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‘Hardest decision of my career’: Walker chooses Willoughby over Prince

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“We’ve always kept in contact and kept in touch and I’m forever thankful for him and his team for offering me this opportunity.

“For them to put me at the forefront – there’s so many amazing riders in this day and age in Melbourne – is something I’m really thankful for.”

In a normal year, had Walker received a call like that, he would have said yes in a heartbeat. But not this year.

Knowing Fellowes was returning for a third attempt at the Cup with Prince Of Arran, the decision took some time to make.

Walker also spoke to Irish jockey Oisin Murphy about Dashing Willoughby, who gave him “a really good push on the horse”.

“I can honestly tell you right now it was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my career,” he said.

Michael Walker, in the yellow silks, rides Criterion to third in the 2015 Melbourne Cup behind Prince Of Penzance.

Michael Walker, in the yellow silks, rides Criterion to third in the 2015 Melbourne Cup behind Prince Of Penzance.Credit:Simon O’Dwyer

“When you run third in a Cup, run second in a Cup, win a Geelong Cup on him and the first year we won the lead-up to get him into the Cup … I tell you what, I probably had two weeks of sleepless nights thinking about it and mulling it over with my manager Liam Prior.

“Now I’ve made the decision, it’s like a huge weight off my shoulders. For me, the horse profiles very well for the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup. Last year he was coming and then he didn’t end up coming and now he is.

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“And I’ve also got to think long term; Dashing Willoughby is going to stay here whereas Prince Of Arran is going to go back. Who knows after this campaign what he can do.”

Walker said he wishes nothing but success for Fellowes and Prince Of Arran.

“With the time difference, I sent Charlie a message. It took me two days to press send,” he said.

“Charlie was really good about it and I can only wish Prince Of Arran, Charlie and his team all the luck because they deserve it.

“But it’s the Melbourne Cup, they only come around once a year, that’s why it’s been the hardest decision for me to make in my career.”

Walker will ride at 54.5kg in the Cups, a weight he’s ready to ride as soon as this Saturday when he jumps back on board Blue Diamond winner Tagaloa in the Rupert Clarke Stakes.

“He’ll show them on Saturday what sort of horse he is,” he said.

“He’s a champion colt in my eyes and everyone else’s and I’m looking forward to it.

“I feel strong, fit, healthy and I’m just looking forward to it again this Saturday. I’m as hungry as ever.”

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