Trainer Danny O’Brien is hopeful of De Little Engine gaining a run in the Melbourne Cup with a winning performance in the Group 3 $300,000 Lexus Stakes (2500m) at Flemington on Saturday.
De Little Engine is currently number twenty-eight in the order of entry for the Group 1 $6m Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on Tuesday but a win in the Lexus Stakes would automatically lift the six year old into the final twenty-four horse field.
Also a placing in the Lexus Stakes would see De Little Engine pass the first qualifying clause for the Melbourne Cup and his prizemoney could then place him above some of the horses at the lower end of the order of entry.
“With doubts on a few runners, with his prizemoney I think it would be enough (a placing) to get him in,” O’Brien told the Herald Sun.
O’Brien admits that this year’s Lexus Stakes is of slightly higher quality than previous years with several runners vying for a Melbourne Cup berth along with Tally and Real Love who are already guaranteed a start in the ‘Race That Stops A Nation’ on Tuesday as well as Pentathlon who is sitting on the last spot at number twenty-four.
“This is a good edition of the Lexus Stakes and a better one than what there was a year ago,” O’Brien said.
“It’s a stronger race than the Bendigo and Geelong Cups.
“You’ve got Real Love, who ran well in the Caulfield Cup; Oceanographer, who was huge in the Geelong Cup; Tally, who ran third in a Turnbull; and Junoob, who was a last start winner.
“This is the race I’ve had in mind all spring for him. His build-up has been good and I thought his run in the Caulfield Cup was terrific.
“He drops down to the minimum weight and he’s in career best form.
“If he runs well and I think he’s deserving of a spot in the Melbourne Cup then he’ll run in the race, but we won’t be doing that just to make up the numbers as there are races such as the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Sandown Cup for him.”
Hong Kong based jockey Chad Schofield will ride De Little Engine who will jump from barrier four in the Lexus Stakes.
The Lee and Shannon Hope trained Rose Of Virginia (25th in Melbourne Cup order of entry), Geelong Cup third placegetter Oceanographer (27th), John Sadler’s The Bandit (29th) and Tom Melbourne (30th), stablemate of Melbourne Cup equal top weight Our Ivanhowe, are all looking to gain a last minute call up into the Melbourne Cup with a win in the Lexus Stakes.
The Little Engine is coming off a last start ninth to Jameka in the Group 1 $3m BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) at Caulfield on October 15 and is rated as one of the main chances in the Lexus Stakes on the fourth line of betting at $7.50 with Ladbrokes.com.au while in Melbourne Cup betting he is rated as a $61 chance.
Godolphin’s English stayer Oceanographer sits at the top of the Lexus Stakes market order at $2.80 after running a handy third to stablemate and Melbourne Cup contender Qewy in the Group 3 $300,000 Geelong Cup (2400m) at Geelong on October 19.
Second pick in the market order is Tom Melbourne at $4.50 ahead of the Darren Weir trained Real Love at $5.50.
Market order for the Lexus Stakes at Ladbrokes.com.au: $2.80 Oceanographer, $4.50 Tom Melbourne, $5.50 Real Love, $7.50 De Little Engine, $12 Tally, $14 Junoob, $21 Black Tomahawk, $26 Pentahlon, $34 The Bandit, $61 Rose Of Virginia, $81 Hippopus, $91 Transfer Allowance.