Jockey Stephen Baster admits he doubted Runaway would make it to the Melbourne Cup, but he should know better to doubt Gai Waterhouse as a key member of her Melbourne team.
The Australian-bred stayer was always aimed at the Melbourne Cup and a win in the Geelong Cup delivered the penalty he needed to be at Flemington on Tuesday. It also gave Baster the belief he could improve on his best Cup result a third on Mahler in 2007.
“Gai might have been thinking about it but I wasnt,” Baster said. “He was a nice stayer but the Melbourne Cup you dont dream that big. He had to win the Geelong Cup to get in and he was 20-1 in it. He is the same on Tuesday and he could do the same again and surprise some folks. It is a different way to get a Cup ride for me because usually I just pick one up down in the weights. I know this horse and I know he is improving.”
Baster is a part of the Waterhouse-Adrian Bott team in Melbourne and is one of their go-to riders. His ability to get it right with front-runners is very important
“His personality means theres a great rapport between the three of us. Hes great to work with,” Bott said. “His commitment makes him very much a member of the team. You know that hell work with you and help give you the right feedback. Hes a great on-pace jockey and that helps with the way we like the horses to be ridden. And he understands that aspect of it perfectly.”
Waterhouse won the Melbourne Cup with Fiorente in 2013 but she has qualified a runner for the last nine years.
Baster is excited because he has been there for his St Leger win in the autumn and a third in the South Australian Derby.
He has been in the saddle and continued to step up with the all-the-way Geelong Cup victory, the best run of his career.
“I know this horse really well and I thought he was going as good as he has gone and he proved it at Geelong. He just keeps improving so you never know," he said. “The best thing about him is that he relaxes and floats a bit in is races but that is a good thing going into a two-mile race.”
But Runaway's biggest advantage may be his speed and that will have him close to the front going past the post on the first occasion.
“He has got that Australian speed and he can lead a mile race. Our advantage is he has enough speed for me to do whatever I want to do with him and he will relax,” Baster said. “Im excited to be riding him because of that.”
Racing writer for The Sydney Morning Herald