As Big Money gears up for another crack at the Expressway Stakes, the honest gelding will do so without regular rider Robert Thompson.
Thompson, who is the Australian record holder with more than 4000 winners, will be travelling to New Zealand on Saturday to ride at the Karaka Million meeting for Queensland-based trainer Liam Birchley the following day.
Since first riding the Rod Northam-trained Big Money in a race more than three years ago, Thompson has been aboard him for 20 of his 24 starts including his third in last year’s Expressway.
Standing in for him in Saturday’s Group Two race over 1200m will be Hugh Bowman who will travel to New Zealand after his commitments at Rosehill.
The absence of Thompson is not the only change for the seven-year-old, with blinkers set to be applied for the first time.
“He’s worked with blinkers a lot over the years but we thought we might just try and see if we can find an extra length or two out of him,” Northam said.
Big Money ran a creditable fifth in the Listed Canterbury Classic (1200m) on New Year’s Eve when he gave away five to six kilograms to every horse which beat him home.
He gets back to weight-for-age conditions as he looks to add more to the kitty where he has deposited more than $750,000 during his career.
“He’s been a great little horse,” Northam said.
“He’s been honest and pays for his honesty a little bit.
“He’s always very high in the ratings but he always tries his hardest.”
Group One winner Music Magnate has gone up the even-money favourite in early markets while Big Money is an outside hope at $17.
Other leading chances among the nine nominations include the Peter and Paul Snowden-trained Dothraki, the $6 second favourite, and the Joe Pride-trained duo Kuro and Ball Of Muscle who share the third line of betting at $7.
After Saturday Big Money is likely to defend his title in the Group Three Southern Cross Stakes at Randwick on February 11.
And if he can pull off an Expressway upset, the $1 million Newmarket Handicap at Flemington on March 11 will be firmly on the agenda.