The Caulfield Cup is still more than a week away but after having his first feel of Japanese raider Hokko Brave at Werribee quarantine centre on Tuesday morning, Craig Williams is confident he is on a horse capable of winning both the Caulfield and Melbourne cups.
After taking a few days to recover from his flight from Japan, Hokko Brave has had an easy time so far at Werribee, with Tuesday’s gallop being his first serious hit out since his arrival, and the horse’s connections made sure Williams was given an easy introduction to the eight-year-old.
“He’s just very fresh. They don’t think I can sit on him too well when they buck,” explained Williams who did not get onto Hokko Brave until after he had completed a warm-up lap. “I basically got the valet parking job today and just did the fast work.”
With connections keen to gallop over what they considered to be the best ground, Williams gave Hokko Brave a solid hit-out from the 400 metres, up the straight and around to the 1400m.
“I was slightly concerned initially when he pulled up from his work that he had a really good puff, but he recovered in less than two minutes and it just shows that they have put in the groundwork in Japan and here they just have him ticking over.”
Williams said he hoped to ride Hokko Brave again next week to gauge how much he had improved prior to the Caulfield Cup.
“I think it is extremely important for me to have a comparison of where he is going,” he said.
“I’m extremely happy with where he is now, but I expect him to be on an upward spiral from today. “
The Japanese horses have proven hard to beat whenever they have journeyed to Melbourne and Williams believes that both Hokko Brave and Fame Game compare very favourably to those that have come before them and raced with success.
“When you look at his form, both these horses have far better form than Delta Blues and Pop Rock when they quinellaed the Melbourne Cup.”
The jockey was also quick to defend his mount as the second string Japanese runner behind Fame Game, which is currently favourite for both cups, saying that the handicap conditions of both races will bring them together.
“Ratings tell you there are four ratings points between them but in handicaps that makes them even.”
Hokko Brave will carry 55.5 kilograms in the Caulfield Cup, getting 1.5kg from Fame Game, and Williams says with that weight Hokko Brave can win that race, get a penalty and still win the Melbourne Cup, whereas a Caulfield Cup win and penalty for Fame Game would put a Melbourne Cup victory beyond him.
“With Fame Game, if he won a Caulfield Cup and got penalised it is unlikely that he will win a Melbourne Cup – looking at the field that is lining up – with a penalty and carrying 58 and above to win a Melbourne Cup.”
Also at Werribee, Craig Newitt was reunited with Super One on whom he won three races during a riding stint in Singapore earlier this year.
“He feels just as good as when I last rode him in Singapore,” said Newitt, ahead of the unbeaten three-year-old’s local debut in the Apache Cat Classic at Cranbourne on Sunday.
In other international news, Coolmore announced on Tuesday that Order Of St George and Ol’ Man River would not be coming to , with only the trio of Bondi Beach, Kingfisher and Highland Reel joining the final shipment of imports set to arrive at the weekend.