Ruud Awakening has improved since her gallop at Taupo and is ready for Flemington
Trainer Stephen Marsh and high-flying jockey Craig Williams have widely varying opinions of Ruud Awakening's Melbourne debut at Saturday's high-profile Flemington meeting.
Marsh and Williams were in perfect sync when Ruud Awakening bolted away with the $1 million Karaka Million at Ellerslie early this year.
This time, Williams has turned down the ride on the brilliant Cambridge filly in preference to the Peter Snowden-trained Metastasio.
"Craig said the basis of his decision was because Ruud Awakening has had no experience down the Flemington straight course - he says that is a massive disadvantage," said Marsh.
"I don't agree with that. It used to be that in the straight races the field would break into two divisions, one down on the inside rail and the other on the extreme outside.
"But since they did the track up the 1100m and 1200m straight fields tend to stay together.
I don't think she'll be disadvantaged at all."
James McDonald is Williams' replacement and Marsh said he was delighted to have the Australian-based New Zealander in the team.
"He won't have been on her back when he gets aboard on Saturday, but riders like James are not fazed by that."
Marsh said the flying Ruud Awakening was delighting in training since her dashing exhibition gallop between races at a recent Taupo meeting. "That said, this race to kick off with is not a target race. I'll just be delighted if she races well and pulls up well.
"She gives weight to the others in this race where next start she goes to a Friday night meeting at Moonee Valley in the group three Champagne Stakes, which is set weights with no penalties. Then there is a A$250,000 3-year-old race at Caulfield."
Marsh said the on-going ride would be offered to McDonald. "They only commit one race at a time over here, so if he's happy he can stay with her."
The equally talented New Zealander Cauthen has a horror No 14 barrier draw in his A$120,000 Flemington race over 1400m.
The 1400m Flemington starting point is the most awkward to draw wide at.
John Sargent's Quintessential has fared worse at the same barrier - No 17 with 58kg topweight in the A$220,000 Let's Elope Stakes.
She is essentially getting ready for the major staying races later in the spring. As a taste of things to come, 10 of the 15 acceptors for the A$350,000 Makybe Diva Stakes on Saturday are European bred.
Last-start winner Veyron has come up with gate three for the A$175,000 Chelmsford Stakes at Randwick, in which Chris Waller has six of the 13 runners.
"I think he might have improved a little bit since his first-up win," said Cambridge trainer Linda Laing from Sydney yesterday morning.
His regular jockey, Rogan Norvall, missed out on the recent win because of visa issues, but is back in the saddle this time.