Ryan Elliot concedes he’s a mix of excitement and nerves ahead of his first foray into Australian racing this weekend but he says he’s determined to justify the faith placed in him.
The nine-time Group One-winning jockey will partner the Graeme and Debbie Rogerson-trained Solidify in the $1 million Group 2 BRC Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) at Eagle Farm.
Elliot has ridden the Redwood gelding in all three of his starts for a third placing on debut and wins in his last two starts, culminating in success in the Listed Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre Stakes (1200m) at Te Rapa earlier this month.
Solidify is raced by many of the same owners of star galloper Sharp ‘N’ Smart, who Elliot rode to Group One success in the Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) and New Zealand Derby (2400m), both at Te Rapa, earlier in the season.
“It’s come about by these owners, a few of them who were in Sharp ‘N’ Smart, giving me the opportunity and I’m really grateful for that,” Elliot said.
“I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity and I just hope I can do the job for them. I’m definitely a bit nervous first time riding over there but I’m pretty excited. I’m pretty focused on doing the job for them and then going over and doing the job again in two weeks’ time.”
Should Solidify perform up to expectations this weekend, he will tackle the $1 million Group 1 JJ Atkins (1600m) at Eagle Farm on June 10.
Sharp ‘N’ Smart ran a gallant fourth in the JJ Atkins last year, backing up a week after his narrow defeat in the Listed Phoenix Stakes (1500m) at Eagle Farm.
“Graeme has a lot of confidence in him and reckons he’s more on the job than Sharp ‘N’ Smart was at the same point in time,” Elliot said.
“He’s getting better with every run. He’s still got a lot to learn. His racing manners aren’t the full package yet. But he’s come a long way this preparation.
“The 1400m will definitely suit him especially coming back to a good track. It will be a better speed for him, especially with his racing manners. It will help him settle better.
“He’s pretty chill. At the home track, he’s still pretty green. He canters around like a yearling but when you gallop him with a mate, he really switches on and gets on with the job. In company, he’s definitely a different horse.”
Solidify was the $8 equal second favourite with online bookmakers for the Sires’ Produce alongside Snapback in a market headed by Chrysaor at $4.50 before acceptances.
Elliot was expecting a typically competitive performance from his mount. “He’ll go over and do his best.”
Success in Brisbane would cap an already memorable season for Elliot, who has claimed six Group One wins this term, including the New Zealand Derby (2400m)-New Zealand Oaks (2400m) double on Sharp ‘N’ Smart and Pennyweka.
He also won the New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on Legarto, the Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham and Otaki WFA Classic (1600m) at Otaki on Levante and the Herbie Dyke on Sharp ‘N’ Smart.
“It’s been unbelievable the season I’ve had but to get this opportunity at the end of it is really a big thrill,” Elliot said.
Elliot is one of three New Zealand-based jockeys riding at Eagle Farm on Saturday, with Sam Weatherley engaged for Arby, prepared by his father Darryn and sister Briar, and Opie Bosson returning for five rides, having placed on Dragon Leap and Sakura Girl at Doomben last Saturday.