to kick things off with his maiden Group 1 win for the racing enterprise this weekend with top Sydney colt Sidestep challenging local hero Buffering for BTC Cup 2014 favouritism.
O’Shea swapped stables with Peter Snowden on Sunday taking over for the champion trainer who over the past six years has dedicated his life to preparing over 1260 winners for the Darley stable.
With Snowden now going out on his own with son Paul, O’Shea is looking to start a new era for Darley starting with a Group 1 win right off the bat with Exceed And Excel three-year-old Sidestep in Saturday’s $400,000 Group 1 Bunderberg Distilling Co. BTC Cup (1200m).
While O’Shea would love to make a good first impression on new boss Sheik Mohammed, he said he didn’t feel any extra pressure or expectations ahead of Saturday.
“I don’t think I’m going to be judged by my first week, I will be judged over a long period of time,” O’Shea told The Daily Telegraph.
“The boss (Sheik Mohammed) has said to me 100 times, ‘There’s no pressure to achieve anything straight away’. He understands it will take time and for me to get my head around things.
“That’s the beauty of working for a bloke who understands the game.
“If we were to win a Group 1, that’s great, but I won’t be judged on this week.”
There were 15 BTC Cup nominations taken last week, one of the current favourites of which being Sidestep.
An up-and-comer with just 13 starts to their name for three wins to date, Sidestep has earned their spot near the top of the futures BTC Cup odds having won their last two on the trot.
After a close first-up second at Randwick in mid-March when defeated just a nose over 1100m, they beat home Bound For Earth by a similarly close margin a fortnight later to win the Listed Darby Munro Stakes (1200m) in the mud.
They proved they were up to better company last start then when on April 19 they missed the kick, dropped back to second last but were still able to flash home late after weaving their way through the crowd and run down Bounding to take out the Group 2 Royal Sovereign Stakes (1200m).
Saturday then they go up against the older horses at elite level for the BTC Cup, which will be their fifth Group 1 assignment already.
Runner-up in their maiden start at the highest level when second to the Gai Waterhouse-trained filly Overreach in last year’s Golden Slipper, during the spring Sidestep was unable to finish in the money in three more Group 1s.
They took on the Robert Heathcote-trained Buffering to see out their spring on November 9 in the Group 1 VRC Sprint (1200m) at Flemington but could only manage to finish eight lengths away 10th.
They’ve improved and matured leaps and bounds since then however and so the money is there for them to turn the tables and topple Buffering this weekend when the Mossman six-year-old shoots for his fourth Group 1 trophy.
While Sidestep is only lightly-raced, the veteran Buffering has had 40 starts over their impressive career that has netted over $4.38 million in prize money.
They will be third-up on Saturday when they take on the gun youngster, their last start behind a solid third behind Lankan Rupee (1st) and 2014 Stradbroke Handicap favourite Rebel Dane (2nd) in the Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) on an unsuitably Heavy track on April 12.
It is then a battle of young vs old, zest v experience in the BTC Cup on Saturday; a battle O’Shea is hoping he can win.
Other notable hopes in the BTC Cup this year include Gerald Ryan’s Black Caviar Lightning winning mare Snitzerland, their progressive stable mate Hot Snitzel last seen winning the Group 3 Hall Mark Stakes (1200m) and the Tony Gollan-trained William Reid Stakes champ Spirit Of Boom.
The BTC Cup 2014 field is set for release later in the week so make sure you stay tuned.
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