Michael Walker has been riding in big races since he was 15, but his reaction to his surprise call-up to ride Finche in Saturday’s Caulfield Cup reminded him of why he sometimes puts himself through daily torture to stay at the pointy end of the game.
“It was something that blew me away,” Walker explained when asked how he first found out he’d be partnering the Caulfield Cup favourite.
“I knew Chris (Waller, the trainer) and the team were waiting to see how the horses went in Sydney and here in Melbourne so I woke up Sunday and I still hadn’t got the call but then Chris rang himself and when I saw his name on the phone I thought ‘Yep, I am going to get one’ and I just didn’t know which one.
“He said ‘What are you riding in the Caulfield Cup’? and I said ‘I am waiting on you bro’.
“He said ‘Finche’ and there and then I wanted to put the phone down and scream but I played it cool and then when I got off the phone I just said ‘Yes’!
“I then rang my manager straight away and said: ‘We’re in with a chance’.
“It’s exciting times. Generally, the Caulfield Cup is a race I never ride in for some reason. I am not sure. But I’ve got a great chance this year. Hopefully the stars are aligned and it’s my turn.”
Waller said the opportunity was offered to Walker as he had a long association with the stable.
“It is a reward when we came down to making a decision,” Waller explained. “Damian Lane is obligated to the Japanese horse and Kerrin McEvoy is riding in Sydney.
“He rides a lot for us and he’s used to these types of pressure environments. He does a lot of work behind the scenes and it’s only fair that he gets the ride.”
Walker certainly doesn’t have a great record in the world’s richest 2400-metre handicap. He’s ridden in it just three times for the following results:
2016 – Almoonqith ran fourth at $67;
2013 – Tuscan Fire ran 12th at $67; and
2004 – Zagalia ran last at $31.
Walker got to test out his Cup mount at Caulfield on Tuesday morning and the jockey was thrilled with the exercise.
“This morning wasn’t all about time,” he said. “It was just myself concentrating on him. Making him change legs and get around the sweeping bends and finish off his work under no pressure.
“He did everything I asked. You could have sworn he’s raced here before.
“He pulled up after the gallop and he could have gone around again.
“He wouldn’t have blown a match out so Chris and the team have got him spot on so I am very thankful for the opportunity they are giving me this Saturday hopefully to win my first Caulfield Cup.”