Cox Plate hero headed for The Championships

Danny O’Brien believes valuable colt Shamus Award is on target to again shine on the biggest stage in the $4million Queen Elizabeth Stakes over 2000m during The Championships at Royal Randwick in April.

The prominent Melbourne trainer said the three-year-old, which won the Cox Plate as a maiden last October, had thrived since his first-up third in the Group 1 C.F. Orr Stakes at Caulfield on February 8.

Shamus Award is being aimed at Saturday’s Australian Guineas before an assault on The Championships: “He’s really thriving,” O’Brien said. “He ran as well as we could have expected first-up over 1400-metres which is well short of his best.”

The colt is nominated for the $3m The Star Doncaster Mile over 1600m on April 12 and the Queen Elizabeth on April 19.

O’Brien said after the Australian Guineas he would head to the Rosehill Guineas over 2000m on March 29, and then the Queen Elizabeth three weeks later.

O’Brien expected Fiorente would be the one to beat in the Queen Elizabeth, though he is also wary of Cox Plate failure It’s A Dundeel, which started favourite at Moonee Valley.

“Both Shamus Award and Fiorente had a terrific battle in the Cox Plate,” O’Brien said. “It’s a Dundeel didn’t have the right preparation after a setback but he’s a great horse.”

O’Brien is not concerned by Shamus Award tackling the clockwise direction of racing for the first time: “It’s an unknown but he has done plenty of work in that direction,” he said. “Certainly Randwick is a big, beautiful track and most horses get round there OK.”

O’Brien has another major player in his stable for his Sydney mission in last year’s Newmarket Handicap winner Shamexpress who is back in top form and headed for the Group 1 Darley TJ Smith Stakes on Day One of The Championships, April 12.

O’Brien said the four-year-old would defend his Newmarket crown on March 8 before heading straight to the Darley TJ Smith Stakes with possibly a Sydney trial in between: “The TJ Smith is a $2.5million race – all the best sprinters in Australia will be there.”