Big race jockey Craig Williams has chosen English stayer Wall Of Fire as his mount to break through for a maiden win in the Group 1 $6.25m Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on Tuesday.
Williams had been booked to ride the highly credentialed Japanese stayer Admire Deus in the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups but those plans were demolished when the seven year old broke down in the week leading up to the Group 1 $3.15m BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) at Caulfield on October 21.
Williams then quickly switched to the Darren Weir trained stablemate Amelie’s Star who finished eleventh to Boom Time in the Caulfield Cup.
Amelie’s Star is exempt from ballot for the Melbourne Cup after winning the Group 3 $300,000 The Bart Cummings (2500m) at Flemington on October 7 but only has 51kg in the famous two miler nest Tuesday, a weight too light for Williams which allowed light weight jockey Dean Yendall to pick up the ride.
Williams then tested out French galloper Tiberian and Wall Of Fire at the Werribee International Horse Centre and chose the Hugo Palmer trained English stayer as his 2017 Melbourne Cup mount.
“I was shattered when Admire Deus broke down as he was an exceptional horse, so we had to work on plan B,” Williams told the Herald Sun.
“I was lucky enough to come down and ride Tiberian last week and at the same time Wall Of Fire.
“I wasn’t in the position where I had any extra time to wait and see how they progressed further into their preparations and one of the connections and the trainer wanted to sew up their jockey so I had to make a decision that day.
“I decided on Wall Of Fire and I’m very happy with that decision since.”
“He’s an easy horse to ride, not a very big horse so there’s no doubt the 53 kilos is to his advantage after carrying 58 last time.”
Williams will head down to Werribe one more time before Tuesday to get a further feel of the five year old.
“I’ll have to come down and have another sit on him before the Cup but I’m enjoying the way he’s preparing for next Tuesday.”
“The more time I spend with him the more I understand about his action, his response to me with the reins and how he carries the bit in his mouth.”
Wall Of Fire has raced fourteen times for four wins but is yet to race in Group 1 company with his best win to date being over 2920m at Doncaster in England in September last year.
The lightly raced stallion has had one run on Australian soil and performed well for a second to Lord Fandango in the Group 2 $400,000 Ladbrokes Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield on October 14.
Wall Of Fire has been marked as one of the top fancies for the Melbourne Cup at $11 with Ladbrokes.com.au who have Almandin as the $6.50 favourite to win back to back Melbourne Cups.
Early betting for the 2017 Melbourne Cup at Ladbrokes.com.au: $6.50 Almandin, $8.50 Humidor, Marmelo, $11 Johannes Vermeer, Red Cardinal, Wall Of Fire, $15 Rekindling, Max Dynamite, $17 Thomas Hobson, $21 Big Duke, Tiberian, Hartnell, $26 Amelie’s Star, Nakeeta, Qewy, Single Gaze, $34 Boom Time, Harlem, Bondi Beach, Ventura Storm, $41 Who Shot Thebarman, Jon Snow, Abbey Marie, US Army Ranger, Wicklow Brave, $61 or better the rest.