Craig Williams rides 2020 Melbourne Cup hopefuls Surprise Baby and Shared Ambition at Flemington on Turnbull Stakes day

Craig Williams has never ridden Shared Ambition but feels he knows the exciting stayer well from watching Chris Waller’s Melbourne Cup hopeful steam past him on two occasions last year.

Master trainer Waller has turned to Williams to try and jag a golden ticket into the Melbourne Cup with the champion Victorian hoop aboard Shared Ambition in Saturday’s Group 3 The Bart Cummings (2510m) at Flemington.

Waller elected to send the former import to Melbourne, seeking a Melbourne Cup pass through The Bart Cummings after scratching from the Group 1 Metropolitan at Randwick where he had been drawn in the carpark.

On Saturday, 40 minutes before he partners Melbourne Cup second favourite Surprise Baby in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes, Williams will have the important job of trying to win Shared Ambition into the Melbourne Cup.


Shared Ambition is unbeaten in Melbourne, having three runs there last year, and Williams got a good view of the emerging stayer on the last two occasions.

Williams had partnered Lindsay Park stayer Creedance and felt like he had at least one of those races in his keeping until Shared Ambition surged past and he was left to settle for being runner-up.

“Shared Ambition is undefeated in Melbourne and he has beaten me twice – I thought I had him beat one day and he got out really late and won like a good horse,” Williams said.

“I noticed back then he was a very light frame of a horse.

“He was quite aggressive in his staying races yet he was still able to have great acceleration at the end of staying trips which was a great sign.

“My feeling is that the way Chris Waller programmed the autumn with him, a lot of things were probably done with a mind towards the spring.

“Obviously Chris believes a lot in this horse and he thinks he is good enough for a Melbourne Cup.

“The Bart Cummings is a great race as we found out last year when Surprise Baby won the golden ticket.”

Shared Ambition wins on Melbourne Cup Day at Flemington last year. Picture Jay TownSource:News Corp Australia

Shared Ambition is the $4.80 favourite with TAB for The Bart Cummings and is currently a $34 Melbourne Cup hopeful with that price sure to be cut significantly if he wins The Bart Cummings.

Just 40 minutes later in the next race at Flemington on Saturday, Williams will also have an important task with Surprise Baby, who is rated a $6 chance in the Turnbull Stakes.

Not only is a Group 1 up for grabs but another bold performance from Surprise Baby – who was terrific first-up when producing a strong second behind Humidor in the Feehan Stakes at The Valley – would frank Williams’ strong opinion of the Paul Preusker-trained gelding.

“Surprise Baby’s work was good leading into the Feehan and his performance was very good – he was entitled to get tired late. We have since seen that form franked by Humidor,” Williams said.

“That run was excellent and I worked him on Tuesday morning and he has come on again.

“There has never been a weak Turnbull but the trainer is very happy with where he has got this horse.

“The Turnbull is the fork in the road for so many horses and I am sure everyone will get a good guide on Saturday as to how Surprise Baby is going.”

Williams believes Surprise Baby will be suited by the expansive Flemington track although points out he also likes Moonee Valley, potentially because he does a lot of his work at the Horsham track.

Preusker’s main mission for Surprise Baby is the Melbourne Cup – in which he ran fifth last year.

He is even prepared to give the Cox Plate a swerve if he thinks it will interfere with his chances on the first Tuesday in November.

Surprise Baby is now a big name in Australian horse racing but he was a bargain basement buy when owner John Fiteni saw the horse online and plucked it from a New Zealand breeder for a meagre $5500 in 2017.

Fiteni has previously outlined how he made the decision to replace Jordan Childs with Williams, saying he wanted a more senior jockey for bumper spring assignments.

Originally published asWhy ambitions are shared for Craig Williams at Flemington

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