Plenty of hoops to jump through in jockeys’ game of thrones

Once in a Green Moon: Brett Prebble salutes in last year’s Melbourne Cup. Photo: Justin McManusThe strength at the top of Australia’s riding ranks is as strong as ever and, in the next couple of months, names like Rodd, Boss, Bowman, Cassidy and Rawiller will be linked with the best horseflesh around.

That is not to mention Dunn, Williams, Nolen, McEvoy and Berry – names punters would love to see to atop any charge they back.

History shows these are the names that will win the majority of the spring group 1s.

There is not that much between top jockeys, so finding and keeping a group 1 ride is important. One thing is clear about big races – they are usually won by big stables and top jockeys.

There are the exceptions like Miracles Of Life in the Blue Diamond. The filly, trained by Daniel Clarken and ridden by apprentice Lauren Stojakovic, is a great story because it is a rarity.

Jockeys work their way to the top of the game by earning their stripes over many years. Consistency counts when it comes to getting group 1 rides.

It makes the emergence of Tom Berry in the past season even more incredible.

Berry, whose twin brother Nathan is also a regular on the Sydney scene, made the most of his opportunities but achieved a unique treble.

He won group 1s for Darley’s Peter Snowden on Epaulette in the Golden Rose, Gai Waterhouse on Overreach in the Golden Slipper, and Chris Waller when he booted home Sacred Falls in the Doncaster. Jockeys have long careers without winning those races.

It is remarkable that he could ride group 1 winners for Sydney’s three biggest stables in one season, especially as he hadn’t won a group 1 at the start of the 2011-12 season.

Amazingly, he went to Hong Kong, the toughest of riding schools, and continued his run by winning the Queen Elizabeth II Cup on Military Attack and rode successfully for the last couple of months of their season.

Where he sits on the jockey scale will be tested during the spring, but success breeds better opportunities and Berry will get his share of chances.

Top riders fall into two categories. Those with stables connections – Kerrin McEvoy and Darley, Nash Rawiller and Berry with Waterhouse. Michael Rodd with Mark Kavanagh, and Luke Nolen and Peter Moody.

Add to that mix last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Brett Prebble, who will ride for Lloyd Williams and put on hold a return to Hong Kong where he has battled for premierships in the past decade.

Interestingly the Waller stable, which won the most group 1s last season, shares its rides around. Hugh Bowman is near the top of the list, alongside names like Glyn Schofield, Jim Cassidy and, when he is available, Nash Rawiller.

The second lot of jockeys freelance their services. Names like Glen Boss and James McDonald have tied up rides on Puissance De Lune and, in the young Kiwi’s case, It’s a Dundeel and Cauthen. These are rides a carnival campaign can be built around.

Cassidy will continue to find group 1 rides and showed he was as good as his younger rivals, winning five times at the top level last season.

Who will emerge as the top jockey comes down to getting on the right horse at the right time, but planning and alliance play a big role in that.

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