Athabascan heads to Flemington fort the Cup

Intent on qualifying Athabascan (FR) for the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m), trainer John O'Shea will bypass a start in the Group 1 The Metropolitan (2400m) at Randwick on Saturday and head straight to Victoria with the in-form stayer. 

The Irish import made it two wins on the trot when he stormed home from the back in Saturday's $250,000, Group 3 Colin Stephen Quality (2400m) at Rosehill, confirming his trainer's belief he has an exciting stayer on the rise. 

"He'll go to The Bart Cummings," O'Shea said. 

"We want a ticket into the big one (Melbourne Cup). He's a young stayer that's right at the top of his game and will take a power of beating in a couple of weeks. 

"He's got a great turn of speed, he's got 51 (kilos) in the Cup. We've just got to get him in there." 

Athabascan arrived in Australia 12 months ago and while he ran a couple of handy races, it hasn't been until this spring that he has flourished. 

Athabascan (FR) and Tom Sherry down the outside, picture

O'Shea said the horse had always shown them something at home but a combination of time, a gelding procedure and firm tracks had helped Athabascan realise his potential. 

"We've been so confident in him," O'Shea said. 

"He had a bunch of wet tracks last season and you get to see him at his best now. 

"And he's furnished. When he came to us, he was 480 kilos and he's 520 now, he's a 40-kilo heavier horse." 

The Colin Stephen turned into a spectacle when Zac Lloyd on Verona and Ryan Moore on Desert Icon made mid-race moves, injecting pressure into the race when they rushed around the field before the home turn. 

In contrast, Tom Sherry bided his time on Athabascan ($4.20), bringing him with one late run to deny Al Abir ($3.80 fav) by a short neck with Desert Icon ($9) the same margin away third. 

"It was very important he didn't have a hard run again today and credit to Tom, he was nice and patient. He ended up getting back to last because they all got on their bikes nice and early," O'Shea said. 

"He is a top-class stayer and we're really looking forward to the next month. 

"He's a half-brother to Arapaho and Arapaho is a genuine mile-and-a-half horse by Lope de Vega, this horse is by a real staying stallion (Almanzor) so the two-miles will be right up his alley."