A hefty nine-week suspension for a ride last weekend has cost Australia’s highest-earning hoop Luke Nolen the first-up mount on 2011 Caulfield Cup favourite Lights Of Heaven, Peter Moody’s Oaks winner resuming in the PB Lawrence Stakes on Saturday.
Nolen, most famous for his riding association with Australia’s No. 1 racehorse Black Caviar, pled guilty to a careless riding charge for his second-place finish aboard Club Command in the $70,000 Olive Curtis & Andrew Denadic Handicap (1410m) – Flemington Race 2 – last Saturday.
The race was narrowly won by the Caulfield Guineas-bound That’s The One, but it was early interference to race favourite, the John Sadler-trained Motorised, for which Nolen copped the charge.
Nolen was found to have shifted Club Command out, which hampered the running and chances of the eventually sixth-placed Motorised.
It is a bitter early blow for Nolen, who only resumed riding a week ago for an earlier suspension, as he will now miss the resuming rides on a number of Moody’s stable stars including Lights Of Heaven.
“We have got a heap coming back including Lights Of Heaven,” Nolen said.
“I want to be riding not suspended.”
Undefeated Zabeel four-year-old Lights Of Heaven will vie for fifth career win from as many starts when she runs in Saturday’s $200,000 Group 2 P.B. Lawrence Stakes (1400m), formerly known as the JJ Liston Stakes.
Despite being lightly-raced for her age, Lights Of Heaven is already a dual Group winner having won the Group 2 Sportingbet Fillies Classic (1600m) at Moonee Valley on March 4 and most recently the Group 1 Schweppes Oaks (2008m) at Morphettville on March 26 by an impressive three lengths.
Her outstanding form since winning on debut by seven lengths at Cranbourne back in January has seen the bookmakers install Lights Of Heaven as the early equal favourite to win the $2.5 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 15.
In the latest Caulfield Cup 2011 odds Lights Of Heaven is rated an $11 chance along with Queensland Oaks winner Scarlett Lady.
Lights Of Heaven is also the equal second favourite to become the 2011 Melbourne Cup winner, the mare paying $15 to take out the $6 million Flemington feature on November 1.
Nolen’s loss has become rival jockey Ben Melham’s gain, Moody engaging Melham for the prized ride on Lights Of Heaven in the PB Lawrence.
“You don’t expect anything, you’re just rapt to be chosen,” a pleased Melham said of the call-up.
During the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival Melham was the stand-in rider for superstar Black Caviar, and now 12 months later he gets the chance to ride a genuine Caulfield – Melbourne Cups contender in Lights Of Heaven.
“He’s been a good stopgap for us in the past and he’s been riding work for us,” Moody said of Melham.
It will be a big meeting at Flemington for Melham on Saturday as he is also booked for the rides on a handful of Moody’s other runners including those contesting the $100,000 Listed Vain Stakes (1100m), $100,000 Listed Quezette Stakes (1100m) and $125,000 Group 3 Cockram Stakes (1200m).
Melham is also gearing up to maintain his association with Jason Warren’s undefeated Bel Sprinter, vying for their fourth career win in the $100,000 Listed Regal Roller Stakes (1200m).
“I’ve been working my butt off to be at my best for spring and I’m really looking forward to Saturday,” Melham said.
Nolen’s suspension will end August 16 meaning he will be free to re-partner with Lights Of Heaven for the rest of her spring campaign.
Moody named the $400,000 Group 2 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on September 3, the $350,000 Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on September 17 and the $400,000 Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) on Caulfield Guineas Day October 8 as likely runs for Lights Of Heaven.
“By then we’ll know whether she’s a Caulfield-Melbourne Cups horse, Cox Plate horse or just a good mare,” Moody said.
“A lot, of course, depends on how she measures up but we have the options of setting her on a Cups path, aiming for the Cox Plate or dropping her back to mare’s grade if she’s finding it too tough.”
Originally sceptical over Lights Of Heaven’s first-up chances at weight-for-age, a good trial last week has Moody more optimistic ahead of Saturday.
“She trialled well and Luke got off her and said just how totally amazed he was with her turn of foot,” Moody said.
“It was just a 900-metre trial, but he was just flabbergasted with the way she sprinted.
“She is obviously going to gain a lot of benefit from her first-up run, but I’m happy that she’s going to the races this Saturday in good shape.”
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