Paul Preusker believes the lessons learned from last year’s Melbourne Cup will hold Surprise Baby in good stead for his second tilt at the race.
He is also adamant Surprise Baby is a more complete racehorse than when he flew home to finish fifth in last year’s renewal.
Preusker said both he and Surprise Baby had grown from the experience and would be better for it.
The biggest change from last year is that Preusker has called on Craig Williams to ride Surprise Baby.
Williams showed his confidence in the horse by choosing him as his Melbourne Cup mount two months ago in preference to riding Vow And Declare who he partnered to victory in last year’s race.
Williams has also shown his keenness by travelling to Preusker’s base at Horsham on several occasions to ride Surprise Baby in trackwork.
Preusker said Williams had been getting to know Surprise Baby better all the time, which would work to their advantage, and that the stayer’s last-start ninth in the Turnbull Stakes was a significant step in terms of his racing maturity.
Preusker said he came out of that race more confident about the horse’s Melbourne Cup chances.
“He was nice and strong to the line. Craig got off him and was thrilled,” Preusker said.
“He said Surprise Baby had taken a significant step as he was able to settle on the fence, something he hadn’t been able to do previously, and then get to the outside.
“Hopefully in the Melbourne Cup we can get a position and get good cover this year. With this in mind we’ve done things a bit differently which has been about teaching him to settle.
“The fact he settled so well on the fence from barrier one in the Turnbull Stakes was a real confidence booster.
“It means he can get cover in the run and not over-stride.”
Preusker said Surprise Baby had grown mentally in the past year and was a more complete racehorse.
“He’s a bit bigger but he’s not a big horse, he weighs in at 480 kilos. It’s just that he has that big stride,” he said.
“He’s not what people expect when they see him.”
Preusker elected not to run Surprise Baby again between the Turnbull Stakes and Melbourne Cup, which he will tackle at his third campaign run.
“He’s got plenty of miles in his legs and he’s fit and ready to go,” he said.
Surprise Baby has drawn barrier seven and is on the third line of betting at $9 with international raider Tiger Moth favourite at $8.