Cup Contender Cleveland in Focus
In advance of the big one on November 1, we’re taking a closer look at some of the contenders for the Melbourne Cup.
With the international raiding party strong again, this is where our focus lies. The injury to Incentivise and Verry Elleegant’s move to France means it is likely that an overseas runner will be favourite for the race, with plenty of English and Irish-trained horses vying for that spot.
Here, we look closely at Cleveland, trained by Joseph O’Brien for the Coolmore team.
Trainer Change Could Be Cup Related
Cleveland was until recently trained by Aidan O’Brien. His son Joseph however has a fantastic record in the Melbourne Cup.
The decision of the Coolmore team to move Cleveland from Aidan to Joseph could be based partly on that fact, as it seems they have confidence that their Camelot colt would have every chance in this race and that Joseph is the main to oversee preparations.
The trainer was only new at the game when he came to Melbourne in 2017 with Rekindling, winning the race (see Melbourne Cup race results in 2017). He backed that up with another win, 2020’s Twilight Payment. He cannot be ignored.
Improvement Should Be Recognised
Given some of the high-profile races the Irish-trained colt has taken part in, most notably in Britain, it feels like he’s been around forever.
In fact, Cleveland has run a total of seven times in his career. His progression is also stark, and given his low mileage he will keep getting better.
After a low-key start at Galway and Tipperary, he won at the third time of asking. His first win was by four lengths at the Curragh in November 2020, but a setback then kept him off the track until this year.
His return in March was in a Listed race at Naas, but was not more than a pipe-opener over 2000 metres. In the Chester Cup however, over 3700 metres he was very well backed into 6/1. He didn’t let supporters down!
He was guided to victory around Chester by Ryan Moore and the pair very nearly defied a significant handicap rise. At Royal Ascot, the pair went down by just 1¼ lengths over 2800 metres.
Cleveland was then moved to Joseph O’Brien. His first outing was in a Group 3 at Leopardstown. He was narrowly beaten there over an unsuitable 2400 metre trip. Much better is expected in the Melbourne Cup of a horse with a marked upward form trajectory.
In terms of Cleveland’s lead-up, we’ll have to wait and see.
The Camelot offspring is entered in another 2400m Group 3 at Leopardstown, but also in the following day’s Irish St Leger (G1) which would be much more suitable. Those races are September 10th and 11th.
There is also the option of the Irish Cesarewitch Handicap on September 25th. After whatever prep is chosen, the team will send Cleveland either to Champions Day at Ascot, or to Melbourne. Let’s hope it’s the latter.
Read more news about the Melbourne Cup.