Twenty one months after inheriting a raw, untried French-bred gelding from revered Newmarket trainer Luca Cumani, Matthew Williams faces a Cox Plate moment of reckoning with Harbour Views on Saturday.
The equation is clinically simple: victory in the Group 2 Feehan Stakes (1600m) at The Valley will deliver a guaranteed berth in the centenary Cox Plate on October 24.
Failure, while not terminal, could lead to a change in race programming.
“We know this is probably our chance to get into the Cox Plate and he probably has got to be able to win his way in there on Saturday,” Williams said. “It’s a throw at the stumps and we’ve set the bar high for him but we’re happy to have a crack.
“If he runs top three, he probably stays on a Cox Plate preparation. If he doesn’t, we’ll go down a different path with him.”
The secondary route is likely to include the Underwood, Caulfield and Mackinnon Stakes.
Harbour Views has solid form around The Valley. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Either way, Williams is happy to be heading towards lucrative spring targets with a gelding who arrived in Warrnambool in 2019 as a blank canvas with no experience.
“He was a good sort of horse right from the start but he was a very raw horse,” Williams said. “He had never been in the barriers, never been in a trial, so it took a while to get him going. But once we got him to sit off horses, he smoked up them up.
“I remember (jumps jockey) Braidon Small, who’s one-eyed jumping, saying ‘This horse could win a Galleywood first-up’, which was his way of saying he could win a Group race on the flat.”
Advertised in a tried horse sale in the UK, Harbour Views was withdrawn on the instructions of OTI principal Terry Henderson.
“It was a pretty brave move by Terry to then fly the horse to Australia off the back of a horse who hadn’t shown him much. He was a very raw,” Williams said.
“But he always showed plenty of ability.
“The first trial we gave him at Camperdown, Johnny (Allen) rode him, he was pretty slow out of the gates, but once he balanced up, he just rounded them up within three or four strides.
Sky Racing news update
Sky Racing news update
“We thought “gee if he do that over a bit of ground, we might have something to work with.
“But unless they do it in a Group race, you can’t really think too much about the Cox Plate.”
TAB $3.90 second favourite behind leading Melbourne Cup fancy Surprise Baby, Harbour Views will chase his seventh win from 11 starts.
“From barrier two, he should get a nice enough run and hopefully he can get off the fence at some stage,” Williams said.
“Johnny knows him inside out. I’d like to see him popping out down the side and sliding into the race and seeing what he can do.
“I don’t think we’ve had him going sounder or better and the Feehan will give us a good indication of where he should head in the spring.
“If it’s the Cox Plate, it could be the Underwood, Caulfield and Mackinnon Stakes.
“We know 2000m is his pet trip.
“It won’t be a taxing spring, so his races will be three weeks apart so whatever works for him, and I couldn’t see him having more than four runs.”
Originally published asCox Plate moment of truth for Harbour Views
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