A longstanding friendship will result in Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Craig Williams riding Total Recall in Friday's $200,000 Tamworth Cup.
The late addition of the champion hoop to the race has added a major dose of star power to the showcase meeting.
Total Recall's trainer, Scone-based Paul Messara, said he had "a long friendship" and successful racing relationship with Williams - including Group 1 success in Australia and overseas.
"I knew he was coming up," Messara said of Williams riding for him at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
"I said: 'Craig, it's a great race [the Tamworth Cup], it's a $200,000 race. Would you come?' He said: 'If I can get there, I'll come for you.'"
Messara said the "race itself and the value of the race was certainly a drawcard" for Williams. "However, realistically, it's probably our relationship [that sealed the deal]," he added.
Messara said he would have had "no chance" of luring Williams to Tamworth for a regular race.
"But being a Cup race and worth the money it's worth, it makes the effort worthwhile if you're on a horse with half a chance," he added.
In a career spanning some 28 years, the 43-year-old star hoop has ridden over 1920 winners - including Vow and Declare in the 2019 Melbourne Cup - and his mounts have earned over $175 million in prizemoney.
He has won most of Australia's major races, including the Caulfield Cup back-to-back, the Cox Plate and the Golden Slipper.
Messara said having Williams linked to Friday's meeting "was great for Tamworth, great for the club and great for country racing in NSW".
"I'm for all those things," he said, adding: "Craig's a great ambassador for the game. You wouldn't meet a nicer guy and better guy and someone who promotes the sport [more]."
Huge coup for @_TJC & local racing fans. @CWilliamsJockey is confirmed to ride Total Recall in the Tamworth Cup for @Paulmessara & @ArrowfieldStud.— Dave Stanley (@daveystan1) April 21, 2021
Question for the history buffs, when was the last time a Melbourne Cup winning jockey riding at Tamworth? @MarlowLuke@SkyRacingAU
As of Thursday morning, Total Recall - who has five wins from 12 starts including a last-start win over 1400m at Tamworth on April 6 - was the second favourite for the Tamworth Cup. The horse was paying $4.60 for the win (TAB).
However Messara believes the four-year-old chestnut gelding, by Animal Kingdom (USA), is better suited to distances longer than the Cup's 1400m.
"I noticed that when I put Craig on [the horse] it came in a couple of points in betting," he said. "You know, people automatically say to themselves: 'Sh*t, if Craig's coming all this way to ride one horse, it must be a good thing.
"But he's actually a horse that's best over 2000m and beyond. To be perfectly honest with you, I was surprised he won as well as he did first up this preparation [April 6 at Tamworth]."
The Tamworth Jockey Club administrator, David Jewell, said Williams' presence at the meeting "would be a huge boost for the club".
"With over $500,000 in prizemoney on offer, tomorrow's Tamworth Cup day is the richest race meeting ever staged by the club," he said.
Jewell said "the weather and track look perfect".
"And with the great prizemoney on offer, we have outstanding fields throughout the afternoon," he added. "Having a world-class rider of Williams' standing here is a bonus."
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