Michael Walker aboard Dashing Willoughby at Werribee (Image: Racing Photos)
Horses rarely bounce out of 27-length defeats and win at their next start, so the prospect of it happening in the Lexus Melbourne Cup sounds fanciful, but Michael Walker suggested it could happen next Tuesday.
Walker will ride Dashing Willoughby in the $8 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) after the Northern Hemisphere four-year-old produced a career-worst run in the Caulfield Cup.
His dismal performance ensured that rumours swirled about his health afterward, but numerous extensive vet checks revealed no abnormalities and he was cleared by Racing Victoria vets to race in the Melbourne Cup on Thursday.
Walker rode the Andrew Balding-trained Dashing Willoughby for the first time since the Caulfield Cup on Friday morning and is upbeat that he will give a truer account of himself next week.
"There's no money on the training track but for me I needed to feel the improvement going into the Lexus Melbourne Cup, which I did feel, he felt like a different horse," Walker said.
"There were a few things I wasn't happy with going into the Caulfield Cup, he just didn't feel right in his back, like muscular. I know myself that when I get off the plane, after sitting on a plane for so long, I feel the same.
"After the Caulfield Cup the team said the horse actually pulled up alright, I'm glad I looked after him, I didn't knock him around in the race because I knew something wasn't right.
"The team and the vets here have done a tremendous job with him, you'll see a different horse on Tuesday."
Dashing Willoughby worked over 1400 metres of the Werribee course proper in a hand-timed 1:39.8 before being asked to lengthen over his final 400m, with his final furlong clocked at 11.7 seconds.
"I'm glad that I got to have another sit on him before the Lexus Melbourne Cup," Walker said.
"I couldn't be happier with his work today, he's not a horse that works good by himself, he prefers company.
"I asked him to click up the last 400 metres, I just wanted to feel without bottoming him. He still needed to have a blow, it's a two-mile race, so I gave him enough of a sound workout without flattening him.
"For me he's brighter than what he felt before the Caulfield Cup but action-wise he feels like a different horse."