55-year-old jockey Jeff Lloyd is determined to put a shoulder complaint behind him as he prepares to ride favourites Houtzen and Winning Rupert at Saturday’s Magic Millions Carnival on the Gold Coast.
Lloyd is currently leading the Australian Jockeys’ Premiership and has been rewarded with two plum rides in the Magic Millions.
He will partner unbeaten two-year-old Houtzen in the $2 million 2YO Classic and despite it drawing wide in barrier 21, Lloyd is confident in its natural ability.
“I was very encouraged when I worked her the Tuesday before her second start,” Lloyd said. “She’d really put on a lot of condition, matured a lot in a short time which is hard to believe, but she had.
“She looked amazing on Saturday, she definitely improved a lot from her first run mentally and physically.”
It’s never easy to win a Magic Millions on the quick back-up and Lloyd was concerned the $3.80 chance at CrownBet wouldn’t be as fresh this Saturday.
“My only concern is whether she can come into the race as fresh and as well as she was (last week),” he said.
“But the way she pulled up and got to the line without exerting herself, she recovered quickly.”
Houtzen has shown a torrent of early pace in both wins to date, but from the draw it might have to settle in the pack which doesn’t bother Lloyd.
“She can definitely take a sit. She switches off when she’s behind,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd will ride unbeaten colt Winning Rupert in the 3YO Guineas – his charge has been one of the most dominant three-year-olds to date in recent history.
“He’s beaten them before in good times. I don’t see a lot in the race that I think can trouble him.”
The only runner that looks a genuine threat to Winning Rupert is multiple Group one-winning Global Glamour, which Lloyd is respecting.
“We didn’t see the best of her (Global Glamour) last week, she got held-up at a crucial stage,” Lloyd said.
“On her best GroupoOne form, you’ve always got to respect Gai in the big races.”
Winning Rupert has been heavily-backed into $1.55 at Sportsbet.com.au after opening at $1.65 earlier in the week.
Chauffeur ready to justify price tag
Owner Damion Flower took a big risk when paying $1.6 million for a Snitzel x. Mirror Mirror colt at the Magic Millions Sales last year, and although some punters believe it hasn’t paid off, Flower isn’t concerned.
“You wanted to be here in this race,” Flower said. “It is called the Magic Millions and if you are going to pay that, you want to be in the race on Saturday. It is part of the dream.
“He was an outstanding type with a great page that we thought would go early. If he could win on Saturday, it would make his career as a stallion.
“There is still more to come but we have made it to the first target.”
Chauffeur ($21 at Palmerbet) was a winner on debut before running third behind From Within last time out. It’s hard to assess its ability on only two starts, but Flower believes the best is yet to come with the two-year-old.
“He is going to be judged on what he does in his next couple of starts and we think he will very competitive,” Flower said.
“Josh Parr sticks with him and he has been impressed by the way he he has handled it so far and thinks he is looking for a high-pressure 1200 metres,” Flower said.
“He is a relaxed type of horse, which has helped him cope to get here and now he can show how good he is.”
Trainer Gerald Ryan thinks the rise in distance will suit as it prepares towards the Group 1 Golden Slipper on March 18.
“He is going to be better at six (furlongs, 1200 metres) and there is going to be plenty of pressure on in this race,” Ryan said.
“You look at the race and all those fillies at the top of the market are running types. He is going to get back, relax and be charging home. He is going to be very strong at the end.
“This is the first part of the plan and then there is the Slipper to come.”
Pressure increasing on Edmonds
Toby Edmonds believes he has done his job ahead of Saturday’s Magic Millions 2YO Classic with $3.80 favourite Houtzen, but the stress has increased after the unbeaten filly received barrier 21 on Tuesday.
“We can’t do any more now,” Edmonds said.
“Having a chance in a big race, it’s a lot more stressful than having an also-ran so it will be pretty easy the first half of the week but the second half of the week will be a bit more stressful.”
Houtzen has drifted in the market since the barrier draw was completed and there are many punters worried about the quick back-up from last Saturday. Edmonds isn’t worried about that aspect and says his horse is ready to fire for the Gold Coast feature.
“That’s why we ran her on Saturday, to get that gallop out of the road, and she had to earn some money to get into race anyway so we made sure of that,” he said.
“If you get there and you’re standing up and fit and healthy, you’re in with a chance.
“The best part about it is our horses are here already. They’re used to the track, they’re used to the climate and the others have got to travel here.”