Having already secured his Caulfield Cup mount and a likely Melbourne Cup hopeful, former champion Kiwi jockey Michael Walker will be testing out further Group One prospects within the next eight days.
Walker is thrilled to have landed the ride on the Chris Waller-trained import Finche in Saturday's Gr.1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) and is currently booked to continue his association with Prince Of Arran in the Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 5, should he make the field.
On Saturday he will also get another opportunity to test out his possible Gr.1 Victoria Oaks (2500m) mount Ocean Miss, a daughter of in-form Waikato Stud sire Ocean Park, in the Gr.3 New Zealand Bloodstock Ethereal Stakes (2000m) and next Wednesday he will get a guide on the Gr.1 Victoria Derby (2500m) prospects of the Johno Benner and Hollie Wynyard-trained Shakespeare in the Listed Geelong Classic (2200m).
"It's always hard to get good rides at this time of year with so many top jockeys here, but I'm happy with the way things are working out," Walker said.
"I've got a top Caulfield Cup ride and I'm happy with Prince Of Arran for the Melbourne Cup, but he's still not guaranteed to get in it.
"I'm looking forward to riding Ocean Miss on Saturday and I'll get a line on Shakespeare at Geelong next week.
"Ocean Miss should have won last start instead of running fourth. I rode her with a view to the Oaks and she settled beautifully, but if I had put the Oaks out of my mind she could have won as I would have pressed on a bit more."
Walker will be chasing his first Caulfield Cup win on Saturday and he's thrilled to even have a ride in the race, let alone the $6 race favourite Finche.
"I haven't had many Caulfield Cup rides," he said. "In recent years it's where all the European horses seem to kick off and they already have their riders booked so it makes it harder to get a ride, especially a good one.
"I was surprised when Chris (Waller) rang me himself to ask me to ride Finche. He doesn't do that.
"I'm thrilled to be on him. He's a good chance and I've got to know him a bit riding work here in Melbourne for Chris. I rode him last Saturday week and he felt very good."
Finche, a son of Frankel, has impressed in the lead-up to Saturday's feature, winning the Gr.3 Kingston Town Stakes (2000m) at Randwick in September and producing an eye-catching Caulfield Cup dress rehearsal when runner-up to Kings Will Dream in the Gr.1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington with Damian Lane, who is committed to the Japanese galloper Mer De Glace, aboard.
Last year Finche finished fourth to Cross Counter in the Melbourne Cup, one placing behind Walker's mount, Prince Of Arran.
Walker had ridden Prince Of Arran for the first time when third in the Gr.2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) and was also aboard the English stayer when he snuck into last year's Melbourne Cup with his win in the Gr.3 Lexus Stakes (2500m).
He also rode Prince Of Arran in the Gr.1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m) at Sha Tin last December and was reunited with the Charlie Fellowes-trained seven-year-old when runner-up to Cambridge stayer The Chosen One in Saturday's Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield.
"He ran a super race last Saturday," Walker said. "He's a typical English stayer, a momentum horse.
"Charlie Fellowes was happy with the run and we've just got to see if he can get straight into the Melbourne Cup or if he will have to run in the Lexus again like he did last year."
Walker is keenly seeking to land a ride in the other major feature, the Gr.1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on Saturday week.
"I ran second in it on Criterion behind Winx (in 2015) and I'd love to win it," he said. "It's such a competitive race.
"I'd obviously love to win the Melbourne Cup, too. I've had two thirds in it, so hopefully I can do it this year."
- NZ Racing Desk