Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien has a shot to tie the record of 25 top-level wins in a calendar year well before he sends his flotilla of talented runners after the British Champions Day races at Ascot Oct. 21.
O'Brien's first group 1 runner of the weekend is Johannes Vermeer, who ranks among the favorites for the BMW Caulfield Cup (G1) in Australia while it's still the early morning hours in the UK. A win over that 2,400 meters would put O'Brien level with the mark set by the late Bobby Frankel in 2003.
While the surroundings may be unfamiliar, the breeding is not as Johannes Vermeer is yet another of O'Brien's charges by Galileo—in this case out of the Holy Roman Emperor mare Inca Princess.
Johannes Vermeer made an impression first up in Australia, giving the well-regarded Gailo Chop all he could handle in the Ladbrokes Stakes (G1), just missing by a neck under jockey Katelyn Mallyon Oct. 14. Ben Melham takes the reins for the Caulfield Cup, approved the draw of gate 2 and allowed, "It would be nice if I could play a small part in helping Aidan create some history."
O'Brien said he likes his colt's chances, based on the Ladbrokes Stakes run.
"You need a horse with tactical pace who then relaxes and then can really quicken," the trainer told Sky Sports Radio. "I suppose it all adds up to you really needing a good colt. He is pacy, and a flat track should suit him."
In five races in England and Ireland earlier in the season, the 4-year-old had but a single victory, that in the Finlay Volvo International Stakes (G3) at the Curragh July 2.
The Caulfield Cup lost another potential favorite when Japanese runner Admire Deus suffered a career-ending injury during a gallop Oct. 17.
The field of 17 also includes Humidor, who has run well against the best of these rivals; Bonneval, winner of the Hyland Race Colours Underwood Stakes (G1) but recovering from injury in the Caulfield Cup; Jon Snow, who finished third in the Ladbroke Stakes; last season's Palmerstown House Estate Irish St. Leger (G1) winner Wicklow Brave; Marmelo, a French-based 4-year-old by Duke Of Marmalade who exits a victory in the Darley Prix Kergorlay at Deauville Aug. 20; and Ventura Storm, a 4-year-old Zoffany colt campaigned last year in England and France before winning the Premio Jockey Club (G1) at San Siro in Italy. He was second last out in the Seppelt Turnbull Stakes (G1) at Flemington.
As always, prognosticators for the Melbourne Cup (G1) closely examine the results of the Caulfield Cup for portents.