For trainer Joe Cleary, Sunday’s Black Opal Stakes in Canberra isn’t just another race.
Cleary can still remember watching on as a 15-year-old “pup” as his father Frank trained Clan O’Sullivan to win the 1992 edition.
His father won it again with Catbird in 1999 and he admits Quietly Brilliant is the best chance he’s had to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“It’d be a wonderful bloody thing to get the (family) name back on the honour board,” he said.
The Queanbeyan local said there’s been the same “magical” vibe around town, two decades after Clan O’Sullivan’s win.
“I’m just hoping I can fly the flag for Struggle Town,” he said.
If Quietly Brilliant is to win on Sunday, Cleary knows he’ll have to pass some formidable competition – in particular, the Peter Snowden-trained colt, Ghibellines.
With jockey Tommy Berry in the saddle, Gai Waterhouse’s Mr Cha Cha is also regarded as one of the better chances in the $275,000 race.
But Quietly Brilliant has already shown good form on the Canberra track, winning by seven lengths in November and finishing third in a Black Opal lead-up race last month.
While he rates Quietly Brilliant above the other local contenders, Cleary is realistic about his dark horse’s chances.
“If he runs in the first four or five I’ll be a happy little Vegemite,” he said.
He’s treating the weekend’s run as Quietly Brilliant’s “grand-final” and not as a lead-up to the lucrative Golden Slipper.
Nevertheless, he’s got high praise for his runner, one of nine in his stables.
“He’s definitely the best two-year-old I’ve got this year – he’s the only two-year-old I’ve got,” he said.
Ghibellines ($3.20), Mr Cha Cha ($3.80) and Greco ($4.20) are the most popular horses in early Black Opal betting.
Quietly Brilliant has been rated a $15 chance.
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