Moe-based trainer Peter Gelagotis has confirmed the Cox Plate 2015 in October as the long term goal this racing season for his veteran galloper Mourinho who runs in the CF Orr Stakes at Caulfield this weekend.
The seven-year-old Oratorio gelding is one of 19 nominations taken for the $400,000 Group 1 C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) on Saturday, the weight-for-age feature kicking off elite level racing for the Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival.
On Tuesday Gelagotis confirmed Mourinho would line-up in the CF Orr Stakes field, released later this morning, in a change of plans from his original second-up start in the $150,000 Group 3 TS Carlyon Cup (1600m) for which he is also nominated.
The decision was made after the horse ran a solid sixth behind super sprinter Lankan Rupee in an 800m barrier trial at Cranbourne, with Vlad Duric in the saddle, on Monday morning.
It was a compulsory trial ordered by the stewards after Mourinho hung out for his first-up win last month, he and Duric just surviving a protest to hold on to his Group 2 Australia Stakes (1200m) title.
“He had to do an official trial to get reinstated,” Gelagotis told AAP on Tuesday.
“He had to have the jump-out or have a gallop in preparation for Saturday so we’ve now got an extra day up our sleeve.
“He’s really well and Vlad gave him the thumbs up and we’ll press on to the Orr Stakes.”
In the CF Orr he’ll be taking on a crack line-up of stars including Mackinnon Stakes champ Happy Trails, Epsom Handicap winner He’s Your Man who ran second in the Mackinnon and the Peter Moody-trained Dissident.
Winner of the Memsie Stakes – Makybe Diva Stakes double during the spring, four-year-old Dissident returned to racing at Moonee Valley on January 24 running a close third just under one and a half lengths off Mourinho in the duo face off again then here with Mourinho, to be ridden by Duric again, after his second win from as many starts this time in.
Before his latest spell the warhorse ran seventh when five lengths off Happy Trails, who’ll be ridden by Damien Oliver on the weekend, in the Mackinnon Stakes over the 2000m at Flemington and so will need to be sharp to defeat the same horse in the CF Orr Stakes.
Gelagotis is confident his galloper can be competitive though even though the 1200m is short of his best – Mourinho having finished second just once in his only top three run from five previous starts at the distance.
“Last time was the first time we had challenged him at 1200 (metres) and he performed way above our expectation,” Gelagotis said.
“On the back of that we’re going to challenge him in a Group One even though it’s not his ideal distance, but the timing might be right.”
Looking further ahead, Mourinho is also nominated for the $1 million Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on March 14.
Early Australian Cup odds at Ladbrokes.com.au have the now Kris Lees-trained Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist as the $5 favourite to complete the same double Fiorente completed for Gai Waterhouse last season.
Mourinho meanwhile can be found further down the all-in Australian Cup odds at $26.
He won’t be pushed too hard throughout the autumn though with Gelagotis keen to have him at his best at the end of the year for a shot at Australasia’s weight-for-age championship, the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on Saturday October 24.
Last year Mourinho missed out of a Cox Plate bid after the committee chose not to include him in the final field.
Markets are already up for the coveted Cox Plate at Ladbrokes with the reigning champ Adelaide at $9 to go back-to-back.
One of the longest priced hopes listed is Mourinho at $61.
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