Cup start up for grabs in The Lexus Bart Cummings

5 October 2023 Written by Racing & Sports

John O’Shea is chasing a Lexus Melbourne Cup start with Athabascan in The Lexus Bart Cummings at Flemington on Saturday.

Former French galloper Athabascan has been sent from the Sydney stable of trainer John O'Shea in a bid to secure a Melbourne Cup start. 

Success in The Bart Cummings (2510m) at Flemington on Saturday provides the winner with a ballot exemption into the Melbourne Cup (3200m) on November 7. 

Athabascan will be chasing a winning hat-trick on Saturday following successive 2400m victories at Randwick and Rosehill. 

After scoring in France before relocating to Australia, Athabascan has now had nine starts for O'Shea for the past two wins and one previous placing. 

O'Shea put Athabascan's improved form down to a gelding operation at the end of his last campaign and getting onto drier surfaces. 

"We've always felt he was a horse of good staying ability," said O'Shea.

"We kept him an entire last preparation which was probably to his detriment, and then he got a bunch of wet tracks in Sydney which also wasn't to his advantage. 

"After his gelding he's come back and has had some very nice tracks where he has been able to show his best ability as a progressive young stayer and he's put two good performances together now. 

"And he'll be enhanced by getting to Flemington." 

O'Shea believes Athabascan has taken improvement from his most recent effort and will appreciate the roomier Flemington track. 

Athabascan will also have the services of James McDonald on Saturday and O'Shea said he will not be tying the champion jockey down with instructions. 

"They went out a good gallop at his last two runs, so it's all tempo related where he will be in the run, but I don't think they dawdle," O'Shea said. 

"Wherever James thinks he's comfortable will be more than enough." 

Should Athabascan win his way into the Cup field, O'Shea does not see the 3200m of the Australia's greatest race being a concern. 

O'Shea said Athabascan was a half-brother to Arapaho who ran 11th in last year's Cup for Bjorn Baker

"He's a half-brother to Arapaho who is by Lope De Vega whereas this horse is by a staying stallion (Almanzor), so I think that will help him get that trip," O'Shea said. 

"He doesn't touch the bridle at any stage, so it should help him run a staying trip."