The non-appearance of the pre-post favourite Gailo Chop in the 2018 Group 1 $650,000 Hardy Brothers Doomben Cup (2000m) at Doomben on Saturday leaves the enigmatic Tom Melbourne as the flag bearer for prominent international syndicators OTI Racing.

Tom Melbourne, above in blue and gold and white colours, will fly the flag for OTI Racing in the 2018 Doomben Cup at Doomben. Photo by Steve Hart.

Tom Melbourne, above in blue and gold and white colours, will fly the flag for OTI Racing in the 2018 Doomben Cup at Doomben. Photo by Steve Hart.

It was announced last week that French import Gailo Chop would not be competing in the Doomben Cup after suffering another tendon injury leaving OTI Racing director Terry Henderson to place all of his faith in Tom Melbourne to finally deliver a Group 1 winner for the owners.

Tom Melbourne hasn’t greeted the judge first since winning the Listed $170,000 Commercial Club Albury Gold Cup (2000m) on March 18, 2016 but has been Group 1 placed on three occasions and has been runner up in all grades in seven of his last twelve runs since August last year.

“I think he’s just been a victim of being beaten by better horses in the majority of cases and in a couple of cases, a bit of bad luck,” Henderson told The Courier Mail.

“Either he’s an equine freak or a statistical freak.

“He’s won well over a million dollars now and he’s won $700,000-odd since his last win.

“He’s not costing us anything — well he’s costing us the opportunity of having more money — but outside of that, he’s paying his way and I think those around him, the people in Chris’s stable and Chris (Waller) himself, they like the horse, he’s quite a genuine horse.”

Tom Melbourne was placed twice during the 2017 Spring Carnival with a second in the Group 1 $1m Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Randwick followed by a second two starts later in the Group 1 $1m Kennedy Mile (1600m) at Flemington and then travelled to Perth where he finished third in the Group 1 $1m James Boag’s Premium Railway Stakes (1600m) at Ascot in during the Perth Summer Carnival.

The Chris Waller trained seven year old also filled the runner’s up stall on two occasions from four runs this campaign so far with a first up second to stablemate Comin’ Through in the Group 2 $200,000 Hyland Race Colours Ajax Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill on March 21 and last start second to Oregon’s Day in the Group 2 $358,000 Attwood Marshall A.D. Hollindale Stakes (1800m) at the Gold Coast on May 5.

Tom Melbourne is marked at $10 at for the 2018 Doomben Cup alongside of stablemate Egg Tart and will be clashing again with the Mick Price trained Oregon’s Day who is on the second line of betting at $6.

The Anthony Freedman trained Japanese import Ambitious sits at the top of the Doomben Cup market order at $4.20 and is coming off of a last start eighth to Winx in the Group 1 $4m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on day two of The Championships on April 14.

Ambitious did slow a glimpse of his Group 1 potential at his second run on Australian soil two starts back when runner up to Almandin in the Group 1 $1.5m Kia Tancred Stakes (2400m) at Rosehill on March 31.

Henderson has high hopes that Gailo Chop will get through his period of rehabilitation and get a chance to add to his illustrious career on the racetrack that has already netted the big front running chestnut three Group 1 victories.

“The lesion is relatively small. The prognosis on normal situations is 60-75 per cent for recovery back to racing. The process we’ve been using and used with him the first time is actually a bit better than that,” Henderson said.

“If all goes well he will get back into work and then we will assess whether we’re putting too much pressure on the horse or not.”

The final field for the 2018 Doomben Cup will be released on Wednesday, May 16.

Early betting for the 2018 Doomben Cup at $4.20 Ambitious, $6 Oregon’s Day, $6.50 Satono Rasen, $10 Egg Tart, Tom Melbourne, $11 Comin’ Through, $13 Life Less Ordinary, Our Century, Roman Son, $15 Abbey Marie, $17 Tradesman, $21 All In Vogue, $26 It’s Somewhat, One Foot In Heaven, $34 Bedford, Consenuous, Ecuador, Man Of His Word, Rising Red, Sixties Groove, $41 or better the rest.

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