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Danny O’Brien is delighted with the return of Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare as the stayer starts a long campaign aimed at a defence of his title.

Having his first start since his Cup win in November, Vow And Declare finished third behind Fifty Stars and Regal Power in the Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on Saturday.

“It’s the start of the campaign towards Melbourne Cup day,” O’Brien said.

“He’s going to have to improve again if he’s going to be competitive in the Cup this year, but he showed he’s on the right path.”

Next for Vow And Declare is next month’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick before three races in Brisbane – the Doomben Cup in May, followed by the Q22 and the Tatt’s Cup, a race Vow And Declare won last year.

O’Brien plans to have Vow And Declare back at his Barwon Heads property shortly after the Tatt’s Cup.

As he did last spring, Vow And Declare will run in the Turnbull Stakes in October before the Cox Plate at The Valley, rather than the Caulfield Cup.

“We’re not over-racing the horse and only running him in races we think he will be competitive in,” O’Brien said.

“He’s here at the start of March rather than having a couple of runs on hard ground in February.

“He was fresh in the parade and keen to get out there. He’s run on a lovely surface and has run really well.”

O’Brien will attempt to add another Cup to the cabinet when King Of Leogrance runs in the Adelaide Cup (3200m) at Morphettville on Monday.

The O’Brien-trained Demerger won the 2005 Adelaide Cup with the raced downgraded from Group One to Group Two status in 2007.

King Of Leogrance comes off a success in the Roy Higgins Quality (2600m) at Flemington on February 29.

“He’s come through that well and he’s entitled to be improved by it because he was only second-up,” O’Brien said.

“He’s favourite for the Adelaide Cup and rightly so we think if he travels well over there.

“He’s only a young horse that has been lightly exposed and I’m sure he can keep progressing.”

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