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Lloyd's Cup defence warming up

4 min read
Lloyd Williams' quest to win a third consecutive G1 Melbourne Cup stepped up a notch over the weekend.

Lloyd Williams' quest to win a third consecutive G1 Melbourne Cup has stepped up a notch, with significant wins for two of his imported stayers, including Homesman (USA) (War Front {USA}) in Sunday's G1 Hyland Race Colours Underwood S. at Caulfield.

Less than 48 hours after The Taj Mahal (Ire) (Galileo {Ire)) confirmed he was back in top form and headed towards the major spring handicaps with a win in the G3 JRA Cup at Moonee valley, another former Aidan O'Brien galloper put his name at the top of Cups calculations with a tough win.

In what turned out to be a battle of two international gallopers prepared by local trainers, in this case Liam Howley and Darren Weir, Homesman withstood Tosen Basil's (Jpn) (Harbinger {Jpn}) late challenge to prevail.

"He's a tough animal, there's no doubt about that. He's very genuine, very honest." - Nick Williams on Homesman

Both horses now stand at the top of Melbourne Cup markets as equal favourites.

It is likely to be the first of four possible battles between the stayers in the coming weeks, with both connections revealing they would likely go through the G1 Caulfield S. and then onto the $5m G1 Caulfield Cup, before heading to the Flemington two-miler.

With Sunday's win, Homesman gets a guaranteed start in the Caulfield Cup, where he has just 53.5kg, 5.5kg below what he carried under Sunday's weight-for-age conditions.

That has stable representative Nick Williams especially excited about the spring ahead for the 5-year-old.

"He's a tough animal, there's no doubt about that. He's very genuine, very honest," Williams said post-race. "I think 1800m's short of his optimum trip, but it's great to get the Group 1 up for him."

"That gives him ballot-free exemption into the Caulfield Cup, and I imagine all things being equal that's where we'll head."

Homesman connections celebrating his G1 win

Dispelling War Front doubts

Williams and his father were unconvinced on pedigree about buying Homesman for the major Australian spring races but are happy they took the risk.

"He's a big horse - he hasn't put one foot wrong since we've had him," he said. "He's interesting, we were a little bit wary buying him, he's by War Front and they're not known for training on as older horses."

War Front

"But he's defying that trend. He's a super sire in America, but mainly with juvenile horses and short-course horses."

"He's a big horse - he hasn't put one foot wrong since we've had him." - Nick Williams

In a sign of how much timing is important to the team at Macedon Lodge, before The Taj Mahal's success on Friday, head trainer Howley had not trained a winner since early May.

Nick Williams indicated on Friday that The Taj Mahal would follow the same path as Homesman to the Caulfield Cup, which should make for a fascinating G1 Caulfield S.

Macedon Lodge also has Harrison (GB) (Sixties Icon {GB}), who ran second in the Listed Ansett Classic at Mornington on Saturday, entered in the Caulfield Cup as well as Our Venice Beach (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) and Midterm (GB) (Galileo {Ire}), who ran fifth in the G1 Metropolitan.

Lloyd Williams also has Irish Derby winner Latrobe (Ire) (Camelot {GB}) set for the Melbourne Cup for the man who he won he won it with last year, Joseph O'Brien. as well as a host of horses prepared by Howley.

Basil pleases Weir

Weir, who had a day to remember with five winners at Caulfield, was full of praise for the Japanese import Tosen Basil at just his second start in Australia.

"That's what he's been showing us at home," Weir said. "Going forward it's exciting. As the trip gets further, he'll get better."

Weir also has Kings Will Dream (Ire) (Casamento {Ire}) high in calculations for both the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup.