Just as the major spring players were paddock-bound after an exhausting Cup campaign last year, Dan O’Sullivan thought he might try a handy jumper over the flat in a few off-season races.
As punters pinched pennies rather than spend them and spring stars spelled, the most unlikely path to a Caulfield Cup was engineered.
Cue Tuscan Fire’s arrival, the jumper who started winning races he wasn’t supposed to.
First there was success at Flemington after a couple of close misses then another win at the same track before victory in the Mornington Cup.
And all because O’Sullivan was worried Tuscan Fire would be condemned to the paddock for too long in between jumps seasons.
‘‘When he went out early in the jumps season [in 2012] he was in the paddock for a long time so we thought we would come back in and do a little cameo over summer, give him a break and then go back jumping last winter,’’ O’Sullivan recalled.
‘‘He was in such good form and we were winning races on the flat we thought we may as well keep going down that path so we did. I might have got a get out of jail card there.’’
That get out of jail card might never be more profitable.
Tuscan Fire stands to collect $1.5million rather than the standard $200 for passing ‘‘Go’’ if he can cause a shock in tomorrow’s Caulfield Cup (2400m).
His berth in the big race was sealed after February’s Mornington Cup, which carries a ballot-exempt status.
O’Sullivan and Tuscan Fire will be the first Mornington Cup winners to take advantage of that clause.
They’ll bring together an ownership group comprising people working in the mining and telecommunications industries, some of O’Sullivan’s staff and a Terang couple in their mid-70s who count Tuscan Fire as the first horse they’ve had a share in.
‘‘They’re pinching themselves,’’ O’Sullivan said.
‘‘This horse has exceeded the expectation or level they thought he’d get to and they’re just milking every moment of it and enjoying the celebrity status they’ve been given.
‘‘The other people involved in the horse come from right across the country.’’
That’s not to say O’Sullivan won’t be basking in the temporary Caulfield Cup glow either.
The Ballarat trainer has yet to store a Group 1 on the mantelpiece, but hasn't given up on being in the finish tomorrow.
‘‘These races are the pinnacle of what you train for,’’ said O’Sullivan, who still gallops Tuscan Fire himself on occasion in trackwork.
‘‘We’ll be big odds, but it’s nice to get this sort of attention and hopefully he’ll run really well for us [tomorrow] and we can hold our head high.’’