Two top-class horses are giving leading jockey Jonathan Riddell reason to look forward to an exciting spring of racing.
Riddell, who finished 11th in the jockeys’ premiership last season with 52 victories, is preparing to ride Callsign Mav in the Hastings Triple Crown and the exciting Gold Watch, who is aiming for handicap mile racing.
Callsign Mav was an unwanted +8100 outsider when Riddell climbed aboard him in the Group 1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) last September, but he gave his opponents no excuse when sprinting away in the straight to beat Supera and Avantage.
He showed that was no fluke the rest of the season, placing in three further Group One contests – the Windsor Park Plate (1600m), BCD Sprint (1400m), and El Cheapo Cars Weight-For-Age (1600m).
Callsign Mav won a 1300m trial nicely on the Cambridge synthetic track on August 5 and Riddell said he should be very competitive again.
“It wasn’t a fast time at Cambridge but he had a good hit-out and went really well,” Riddell said.
“He beat Avantage fair and square in the Tarzino last year and he’s just a good horse.”
Callsign Mav didn’t contest the Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) last spring at Hastings, but he did try 2000m in autumn in the Group 2 Awapuni Gold Cup, finishing third to course specialist Beauden and Prise De Fer on a slow track after being held up near the turn.
“He went well that day and he relaxes well. He won’t have a problem with 2000m at all,” Riddell said.
Callsign Mav was one of two Group One winners Riddell had last season. The other came aboard Royal Performer in the Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa in February.
However, he was just as excited at the potential of Gold Watch, who he rode to four victories from four starts last season.
Riddell’s commitment was such that he braved snow on the road to drive from Palmerston North to ride Gold Watch in a trial at Cambridge on Tuesday.
Gold Watch duly won the 950m trial without being extended. He is expected to resume racing in a rating 74 event at Hastings on September 11.
“He’s an out-and-out exciting horse,” Riddell said. “He’s pretty fun to ride, he’s been prepared really well and he knows where the winning post is.”
Trainer Cliff Goss is aiming Gold Watch at the Group 2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile (1600m) at Riccarton on November 10, though Riddell may struggle to make the weight.
“He probably needs to win again before I can ride him in that,” Riddell said.
“All being well he’ll win and I can ride him. If not I might have to break my butt to do it, but we’re not going to panic about that just yet.”
Riddell said his other hope for the spring was to find a good three-year-old prospect for races such as the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m), a race he won with Jimmy Choux in 2010.
He has made a good start to the new season, winning two races in the first week, and he is feeling good about his weight.
“I rode 57 on Saturday at Riccarton and I only ride 56.5 normally so I’m pretty well right,” he said.
“I’m still travelling around a bit but I’m focused and doing a lot of fitness work and I’m feeling in a good place and looking forward to the year.”