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Jockey Michael Walker has his first ride in Australasia’s weight-for-age championship this Saturday at Moonee Valley and believes missing Breakfast with the Best with his mount Criterion is the right move ahead of the Cox Plate 2015.
Walker jumped aboard the David Hayes & Tom Dabernig-trained international performer and now four-time elite level winner for the latest of his quartet of Group 1 wins – the Caulfield Stakes (1800m) on October 10.
That was also his first run down under since taking out the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick over triple Melbourne Cup runner-up Red Cadeaux back in April, after which he had three runs overseas.
Walker retains the ride then in the $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) on the weekend where he believes Criterion will be at his best despite not being put through his paces at the Valley during on Tuesday morning like so many of his rivals.
“A horse like him he knows what he’s got to do raceday, so there’s not much point bringing him here [today],” he told Racing Victoria.
“I galloped him last week here, just to familiarise him with the track.
“He’s not running times, which we don’t want to see [anyway] – he’s a better horse kept fresh.”
This year’s Cox Plate field is at capacity with 14 confirmed final acceptors, the favourite of which is British raider Highland Reel prepared by last year’s winning trainer Aidan O’Brien.
Winner of the Secretariat Stakes in the USA in the lead-up like his former stablemate and last year’s Cox Plate winner Adelaide, Highland Reel jumps from a gun barrier four draw with jockey Ryan Moore also seeking his second Cox Plate victory in as many years.
Following Highland Reel ($5) in the Cox Plate odds, offered at Best Tote or SP + 20% on Saturday only at Ladbrokes, is Criterion at $6 in gate seven that last produced a winner in So You Think (2009).
Walker hopes it can be the lucky gate for his mount this weekend so he can repay Hayes & Dabernig as well as Criterion’s connections for keeping him on the Sir Owen Glenn-raced galloper in the classic.
“I think for me every morning waking up and looking at the mantelpiece and you’ve got a Cox Plate sitting there, that’d be a huge thrill,” he said.
“But I think more than most would be repaying the faith that David, Tom, Sir Owen Glenn … I’d love to do it for them.
“Put me aside – obviously I’m going to be thrilled – but for the people that have backed me, I’d like to do it for them.”
As for the biggest threat among Criterion’s Cox Plate rivals, Walker named the Chris Waller-trained Epsom Handicap winner Winx ($7.50) who jumps from barrier one with Hugh Bowman aboard.
Even though no Cox Plate winner has jumped from barrier one since Almaarad (1989), Waller’s multiple Group 1 winning Street Cry mare is being kept safe in betting and if successful will become the fifth four-year-old in six years to take home the Cox Plate trophy.
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