Suspension was like horror movie

Craig Williams during the Melbourne Cup parade.
Craig Williams during the Melbourne Cup parade.

It started out as an action movie but ended up as a horror.

That was how Craig Williams' Melbourne Cup day played out last year after a suspension ruled him out of the ride on the eventual Cup winner Dunaden.

Williams couldn't face watching the race, so instead opted to go the movies.

Asked yesterday if he remembered which movie he had watched, Williams said: ''Yeah, Real Steel - and I can even tell you what part of the movie I found out he won.

''Going into tomorrow's meeting all I have to do is reflect on last year and for me as a jockey, I know where I want to be on Melbourne Cup day and that's on a horse's back rather than sitting in a movie theatre.''

The suspension cost Williams his first win in a Melbourne Cup, with Christophe Lamaire picking up the ride and the glory, and that's only made the champion Melbourne jockey more determined to win the race this year.

''He's a special horse to me and I'd love to win my first Melbourne Cup on him,'' Williams said.

And if that could happen? ''It would be the greatest race on earth. It's a great raceday - it's the race that stops the nation but most importantly for me, I've got a really exciting horse in Dunaden and I'm hoping he can win it back-to-back.''

Dunaden faces a weight hike of 4.5kg from last year to his topweight of 59kg for today's A$6.2 million Melbourne Cup and while Williams acknowledged the task ahead of his mount, he said he had come to know not to underestimate him.

''Mathematics says that it is and history shows you that it is but ... he's beaten the odds since he was born so this is nothing new for him to defy history,'' Williams said.

''It's a handicap and he's got that weight because that's how good he's going. There are horses that are better handicapped but if you go through his life story, he's beaten the odds so many times and this would be no different if he can win the Melbourne Cup tomorrow.

''With my horse carrying the highest weight, it's most important for him to have a smooth, interrupted run and if I can get onto the back of the horse that's going to take me to the 200m, that's going to be very important.

''The ways the weights are now, the weights are a lot more compressed. He won it last year with 4 1/2 kilos less but I think he's a four or five-lengths better horse this year. And the way Americain went last year [in finishing a luckless fourth] showed you can still win the Melbourne Cup with the penalty.''

Dunaden was given a 1kg penalty for the Melbourne Cup for winning the Caulfield Cup, a race connections claim he won at just 80 per cent fit.

''The way he showed that acceleration in the Caulfield Cup gives me great excitement about the Melbourne Cup,' Williams said.

''With his last piece of work, he's shown he's trained on well since the Caulfield Cup. Sure he's got a lot to carry but he's always got the weight of expectation to carry on his shoulders anyway.

''I have no doubt the horse had improvement and I knew that he'd had a foot abscess before he came to Australia so it put plans back a little bit. If he was only 80 per cent, I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. I'm very confident.''

Dunaden's French trainer Mikel Delzangles flew in to Melbourne yesterday, having attended the Breeders' Cup meeting at Santa Anita in the US over the weekend.

He was as calm and relaxed as ever as he spoke about Americain's condition going into the Cup.

''I think he's a better horse than last year,'' Delzangles said.

''He's changed physically over the winter. He's a bit stronger and he showed in his performances in Europe this year he is better than last year.

''The race is still very hard. He's carrying nine pounds [4.5kg] more than last year and though I'm not sure he's nine pounds better, he is better.''