Chris Waller can sleep easy knowing Finche is ready to launch his assault on Saturday’s Caulfield Cup.
The $5 favourite took to Caulfield for the first time on Tuesday morning under the watchful eye of his trainer, hitting his stride at 4am under new jockey Michael Walker.
And Waller said the import had adapted well to its new surrounds.
“It just makes you sleep a little bit better at night (having had him here),” he said. “It’s obvious that some horses do struggle when they go into a new place … but he’s very adaptable and he’s raced in Melbourne a few times before.
“It’s just one more thing we’ve got done properly to ensure he’s well-prepared for such a big race. It’s an important race on the Australian calendar and it’s a big prizemoney race so it’s important from that perspective as well.”
Walker, who was only appointed to the ride on Sunday, said Waller and his team had Finche “spot on” to give the jockey what he considered to be his best-ever shot at the Caulfield feature.
“I know a lot of people have doubt in their minds thinking because he’s such a big horse and he’s performed at Flemington, people are thinking he may not be a Caulfield horse,” the jockey said. “But after my gallop my confidence has (grown). I couldn’t be happier.”
Walker said the opportunity to ride the star stayer “blew me away”, revealing Waller — who described the appointment as a “reward” for the Kiwi’s hard work — himself had delivered the news.
“I woke up Sunday and still hadn’t got the call,” Walker said. “Chris rang (me) himself, and when I saw his name on my phone I was like, ‘I’m going to get one (of either Finche or Brimham Rocks)’, I just didn’t know which one.
“When he said Finche, I there and then wanted to put the phone down and scream. I just played it cool and when I got off the phone I was like, ‘Yes.’ We’re in with a chance.”
The $5m handicap has eluded Waller, with the star trainer in his first spring since 2016 without star mare Winx in his stable.
“I wouldn’t say it’s hollow but it’s certainly less stressful,” Waller said. “She just took things to a whole new level and I shake my head each and every time I think about what I was doing 12 months ago and the planes you were getting onto, leaving your family … just the sacrifices we made as a team.
“Nowadays, you can just get on a plane whenever you want and drift here and there without that same pressure.
“We never went to the races thinking ‘Winx will win today’, but somewhere in the back of my mind I knew we had a pretty good chance. So that same thought won’t be there. But it’s exciting with young horses and Winx was one of those once … we unearthed a star and if lightning does strike twice, we’ll be ready for it.”
Waller has elected to be in Sydney on Saturday for The Everest rather than at The Heath, but said the desire to achieve Victoria’s ultimate spring success — a Melbourne Cup — still burned for him.
“It’s still there, and I want to win another Cox Plate as well,” he said.
Prince Of Arran’s last-ditch attempt to snare a slot in the Caulfield Cup could depend on Waller’s plans for Verry Elleegant.
Third in the 2018 Melbourne Cup and runner-up in last week’s Herbert Power Stakes, Prince Of Arran sits just outside the projected top-18 Caulfield Cup starters ahead of Wednesday’s final acceptances.
Trainer Charlie Fellowes is keen to back up the Lexus winner, hopeful a top performance at the Heath will help elevate the British stayer into next month’s Melbourne Cup.
Although Waller has chosen to target the St Leger at Randwick with Youngstar instead of the Caulfield Cup, it appears Prince Of Arran is still on the fringes. -The Australian