Cambridge trainer Roger James has booked crack Melbourne jockey Glen Boss to ride Silent Achiever in Saturday week's A$2.5 million Caulfield Cup, but has done so with angst for regular rider Steven Arnold.
James had planned on Arnold continuing his association with the Gr I-winning O'Reilly mare but had no guarantee that weights would go up so acted swiftly to secure Boss, a noted lightweight.
Silent Achiever has 53kg for the Caulfield Cup, a weight Arnold cannot make, but should Green Moon be withdrawn, weights would go up 1kg. Should Sea Moon and Manighar also come out, weights would go up 3kg.
"It was one of the hardest decisions I've had to make in a long time because Steven is an absolute gem of a person and he's done a lovely job for us right through," James said today.
"We were running the risk of all the best lightweight riders being gone if we waited till next week. There was a payment yesterday and Green Moon stayed in. If he came out at a later stage, weights would go up but we can't second guess what they are going to do.
"We had an understanding with Steven that we'd make a decision after the next stage of declarations and he completely understood. He was right behind us and was appreciative that we had waited.
"But it will still be a hard day next week if Green Moon does come out and Steven is there without a ride in the race. I'm not disappointed we've got Glen Boss on but I am disappointed that I had to take off a guy that I would have loved to have had riding the mare."
Silent Achiever has produced three encouraging runs this spring, finishing a luckless 11th resuming in the Gr I Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield, a race in which she could well have placed in behind Atlantic Jewel had she got clear running.
She has since finished sixth in both the Gr I Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield and Gr I Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington last Saturday, runs which have delighted James as he looks to peak her for the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.
James was at Taupo today, where he saddled Hot In Pink and Miss Foxwood to win, but said he'd left Melbourne thrilled with Silent Achiever's progress since her weekend exertion.
"She's bounced through that run. My rider said it was like she'd had three or four days in the paddock - she's that bright," he said.
"She's had a gorgeous preparation and at this stage, I couldn't have wished for anything to have gone better. I just pray we get a good draw in the Cup next week because from a good draw she'll be ridden fifth-sixth-seventh in the running and it will make the required effort a lot less if she's ridden up a bit handier.
"She drew 13 the other day in a 2000m set-weights and penalties race and got back second-last and got beaten a length and a half. If the weight remains the same [for the Caulfield Cup] she drops to 53 kilos so we're pretty happy with how things are."
James' attention will now turn to Matamata where Full Of Spirit will attempt to build on her Gr I placing in the Makfi Challenge Stakes earlier this campaign in the Listed $56,000 Team Wealleans Matamata Cup (1600m).
The Flying Spur five-year-old mare yesterday drew barrier 10, with Matthew Cameron booked to ride.
"I've never seen her work better than she worked yesterday morning," James said.
"She's an aggressive mare and she really needs cover, otherwise she's inclined to over-race. She's 9 1/2 out of 10 on ability but she does have that chink in her armour that she can over-race but if you looked solely at her work, you'd be super confident.
"If she goes well this weekend there are options in Australia for her, but we want to get through Saturday before we make any decisions."
- Waikato Times