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O'Brien backs the horse in spring debate

Reigning Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Danny O'Brien is unnerved by mooted changes to the Melbourne spring program and instead has seized the debate by imploring officials to embrace a much more radical and potentially long-lasting change.

O'Brien told Racing.com on Tuesday that his boom three-year-old Russian Camelot would be likely to miss the Melbourne Cup this spring and instead aim at the Caulfield Cup if proposed changes to the Melbourne Racing Club spring program are ratified by Racing Victoria and confirmed by early next week.

Those proposed changes include shifting the Caulfield Cup back from its October date to November 28, with the Caulfield and Thousand Guineas races to be staged on November 21.

O'Brien's reasoning has nothing to do with club politics. Rather, he is speaking up in the interest of the racehorse.

"The spring is far too early for our horses," O'Brien said on Tuesday.

"We rush through our better racing in those early (spring) months when the horses are nowhere near their best and then we shut down from the middle of November when it is the prime time for the animal to be competing at their peak.

"We are stuck with dates in the spring that really don't suit the racehorse. Most of the three-year-olds haven't even turned three by the time they're running for a Caulfield Guineas in early-to-mid-October.

"The best scenario would be for the whole spring to be moved back a month. It would be fantastic if we had our better races pushed further back into the start of the summer.

"The Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday of December makes so much more sense."

O'Brien's Vow And Declare under Craig Williams winning the 2019 Group 1 Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday in November, picture Quentinjlang.com

O'Brien said Russian Camelot could be lured away from the Melbourne Cup - for which he is the early favourite - if the Caulfield Cup was confirmed for November 28.

"We would have options not to push the horse into the spring to get him ready for a Melbourne Cup," he said.

"We could run in a Mackinnon Stakes into the Caulfield Cup and that would be a far better preparation for him as it meant we wouldn't be forced to be up and running straight out of winter."

O'Brien said the proposed Caulfield Cup move, which he felt was a 'free hit' for racing following the COVID-19 pandemic, would have other positive ramifications for the sport.

"I've got no doubt the Caulfield Cup can come out of the Melbourne Cup shadow and shine in its own right," he said.

"The Caulfield Cup is a great race. Programming has meant it has been a lead-up to the Melbourne Cup, but it can stand on its own in the last week of November as a truly elite 2400-metre contest."

The switch of dates would also impact other races at Flemington, O'Brien said.

"I think if the changes go through and it works, it would be the death knell for the Derby and Oaks races to be run over a mile-and-a-half into the future," he said.

"There is already loads of problems with those races (at 2500m) way too early for these horses and this change would make them even more irrelevant."

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