Trainer Danny O'Brien. Photo: Vince Caligiuri
THE lure of a million-dollar group 1 race is reason enough to take a talented colt interstate, but for Danny O'Brien the absence of unbeaten colt Pierro was the clincher when deciding to take Shamexpress to Saturday's Golden Rose at Rosehill.
With Pierro heading to Melbourne to further his Caulfield Guineas campaign, O'Brien recognised an opportunity to contest the first group 1 race of the season with Shamexpress in the hope that the colt could chalk up a feature race win before he clashed with Gai Waterhouse's unbeaten star.
''I can tell you that he wouldn't be running if Pierro was, but he's not, so we'll take the chance,'' O'Brien said.
''There is just nothing for him in Melbourne this weekend. The gap between the McNeil Stakes and the Guineas Prelude is too long, but a million-dollar group 1 isn't a bad alternative.''
Shamexpress hinted at group-race potential last autumn as a two-year-old with a three-run campaign culminating in a strong fifth placing behind All Too Hard in the Sires Produce Stakes. But a slashing return to the track in the McNeil Stakes at Caulfield a fortnight ago confirmed to O'Brien that the horse would more than hold his own in better races this spring.
''I originally thought about derbies for him but he might be a little too brilliant for that,'' O'Brien said. ''It's not a bad problem to have, though, and I am sure he will hold his own around a mile this spring. The Guineas is the obvious target.''
Jockey Craig Williams was instructed to ride Shamexpress away from the speed in the McNeil, but the horse raced savagely when restrained, causing O'Brien to rethink tactics for this Saturday's race, in which the horse will be partnered by Corey Brown.
''He just really resented being restrained at Caulfield and it was a probably a mistake on our part. He's galloped well the Sydney way in the last week and will have another gallop before heading up on the float,'' O'Brien said.
The final field for the Golden Rose will be announced later this morning. John Thompson's unbeaten filly Nechita heads early markets for the race.