Craig Williams insists Melbourne Cup will still stop the nation with or without raiders

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Craig Williams says the Melbourne Cup will remain the race that stops the nation, regardless of how many overseas raiders turn up in the wake of restrictive new rules on international participation.

But the 2019 Melbourne Cup winner, a meticulous form student who keeps an eagle eye on potential Cup rides all around the world many months out, admits it is now more likely he will turn his focus to riding local stayers in future Cups.

Normally, at this stage of the year Williams would have a short-list of potential overseas Cup rides he is keen on, but said it is extremely hard to plan his Cup tilt with any certainty this year.

“I don’t know all of the new restrictions, but reading about them, it sounds like there are a lot of hoops for the overseas horses to jump through,” Williams said.

“Speaking to my manager, we are certainly not in a position for us to start making any decisions because we don’t know who is coming out and who is not.

“Maybe we start looking towards local horses, and that certainly might be the case.”

Given new requirements for much more stringent medical checks and scans before overseas Cup raiders leave their home countries, local owners have already started targeting homegrown stayers for potential Cup tilts.

That has been the case with exciting Queensland staying prospect Incentivise, purchased by prominent Australian owners Brae Sokolski and Ozzie Kheir and to be sent to Peter Moody for a spring mission.

Sokolski and Kheir know that it will be much harder to purchase a Cups horse overseas and figure, given there will be less Cup imports arriving on Australian shores, they might as well try their luck with an emerging Aussie stayer.

As for Williams, he has ridden Aussie horses in the last three Cups anyhow.

The champion jockey rode Youngstar in the 2018 Melbourne Cup won by Cross Counter, claimed victory on Vow and Declare in 2019 and rode Surprise Baby in the Cup won last year by Twilight Payment.

He said regardless of the new rules and how they shape the field for this year’s Cup, the Cup will have just as much meaning.

“The race will still be run, there will still be a winner and there will still be a great story behind it,” Williams said.

“It drove me mad trying to win the Cup for such a long time and then after being lucky enough to win it, I could see why it was our greatest race.

“It will still be the race that stops the nation and people everywhere will still be talking about it.

“All that stuff with the new rules is not my area of expertise, I will just let the professionals handle all that.”

Williams has already enjoyed a fabulous Queensland winter carnival, winning six feature races including the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap on Mike Moroney-trained mare Tofane.

He will chase another Group 1 on Tofane on Saturday, partnering the mare in the Group 1 Tatt’s Tiara at Eagle Farm.

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