TALENTED jockey Ben Melham yesterday picked up the plum ride on Puissance De Lune in Saturday’s $3 million Cox Plate after champion hoop Glen Boss failed to get a suspension reduced.
Melham, who won the 2010 Warrnambool Cup on Hissing Sid, returned to Warrnambool yesterday morning to have his first ride on Puissance De Lune in an 800-metre gallop alongside a horse from Jarrod McLean’s stable.
While the spotlight was on other contenders at the traditional Breakfast with the Best at Moonee Valley yesterday morning, Puissance De Lune and Melham were the headline act more than 200 kilometres away at a rain-soaked Warrnambool racecourse.
The former ace apprentice gave a glowing report to Puissance De Lune’s trainer Darren Weir and his Warrnambool satellite stable boss Mitch Freedman after the six-year-old stallion’s workout
“He was really sharp this morning,” Melham said.
“I was rapt with the way he worked.”
Freedman, who has overseen Puissance De Lune’s work at Weir’s Warrnambool stable since last year, said the French-bred import was feeling a million dollars.
“The Cox Plate and the Melbourne Cup were his two grand finals in this preparation,” Freedman said.
“He’s ready for his first grand final.
‘‘We were really pleased with his work on the course proper at Warrnambool.
“Ben informed us the horse felt on top of the world.
‘‘He was very impressed how Puissance De Lune hit the line.
“We’ll just keep on ticking him along until Saturday now.
‘‘He’s done all his serious work.
‘‘We’ll take him to the Warrnambool beach on Wednesday morning and then we’ll head to the sand dunes on Thursday before going back to the beach for a swim on Friday.”
Stewards handed down a 12-meeting suspension to Boss following his ride on Silent Achiever in the Caulfield Cup. He appealed against the sentence in a bid to ride Puissance De Lune in the Cox Plate.
The champion jockey fronted the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board yesterday but chairman Russell Lewis said the stewards were right in handing down the penalty.
Boss said he would ring Melham to offer advice on how to ride the grey stallion.
“There’s been a lot of work put into Puissance De Lune to win the Cox Plate,” Boss said.
“It’s a crying shame I can’t ride him.
“I’ll have a chat to Ben about a few quirks that the horse has, but I’m confident Ben will do a great job.”
Betting markets for the Cox Plate were dramatically reshaped with the scratching of champion mare Atlantic Jewel after track work at Flemington yesterday.
The Mark Kavanagh-trained mare was $2.60 hot favourite for the group 1 classic before her shock scratching.
With the prospect of a wet track, Puissance De Lune is into second favourite at odds of $4.40.
He was rated an $8.80 hope earlier this week but with Atlantic Jewel out of the race may shorten even more before Saturday.