Victoria Road

Victoria Road (Image: Racing Photos)

No swapping Victoria Road

Despite drifting from $8 out to $13, the Aidan O'Brien team is confident of Victoria Road's chances in Saturday's Cox Plate.

"He seems in good form, he hasn't missed a beat since he's got here," said TJ Comerford, travelling foreman for O'Brien.

"He's doing everything right, we couldn't ask for any more of him.

"Great attitude, great temperament, you couldn't ask for better.

"It's very hard to judge a European horse against the Australian horses and obviously against the Hong Kong horse, but we're happy with our lad, you know.

"I probably wouldn't swap him for anything."

The Northern Hemisphere three-year-old was recently purchased by Ozzie Kheir and partners and will race for O'Brien this spring before remaining Down Under in the care of Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.

The son of Saxon Warrior beat subsequent four-time Group 1 winner Blue Rose Cen in a Listed contest in France in August 2022 over 1600m, before stepping up to 1800m when winning at Group 3 level at Chantilly.

His two-year-old season concluded with a victory in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (1600m) at Keeneland.

"He's lightly raced - (he has) good form last year, he's had plenty of experience as a two-year-old, (he's done) plenty of travelling," Comerford said.

"He actually progressed from run-to-run last year."

The colt had a delayed start to his three-year-old campaign.

"He's had a few setbacks and things weren't happening for him when Aidan wanted to, so we had to lay off him and start him back, so when he started back, he's had two quick runs," he said.

Victoria Road finished seventh of eight in his first start of 2023 in August over 2000m at G2 level at Deauville, six-and-three-quarter lengths behind subsequent Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Ace Impact, before bouncing back to finish third of 10 over 1600m at G2 level in Ireland, a head behind fellow Australian traveller Buckaroo in second.

"I suppose Aidan's plan was always to bring him here, so he had to get a few runs into him before he brought him here and it all seems to be working out now - (the) timing seems to be perfect," Comerford said.

"He's run over a mile-and-a-quarter in France, probably on ground that he didn't want and he's run respectable - six-and-three-quarter lengths behind an Arc winner.

"And then we ran him over a mile, sharpened him up and he's had a good run at Leopardstown in a Group 2.

"I'd like to think that the last run would've sharpened him up for coming here and a step up to a mile-and-a-quarter, would probably, I hope, be his best trip.

"He probably likes the better ground.

"His runs this year, he's had a quieter campaign of it … but he's progressing and he's gradually getting better."

While dominant over a mile last year, Comerford is confident the Cox Plate distance of 2040m at The Valley won't be an issue for the colt.

"The step up to a mile-and-a-quarter will be a big help to him. He's won over a mile-and-one (furlong) (1800m) last year, so the distance shouldn't be a problem for him anyway," he said.

"I suppose another furlong and a year older - shouldn't inconvenience him.

"He seems to be the type of horse that should go around there and he likes going around here at Werribee, which is pretty tight as well, so it's good practice for him.

"I see the way the tracks over here dry up, so it will actually probably be perfect for us, that it's not going to be too firm - it will be lovely ground for us.

"I think anyone that's running over a mile-and-a-quarter probably wants a true-run gallop … if someone wants it run slow to turn it into maybe a sprint to suit them, that's fine - but we don't want to turn a mile-and-a-quarter race into a mile race either … I think that's probably not going to suit - you might get an unusual winner then.

"If you're going to run a mile-and-a-quarter, you want a mile-and-a-quarter gallop."

Comerford is not worried that maturity will be an issue come Saturday's G1 contest.

"All of our horses have plenty done and that's never an issue," Comerford said.

"They're always well-behaved and well-mannered and he's not one of those horses that you have to keep a lid on.

"Adelaide came here and was very straightforward, this horse is no different.

"In regards to comparing them that way, they're the same."

Indeed, when comparing their 2023 contender with 2014 Cox Plate winner Adelaide, Comerford is flattering of Victoria Road.

"I suppose Adelaide was running in Arc trials and that at home and then we brought him here and we knew that he was a decent horse, but this lad is a Breeders' Cup winner, you know what I mean, he's better," he said.

"He's actually probably, on paper, is definitely better.

"He won a Breeders' Cup Juvenile and I mean any horse you win a Breeders' Cup race with, to me, you have to respect them.

"His season this year has been a bit of a lull, but at the moment he's very pleasing."

Jockey Blake Shinn has been booked to partner the colt, who Comerford credits with being a straightforward ride.

"Aidan will talk to Blake Shinn, he'll talk to him today or tomorrow and they'll have a chat and see what they come up with," he said.

"He's pretty straightforward, he's not keen, he settles well, he takes everything well … so I suppose wherever he breaks from, from his draw, (he has) a good draw, once everything falls into place for him, you can only ride the race as you see it and the hand that you're dealt.

"Aidan will tell Blake about our horse and the way that he thinks he should be ridden and Blake will have his homework done on the Australian horses and he'll be able to tell Aidan the way that he thinks they'll go.

"You'll hope then that between the two of them, they can come up with a plan that will suit our horse."