Purple team in the pink as big day looms

Connections of Purple Moon believe the Ebor winner is coming to his peak at just the right time ahead of the Emirates Melbourne Cup on Tuesday.

Connections of Purple Moon believe the Ebor winner is coming to his peak at just the right time ahead of the Emirates Melbourne Cup on Tuesday.

The Luca Cumani-trained five-year-old, who finished an eyecatching sixth in the Caulfield Cup on October 20, trotted for a mile at Sandown this morning after having a rousing track gallop at Flemington on Tuesday.

“I think he’s pretty spot-on fitness wise and everything else and we’ve just kept him ticking over. We haven’t done anything different,” said the trainer’s daughter Francesca, who was pleased with the glowing report she received from big-race jockey Damien Oliver earlier in the week.

“I think he liked him. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him very long, but he liked what he saw,” she said.

The withdrawal of Scorpion has not dampened Coolmore’s confidence of winning Australia’s most famous race.

The Aidan O’Brien stable believe Mahler, who will carry 50kg (approximately 7st 12lb), is by no means a second-string, saying he was “considered equally a good chance as Scorpion”.

“He’s a horse who likes to race on the pace, he has good tactical speed, can be placed anywhere in a race,” said Coolmore spokesman James Bester.

“Scorpion would not necessarily have been the one given the vast difference in the weights.”

Australian bookmakers share the stable’s lofty view of Mahler, who is currently third favourite locally behind Master O’Reilly and Purple Moon.

Working for the first time by himself in Australia, Mahler, whose winter coat would be clipped in the coming days, sweated up a little as he trotted and cantered two laps of the Sandown course.

“(We) just hope that over the next couple of days he’ll just settle a little bit better in his mind and his work,” Bester said.

“He’s a horse with a good temperament and he’s handling everything very well.

“Other than that (the sweating), Aidan’s very happy with the horse.”

Mahler will trot and canter again tomorrow before having his final fast gallop on Friday.

Cumani senior believes the presence of Mahler, who has a tendency to race prominently and attempted to make all when second in the Ladbrokes St Leger, could have an effect on the way the race is traditionally run.

He told www.theage.com.au: “If they send him out in front there might be pace throughout the race rather than the traditional way the Cup is run – a sprint to the first bend, drop anchor and then sprint again the last 1000 metres or 800 metres.

“With Mahler in the field, he will give a different perspective to the way the Cup is run. He adds a different complexion to the race. He is a high-class horse. He is a cruiser and a grinder. He can grind other horses into submission.”

Danny O’Brien, trainer of Master O’Reilly, said his stayer would have his final track gallop at Flemington on Saturday morning prior to the Derby Day meeting.

“He’s in great shape,” the trainer said. “He’s done very well since Caulfield. We’re looking forward to getting him across to Flemington on Saturday.”

Stablemate Douro Valley, who ran second in the Caulfield Cup, will complete his Melbourne preparation in the weight-for-age Group One Mackinnon Stakes.

“I think he’s a definite winning show. There’s not many horses in better form in the country at the moment,” O’Brien said.

The race will also see fellow Cup aspirants Miss Finland, Zipping and Maybe Better line up.

Miss Finland’s trainer David Hayes said the mare would have to either win or “run home hard” to justify a start on Tuesday.

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