Champion jockey Craig Williams looks to have an embarrassment of Cups riches heading into the Melbourne Spring, with horses such as last year's Caulfield Cup heroine Southern Star and strongly fancied import Green Moon — now in the care of the Lloyd Williams stable — amongst his potential mounts for the big carnival classics.
But he has confirmed that he will try to make amends for missing last year's Melbourne Cup victory aboard French raider Dunaden by committing himself to ride the Mikel Delzangles galloper as he seeks to become only the third horse in the metric era to shoulder 58 kilograms to victory in Australia's greatest race.
Williams told the audience at the Spring Carnival launch in the Docklands that he would partner Dunaden, owned by Sheik Fahad Al Thani, in both the Caulfield and Melbourne cups, despite having won the Caulfield Cup on Leon Macdonald's mare Southern Star last year. He also partnered the highly regarded Green Moon to a narrow second place finish in the Data Tan Chin Nam Stakes last weekend, a performance which signalled that the Williams galloper would be a major contender in anything he was aimed at over the next eight weeks.
"Hopefully the horse (Dunaden) comes out healthy and well and he looks like he is going to at the Caulfield Cup as well as the Melbourne Cup," Williams said.
"I will be hoping to ride him. Southern Speed has been very good to me, and its a great position to be in to have choices. Green Moon is a really nice hose and he's got a couple of big races in him. But attrition is a big thing, and its really a week-to-week, day-to-day situation."
Williams rode Dunaden in England in the Group One King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, in which he was unplaced, and it was after that that the Sheik and his racing manager, David Redvers, decided to target a repeat in Australia rather than try to gain glory in Europe's prestigious weight-for-age middle distance and staying classics.
"I am comfortable with the decision. I was committed to riding him in the Arc de Triomphe (then) they changed their mind to come out here. I have got a really good relationship with Sheik Fayed and David Redvers and Mikel Delzangles.
"I won the International Vase on him (in Hong Kong last December) so he's been a good horse for me. After the way Americain ran in the race last year (a fast-closing fourth under 58 kilograms) I felt that the horse, even with his handicap, could still win the race as well.
"I have got a great agent (Mark Guest). I don't worry about it. I have confidence in him and his assessment of things. We discuss it a lot, but his job is to manage me, and my job is to ride the horses. We have got a great relationship, I trust him, we work closely together and I let him handle everything else."
Michael Rodd, so narrowly beaten on English challenger Red Cadeaux last year, is hoping the latter's trainer Ed Dunlop will delay making a decision on a big race rider until late in the day.
Rodd is Mark Kavanagh's stable jockey, and his pathway to the Cups will be determined by the performance of stable star December Draw. The English import broke down when favourite in last year's Caulfield Cup, leaving Rodd free to take the moment on Red Cadeuax. He runs in the Underwood Stakes at Caulfield and if he progresses to the Caulfield and Melbourne cups, Rodd will be committed to him.
Otherwise, he said he would look forward to renewing his acquaintance with the English stayer.
"I want to keep Ed Dunlop on ice as long as possible. If Kav doesn't have a runner I would like to think I could ride him."