Globe-trotting Australian jockey Craig Williams is in line to ride Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden in one of the world’s most prestigious horse race, the Group 1 €4m QATAR Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe (2400m) at Longchamp in Paris, France.
Williams is due to reunited with Dunaden in the Group 1 £1m The King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (1 mile 4 furlongs) at Ascot in England on Saturday after missing the six year old’s last three starts because of his commitments to the Japan Racing Association where he has been riding the last two months.
The top jockey has had two rides on the six year old and owner Sheikh Fahad Al Thani was keen to get Williams back in the saddle with the view of retaining him for the has Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe if Dunaden goes to France.
“Basically, Sheikh Fahad decided that whoever was to ride the horse in the Arc was to ride him in all his races between now and then, which almost definitely ruled out Christophe,” Sheikh Fahad Al Thani’s racing manager David Redvers said.
“Craig has won his only two starts on the horse, he knows him well and was prepared to make the sacrifice and commitment to come all the way from Australia to ride the horse whenever he ran.”
Williams missed the ride on Dunaden’s 2011 Melbourne Cup victory through suspension but was aboard the start before taking out the Group 3 $240,000 Geelong Cup (2400m) at Geelong and the start after when the pair won the Group 1 HK$14m Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase (1 mile 4 furlongs) at Sha Tin in December.
In a twist of fate, Williams is replacing Christophe-Patrice Lemaire at Ascot after the French jockey was called in to replace Williams prior to his 2011 Melbourne Cup victory after Williams had to sit out the Group 1 $6m Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) because of suspension.
“He rode Ortensia at Royal Ascot and Cay Verde for us and spent a lot of time with Mick Channon and knows the tracks well,” Redvers said.
Redvers has likened Williams to British jumps racing Champion jockey A P (Tony) McCoy who put in hours of dedicated pre-race study before every ride.
“Craig is an extraordinary jockey. He’s a little bit like a Flat equivalent of A P (McCoy) in that I expect he makes an incredibly boring husband as he comes home and pours over video after video.”
“It was interesting when he rode Cay Verde for us, he’d watched the videos of every other horse in the race. He’s so incredibly thorough that I’m sure the fact he hasn’t been riding regularly here for a few years will not make any difference, he’ll have done his homework.”
“When he lands here Friday morning, his footprints will be all over Ascot until the race – there’s no more thorough a jockey at walking courses as well.”
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again no doubt, he’s just the horse of a lifetime. He tries his guts out and he desperately wants to win – he actually seems to know what’s going on.”
Williams is keen to make contact with Dunaden’s trainer Mikel Delzangles when he lands in England for the weekend to work out a pre-race plan.
“I spoke to David Redvers this morning and I will speak to Mikel,” Williams said.
“They tell me the horse is in good order. When the field’s out we can have a look and see how we think the race is going to be run.”
Redvers said the whole team is looking forward to a change of luck after Dunaden ran into trouble on several occasion for Christophe-Patrice Lemaire when second to Sea Moon in the Group 2 £200,000 Hardwicke Stakes (1 mile 4 furlongs) at Royal Ascot on June 23.