As one of Melbourne's most successful jockeys continues a spring carnival suspension, another returns on Bendigo Cup day at a meeting not originally in his diary.
Craig Williams returns from a riding ban with five mounts at today's Bendigo meeting wanting to get his eye back in before the start of the Melbourne Cup carnival, which begins with the Victoria Derby on Saturday.
Williams' rides on Derby day include Highlad in the main event, a mount he has picked up after Damien Oliver failed to have his 20-meeting ban for a reckless riding charge reduced yesterday.
Oliver will be back for Melbourne Cup day next Tuesday.
Williams missed the Manikato Stakes and Cox Plate racedays through his suspension incurred for his ride on Real Love in the Caulfield Cup. "We weren't going to Bendigo, but because I got suspended I have to have some race fitness going into such a busy week at Flemington," Williams, who rides outsider Blizzard in the Bendigo Cup, said.
"It's only better preparation for me to make sure I have a few races under my belt going into a busy week. It just means I recover better from it.
"It was Plan D. I was never going to Bendigo until what happened. And now it's Plan A.
A suspension out of the Bendigo Cup meeting five years ago proved costly for Williams who missed the winning ride on French horse Dunaden in the Melbourne Cup.
Dunaden had won the Geelong Cup going into the Melbourne Cup, and Williams has been booked to ride this year's Geelong Cup winner Qewy if the Godolphin stayer makes the field next Tuesday.
Williams' other bookings in group one races on Saturday are Archives in the Coolmore Stud Stakes, Hopfgarten in the Cantala Stakes and Pure Pride in the Myer Classic.
New Zealand-bred mare Lucia Valentina will make another Melbourne spring carnival appearance.
The Lib Petagna-owned daughter of Savabeel has been confirmed for the Emirates (Mackinnon) Stakes at Flemington on Saturday week.
Lucia Valentina finished seventh behind Winx in the Cox Plate.
"We know the bigger tracks such as Randwick and Flemington suit her," trainer Kris Lees said.
- AAP, Racing Desk