He is physically unprepossessing and pale.

He has the personality close to a cardboard cutout which, he happily told the Herald a couple of years back: "Even my wife finds boring."

A member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association, he shuns alcohol.

He is Aidan O'Brien. And this afternoon the Irishman, with no room for anything but racehorses in the top 12cm of his slight build, will equal a world record if Johannes Vermeer can win the A$3 million Caulfield Cup. He will join the late American Bobby Frankel with 25 Grade/Group 1 victories in a year.


The 48-year-old is, by most standards, the world's finest thoroughbred horse trainer. His attention to detail borders on fanaticism.

Yet, and he's the first to admit this, even genius can stuff up. He made a bad blue when he took over New Zealand bred So You Think, who proved a near champion under Bart Cummings in Australia before being purchased for a reputed A$50m for stud duties which followed an English racing stint with O'Brien.

Possibly - only O'Brien would know this - he overworked the finely crafted So You Think because Cummings had a fierce reputation of working his 12 Melbourne Cup winners very hard in the lead-up.

But the late, great Australian icon worked those horses hard because they needed it. So You Think did not and his form fell away under O'Brien.

The other side of genius is immediate self correction and So You Think came back in Europe to be the horse we knew him to be. Apologies were offered.

Johannes Vermeer overtook Cambridge mare Bonneval for Caulfield Cup favouritism when he flew home into second in last week's 2000m Caulfield Stakes. That was a spectacular 2400m Caulfield Cup final trial, made all the more significant when connections, which include champion Melbourne Cup strategist Lloyd Williams, told stewards on Thursday Johannes Vermeer, mid-field last week, would be ridden close to the pace this time. Between third and fifth, was the message.

Local jockey Ben Melham replaces Katelyn Mallyon from last week. Melham is impressed with what he has seen and believes the No2 barrier will suit perfectly. "He showed good speed from the barriers the other day. He relaxed nicely after that and he's got a good change up of speed as well," Melham said. "So he's an ideal sort of horse for a Caulfield Cup."

Punters have dropped off Bonneval because of finishing only sixth in the Caulfield Stakes, but little notice should be taken from that.

From an outside gate Damian Lane had no choice but to drop the mare back to last rather than be posted wide in mid-field.

As everyone saw when she won the Australian Oaks under Hugh Bowman, Bonneval takes time to wind up and the race was all over in the short Caulfield home straight when she started to gather momentum.

Despite a week from hell where he has had to contend with repeated veterinary inspections on Bonneval, co-trainer Murray Baker remains confident he has the mare and stablemate Jon Snow exactly where he wants them for their career high spot.

"Both are spot on," he told the Herald yesterday.

Bonneval's new rider, the hugely in-form Kerrin McEvoy, agrees. He declared the mare bright and happy after twice partnering her in trackwork this week.

Bonneval drops in weight from last week from 56kg to a luxury 52.5kg, Jon Snow from 58kg to 54.5kg and Johannes Vermeer 59kg to 54.5kg.

Bonneval and Jon Snow are both solid each-way bets.

But if Johannes Vermeer can produce the same dazzling finish he found last week he will be extremely difficult to keep out.

Cup punts

1) Johannes Vermeer ($4.20)
2) Bonneval ($8)
3) Amelie's Star ($9)
4) Humidor ($7.50)
5) Jon Snow ($11)