Craig Williams. Photo: Ken Irwin
JOCKEY Craig Williams has confirmed he will ride super colt Pierro in the Cox Plate if the unbeaten star continues on that path as expected after Saturday's group 1 Caulfield Guineas.
Regular rider Nash Rawiller partners Pierro this weekend, where he runs as the scorching-hot $1.35 favourite in the $1 million Guineas. But he must stand aside for the lighter Williams on Cox Plate day as the three-year-old carries just 49.5 kilograms when he tries to rewrite history.
It seemed a no-brainer for Williams to choose to ride Pierro in the $3 million Cox Plate, but he has to part ways with Green Moon to do so. He rode the import to a most impressive win on Saturday in the group 1 Turnbull Stakes at Flemington, where Green Moon confirmed he was a genuine Cox Plate contender.
While the jockey who rode last year's winners of the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate was shoring up his Cox Plate ride yesterday, Williams plans to confirm his position in both the Caulfield and Melbourne cups later tomorrow.
He will re-acquaint himself with Dunaden when the pair gallop at the quarantine centre at Werribee.
Dunaden had a small setback when in quarantine with a foot abscess but Williams expects to see the same fit and healthy French horse as when he partnered him to wins in last spring's Geelong Cup and Hong Kong Vase.
Williams has also reaped the benefit of suspensions to Damien Oliver and Vlad Duric at Moonee Valley last Friday night.
On Saturday, he takes over from Oliver on Awesome Bro for Leon Corstens in the Caulfield Guineas and on Elite Elle in the Thoroughbred Club Stakes, while he picks up Duric's mount Strike The Stars in the group 1 Toorak Handicap.
Meanwhile, owner Lloyd Williams is looking to strengthen his already strong hand in the three spring majors when he tries to qualify Excluded for a Caulfield Cup run via the group 2 Herbert Power Stakes on Saturday.
Williams, fresh from a winning treble at Flemington - including the quinella in the Turnbull Stakes - as well as a feature race winner in Sydney, already has import Seville down as his Caulfield Cup horse, but Excluded can win an exemption from the ballot for the race if he can win the 2400-metre race on Saturday.
Williams told RSN yesterday that he fancied the chances of an Australian victory in the Melbourne Cup this year as the French winners of the past two years, Americain and Dunaden, would carry hefty weights (58 kilograms). He also said he wasn't overly impressed with co-Melbourne Cup favourite Mount Athos, who he could have bought last year.
''I'm not keen on Mount Athos. I don't think he's a champion,'' Williams said.
Tommy Berry, the rider of the new Caulfield and Melbourne cups favourite, Glencadam Gold, yesterday put paid to the theory that the import might be exposed over the tricky anti-clockwise course in Saturday week's Caulfield Cup.
''He'll get around as good as he does in Sydney,'' Berry said of Saturday's Metropolitan winner. ''His last piece of work the Melbourne way, he got around better than he does when on his Sydney leg.''
As for the galloper's ability to handle the 3200 metres of the Melbourne Cup, Berry was just as upbeat. ''He'll relish it.''