Valedictum O'Brien's Second Group 1 Winner For Cup Week

Umatilla gelding Valedictum produced Danny O'Brien's second Group 1 winner for Cup Week by winning the $750,000 Emirates Stakes at Flemington today.

Starting at the lucrative odds of $26, Valedictum came home strongly to win from perennial bridesmaid Infinite Grace ($20-$15) by three quarters of a length with Shania Dane ($5.00-$5.50-$4.60F) a neck behind in third place.

For O'Brien, who is noted for the meticulous planning of his horse's campaigns, the success was pleasing but not entirely unexpected.

"We were hoping to win four or five races, but its a big task in this week", O'Brien said.

"We've won three including two Group 1's and a Group 2."

"We had a bit of bad luck. Megadeal got poleaxed and a couple of others ran second."

"If you had of said at the start of the week, you'll win the two Group 1's, I would have said that'll be enough", O'Brien went on.

With Valedictum drawn very wide in today's race, O'Brien planned riding tactics with jockey Steven King.

"We had a plan to go back from the wide gate knowing there was good speed in the race and Steven carried it out beautifully", said O'Brien.

"He's carried big weights at a lot of his starts so to get down to 52.5 today certainly he knew all about it when he let go today."

"When a horse gets that 52.5 they can sprint and go that much quicker for longer."

O'Brien is nearly President of the Steven King fan club, saying:

"I think Steven's as good, if not the best rider in Australia."

"He's just not a lair. He doesn't blow his trumpet like some of the other blokes so he probably doesn't get as big a headline."

"He's won every big race and he's such a good guy in big races. He always has a plan. He never panics. He very rarely puts in a bad race in a big one."

Now that Valedictum has won at Group level, O'Brien has big plans for the Autumn.

"This guy will have a little break now and we'll look at something like the Doncaster."

"He won at Randwick this year on Doncaster day."

"This is his first try at a mile since he was a three year old. He's run it out really strongly and we'll how he goes in those big miles in the Autumn."

Valedictum is the fifth Group 1 winner for under rated sire Umatilla, who stands at Victoria's Blue Gum Farm at the value fee of $6,600. He joins Streak, Bohemiath, Umah and Umrum as a winner at racing's highest level.

Valedictum's $450,000 prizemoney cheque from the Emirates Stakes propels Umatilla into the top 10 sires list by earnings, with over $1.2 million earned by his progeny so far this season.

The O'Brien stable is going from strength to strength, nearly doubling its tally of Group 1 wins over the past week.

"We had two in Adelaide and two here", said O'Brien. "That's five overall and four this year."

O'Brien, has 50 horses in work at his Flemington stables, up from around 30 a year ago.

"We've got 50 boxes full all the time and some really nice young horses", he said.

After a slow start to the season, with a strike rate of 9.8% about half of last season's 19.7%, the O'Brien stable is gradually building up a head of steam.

"I'm hoping to keep the pressure on Lee (Freedman) for the forseeable future although he's got a big lead", O'Brien joked.

"He's a lot older than me though", O'Brien added, suggesting that at 35, he believes that one day he might catch up.

by BILL SAUNDERS - The Virtual FormGuide

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