Into space: Jockey Craig Williams punches out Green Moon to win the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington yesterday. Photo: Ken Irwin
ON A defining day for the three spring majors, European import Green Moon confirmed his place as the leading locally trained Melbourne Cup contender with a determined Turnbull Stakes win to give owner Lloyd Williams a strong hand as the cups draw near.
Williams claimed the Craven Plate at Randwick with Mourayan, and the Bart Cummings at Flemington with Tanby prior to the Turnbull Stakes, and then claimed the final event at Flemington with Fawkner.
''You don't have days like this at the races very often,'' said Williams' son Nick of the four wins.
Perhaps Australian racing's biggest Melbourne Cup devotee and a man that has spent countless millions in search of success in the famous race, Williams has his strongest team of stayers set for this year's Cup, with Green Moon the headline act.
After a moderate getaway jockey Craig Williams pushed Green Moon forward from a middle gate in order to stalk the speed, but instead found himself horribly placed three wide with no cover. His saviour was Voila Ici, who, when left alone in the lead, cruised at a modest tempo, allowing Williams to creep closer by the turn without having worked too hard.
Once into the straight and having seen off a one-paced Voila Ici, Williams asked Green Moon for a winning effort and was grateful when the horse responded to establish a winning break. The pair maintained a comfortable long-neck margin on stablemate Seville, with 1¼ lengths to December Draw third.
''He couldn't get in but they didn't go fast and being a European horse he actually enjoyed a bit of room and movement. It was really special that win,'' said Craig Williams. ''I've absolutely loved working with this horse and nothing gives me more pleasure than to win for [trainer] Rob Hickmott and his team. I was devastated when he was beaten last start.''
Already with a strong Melbourne Cup hand, Lloyd Williams also has a major Caulfield Cup player with Irish and French Derby runner-up Seville emerging as a legitimate threat to new favourite Glencadam Gold.
''He has done everything we've asked of him and he deserves to take his place in the Caulfield Cup,'' Nick Williams said. ''He has shown his form in a couple of runs in the autumn and we know what he is.''
Bookmakers reacted immediately to Green Moon's win, with Centrebet cutting the six-year-old's Melbourne Cup price from $15 to $13 second favourite behind Britain's Mount Athos, and from $11 into $8 for the Cox Plate. Seville was cut from $51 into $11 in the Caulfield Cup and from a whopping $101 into $21 for the Melbourne Cup.
While cups contenders December Draw (third), Voila Ici (fourth), and Sneak A Peek (seventh) pleased their connections yesterday, defending Caulfield Cup heroine Southern Speed (15th) left co-trainer Leon Macdonald at a loss to explain the worst run in the mare's career.
''It was terrible, the worst run of her life. She worked brilliantly on Tuesday morning, mares can put a run in like this, but she never does, that's the point, it's not part of her character,'' he said.