Which jockeys are booked for which horses in Saturday’s Epsom Handicap 2014 field are beginning to take shape including the announcement Linda Meech will partner the Peter Morgan-trained Star Rolling for the first time.
There are still officially 81 horses making up the nominations for the $500,000 Group 1 The Star Epsom Handicap (1600m), one of three Group 1 races on the Royal Randwick card for the weekend.
One of the gallopers inside the top half of the all-in Epsom Handicap betting markets ahead of Wednesday’s final field announcement is Star Rolling.
A first-up winner of the Group 2 P.B. Lawrence Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield in an upset, the Casino Prince gelding has finished out of the money in his two subsequent Epsom lead-ups.
The most recent of those was back at Caulfield on September 20 when eighth, beating home just two rivals in the Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) won by Foreteller.
He’s back down in distance over the mile again for the Epsom then and is currently paying $17 to win through Ladbrokes.com.au.
Star Rolling is allocated 53kg and Linda Meech has secured the ride after the decision of rival trainer Chris Waller to run Boban.
Waller earlier announced the 59kg Epsom Handicap top weight Sacred Falls would bypass the half-a-million-dollar feature in favour of a run in Saturday week’s $400,000 Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) in Melbourne.
That left triple Group 1 winner Boban, coming off back-to-back Group 1 fifths behind the Peter Moody-trained Dissident in Melbourne, as the 58kg top weight.
With the Bernardini gelding now a confirmed acceptor the Epsom Handicap weights won’t be raised as originally thought.
When it looked like Star Rolling would be pushed up to 54kg for Saturday, co-trainer Morgan booked Tye Angland for the ride.
He cannot make the 53kg however and so the horseman, who trains in partnership with Craig Widdison, has instead secured the services of Meech who has ridden a host of winners for Morgan over the years.
Futures Epsom Handicap odds are led by the Joe Pride-trained Rock Sturdy ($4) who comes off a win in the Group 2 Shannon Stakes (1500m) from last Saturday.
Waller then dominates the markets with three of his possible five runners with Royal Descent ($4.80), He’s Your Man ($6) and Boban ($7) the next best in betting.
Perennial runner-up Royal Descent will be ridden by Hugh Bowman on Saturday as the Redoute’s Choice mare looks to improve on her second to stablemate Sacred Falls in the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) at the same track and distance a fortnight ago.
Bowman also rode Rock Sturdy earlier this season and replaces Glyn Schofield on Royal Descent, the hoop with plenty of respect for his mount.
He however also rates French import He’s Your Man as a major danger after riding the Cape Cross six-year-old to victory in the Group 3 Kingston Town Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill on September 13.
“I think He’s Your Man might be the danger, to be honest,” Bowman told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“It’s not that I don’t respect Rock Sturdy, I just think you’ll see a better horse in the autumn. He could come out and win, but he beat Ninth Legion and Liberty’s Choice the other day [in the Shannon Stakes].
“He’s going to have to improve if he’s going to win the Epsom and I’m not saying he can’t do it, but I’d be more worried about him in the autumn.”
On Saturday in the Epsom He’s Your Man will be ridden by ace Brazilian jockey Joao Moreira in a move Waller hopes will get him over the line first in the Group 1.
He’s Your Man is a 53.5kg light weight chance in the race, and Waller admits that Moreira wasn’t his first choice to ride the gelding.
“We tried Zac Purton first but he couldn’t make the weight,” Waller said.
“It was difficult to find jockeys because of the big meetings in Sydney and Melbourne, that’s why we had to think outside the square. Joao is clearly one of the best riders in the world and seeing that he was available and can ride the weight … it was great to book him.
“I have learnt that there are a lot of photo finishes when you train more than 200 winners a year and the right jockey makes the difference more often than not.”
To view the official 2014 Epsom Handicap field and barrier draw stay tuned to Races.com.au after 10am tomorrow.
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