Obviously Lloyd Williams, Australia's most prolific collector of European thoroughbreds, is sending his “B” team to Sydney, but, headed by Seville in The Metropolitan, they promise to have an impact at Randwick on Saturday.
Under Team Williams, the outfit looks set for an epic spring, particularly in staying events, going on a recently screened TVN preview at a horse heaven, the luxurious Mount Macedon training centre in Victoria.
Horse heaven, too, has a new resident angel, Lee Freedman, who holds the title of training director, possibly more in human education, but the horses will be the winner for his presence.
Nick Williams, son of Lloyd, does most of the talking but the mastermind of Crown Casino was spotted near the rail during workouts, emphasising he is not an armchair enthusiast. Perhaps the best of his staying talent is at Flemington on Saturday, but those on the Randwick holiday weekend program could flourish in the next month.
Epsom day (latterly "Super Saturday") has always been special but it will be more as much of a test for the new grandstand as spring hopes. “We are part of a massive weekend for Sydney and we want everyone to come to the races at Royal Randwick to enjoy the very best that this city has to offer," said Darren Pearce, the Australian Turf Club chief executive.
Most regulars, particularly members, have not been enthusiastic about the stand, and the betting ring has been a target for discontent.
“Darren Pearce may well be expecting huge crowds and equally he will be hoping only 10 per cent will want a bet with a bookie because the ring and the amenities will be THE major talking point after the weekend,” Yeti wrote on Racenet.
Once upon a time The Metropolitan was run at Randwick on the holiday Monday, but this year the second day will feature the return to headquarters of the Kensington inside circuit, which hardly has the appeal of group 1 racing.
The Metrop shares equal billing with the Epsom, while the Flight Stakes is another group 1 on Saturday, but with six acceptors it isn't a drawcard.
The Epsom exudes promise, with Boban and Toydini, rather than class, while The Metropolitan is strong with last-start winners Julienas and Prince Cheri prime against the Williams pair. Certainly Mourayan, a Sydney Cup winner, is a strong chance on staying grounds and Seville, a German bred, is ready to indicate his Australian potential.
Hugh Bowman, successful on Mourayan in the Sydney Cup, has been switched to Seville and Kerrin McEvoy is on the stablemate. “I've ridden Mourayan a lot and I've had a good association with him,” Bowman told AAP. "But I'd like to think I'm on the better chance. Seville is one of the class runners of the race."
Apart from the Bowman engagement, Seville could improve with the application of blinkers for the first time.
While his recent efforts down south have been moderate, Seville, on the corresponding day last year in the Turnbull at Flemington, was second to Green Moon, another Williams import which went on to take the Melbourne Cup.
The Turnbull has been a happy hunting ground for Williams as he has won the group 1 three out of the past four years with Green Moon, Zipping (2010), and Efficient (2009).
On Saturday he will depend on Fawkner, a colonial bred, assisted into the capacity field because of the withdrawals of Green Moon as well as another Williams import, Sea Moon, which adds considerable class to the Bart Cummings at Flemington. Ironically, Fawkner looked well placed in the Epsom at Randwick, considering his strong fifth in the weight-for-age George Main Stakes (1600 metres) at the same track on September 21.
But Nick Williams indicated Fawkner needs a longer journey and could develop into their best Caulfield Cup hope.
Certainly their somewhat erratic Masked Marvel, a main contender for Randwick's Craven Plate, will be a force if he can recover the form he had in his group 1 St Leger triumph at Doncaster in Britain, where he beat Sea Moon at Seville home.
Masked Marvel is being restricted to 2000m on Saturday to “keep speed” in his legs, a difficulty for dour European stayers.
Still, the team won the Craven Plate last year with a two-miler, Mourayan, handled by Bowman, who has a difficult task on Masked Marvel. After racing erratically, Masked Marvel was downed a length by Moriarty, a strong fancy in The Metrop, in the Hill Stakes at Randwick on September 21.
Stewards reported Masked Marvel “was slow to begin and near the 250m commenced to lay out badly .The rider [Nick Hall] reported he pulled the whip through to his left hand to rectify the problem. However, it continued to hang out to the outside fence.”
The only gear change for Masked Marvel is race plates for the first time, indicating possible hoof trouble could be rectified