O'Briens the danger-men for bookies

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2007, 12:00am

Melbourne Cup smart money pouring in on duo who share a name and a thirst for victory

Aidan O'Brien is worried about Danny O'Brien. Danny is worried about Aidan.

And bookmakers are terrified of both of them, as Australia is poised to go on a A$300 million (HK$2.15 billion) betting spree on today's Group One Emirates Melbourne Cup at Flemington with the unrelated O'Brien boys carrying the greatest weight of educated money.

Aidan, 38, once won an incredible 23 Group One races in a single year. As the retained trainer at Ballydoyle stables in Ireland, the training branch of the famous Coolmore empire, he plunders rich races all over the world. That's what he does, and no one does it better.

Danny, 37, trained the quinella, Master O'Reilly and Douro Valley, in the Group One Caulfield Cup 17 days ago. It's the most important of all lead-ups to the Melbourne Cup, and Master O'Reilly emerged as favourite at A$4.75 (dividend for A$1) on last night's betting market.

A turn for the better in Melbourne's weather has bookmakers licking their lips in anticipation of a dual-hemisphere betting battle for both the cash and bragging rights. O'Brien versus O'Brien. Australia versus Ireland. Winner takes all, as no one (apart from winning quinella players) remembers who ran second anyway.

This has been an incredible Melbourne Cup even before it's been run. The race was in doubt less than two months ago as Australia struggled with its maiden epidemic of equine influenza (EI), a disease previously unknown on the continent.

But amazingly, even though it has crippled the racing industry in neighbouring New South Wales, EI has stayed out of Victoria. The spring carnival has progressed pretty much as normal, but no one believed it could ever become this tense, or exciting.

Appetites for betting action were whet yesterday at the traditional call of the card when bookmakers and punters combined to invest A$1.225 million, establishing Master O'Reilly as the clear favourite.

Danny O'Brien declared the New Zealand-bred galloper has improved even further since the Caulfield Cup, where he scored a runaway win at 2,400 metres.

'Everything has gone to plan throughout what has been a trouble-free preparation, with this [Melbourne Cup] identified as the race where he's been primed to produce his career-best performance,' he said.

'After winning the Caulfield Cup, the job was 99 per cent done. From then it has just been a matter of keeping him well with a couple of sharp gallops. He's tough, he's fit and he's still sharp.'

Danny visited Aidan at Ballydoyle a couple of years ago and has fond memories of his day at the great training establishment at County Tipperary. He has nothing but respect for the master Irish horseman and is looking forward to the battle this afternoon which, after all, will be played out on Danny's home turf.

Aidan, on the other hand, whose horse Mahler is at 12-1, refuses to be burdened with expectations, even in a race which will attract a worldwide audience that publicists say might exceed one billion viewers.

'I always hope for a lot but don't expect much,' Aidan said. 'When you have as many horses running at the top level as we are lucky enough to have, there are always a lot of disappointments.'

One trainer has an original excuse for not being at Flemington. Amanda Perrett, whose Tungsten Strike is a 40-1 outsider for the Cup, had her second child in England on Sunday, a 3kg baby girl, as yet unnamed.

Favourite master

Danny O'Brien-trained Master O'Reilly is the favourite at this number to one: 4.75