Jet setting jockey Craig Williams is sweating on an insider gate for last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden when the barriers are drawn on Wednesday for the Saturday’s 2400m Group 1 $2.5m BMW Caulfield Cup.
French trainer Mikel Delzangleswas on hand to watch Dunaden got through his paces at the Werribee quarantine centre with Williams aboard and both trainer and jockey were very pleased with the seven year olds workout.
“I was really happy with this morning,” Williams said.
“He’s come on from last week but he’s still got major improvement left in him.”
“Mikel said he was about a week away from where he wants him to be and I would say that’s probably spot-on.”
“From his gallop this morning and the way he races on Saturday, I will expect him to feel like a two-mile horse on Melbourne Cup day.”
Dunaden ran home the last 1200m for his 1600m gallop in 1.16.5s, clocking 35.82 for his final 600m and just breaking 24s for the last 400m.
Williams was excited about the work and thinks a bad barrier draw is the only thing against a Caulfield Cup victory on Saturday.
“I felt that if we could draw a good barrier, that would enhance his chances,” Williams said.
“I’d like one to six if I was to have a choice. I believe that the way he is going at the moment and the way he was when I rode him at Ascot, it’s important that the horse gets cover.”
“I’d say Wednesday would determine how confident I am going to go into the Caulfield Cup. If he draws an inside gate, I’d be really confident.”
Williams travelled to England to ride Dunaden in the Group 1 £1m The King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (1 mile 4 furlongs) at Ascot on July 21 and when unable to get a sit off the pace, Dunaden raced without cover behind the pacemaker Robin Hood.
While German filly Danedream and Nathaniel crossed the line locked together, Dunaden faded in the straight to finish in sixth spot.
While Delzangles believes that Dunaden is a better horse than when he won last year’s Group 1 $6m Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington, the top French trainer says that the seven year old will have to find a bit extra if he wins the Caulfield Cup and is lumped with a Melbourne Cup penalty.
Dunaden’s Melbourne Cup weight is 58kg, 3.5kg more than he carried to victory last year and a penalty from the Caulfield Cup would make it extremely difficult for him to win back to back Cups.
“He is definitely a better horse, but I’m not sure if he is a 4kg better horse,” Delzangles said.
“But he is a stronger horse now and the horse looks great.”
Williams is keen to make amends this Spring after missing the winning ride on Dunaden in the Melbourne Cup last year because of suspension after winning the Group 3 $240,000 Centrebet Geelong Cup (2400m) at Geelong on October 19 on the overseas galloper.
But the top jockey had something to celebrate after the pair took out the Group 1 HK$14m Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase (1 mile 4 furlongs) at Sha Tin on December 11.
Gai Waterhouse’s imported stayer Glencadam Gold is at the top of Caulfield Cup markets at $3.60 with December Drew at $6 while Dunaden is the next pick at $9.
Williams has also picked up the ride on Cox Plate second favourite Green Moon after gaining a release from Pierro after the Waterhouse trained three year old suffered his first defeat when second to All Too Hard in the Group 1 $1m BECK Caulfield Guineas (1600m) at Caulfield last Saturday.
Green Moon is currently $4.40 behind Pierro who still holds down favouritism even though he drifted out to $3.50 with Caulfield Stakes winner Ocean Park on the third line of betting at $5.50.