KING AHEAD OF THE GAME FOR GROUP 1 STRADBROKE HANDICAP
Thu 10 June 2021
By Jordan Gerrans
Ahead of one of the biggest rides of her career, Rachel King has ensured she has left no stone unturned ahead of the 2021 TAB Stradbroke Handicap.
With close friend and fellow leading female rider Jamie Kah remaining in Victoria, the Sydney-based King has picked up the plum ride of Vega One in Saturday’s $1.5 million Group 1 feature.
A regular track walker wherever she rides, the English-born jockey got a head start on her competition on Queensland Oaks day last Saturday, engaging Group-1 winning hoop Shane Scriven to walk the Eagle Farm track together on race morning.
Queensland Oaks Day was the first time King has ridden at Eagle Farm in a race, despite spending an entire Winter Carnival in the Sunshine State almost a decade ago riding trackwork for legendary trainer Gai Waterhouse.
Ahead of the 1400-metre Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap, King was desperate to glean any information she could from Scriven, who retired in 2012 following a three-decade long career in the saddle.
“It is invaluable to be able to come here and do this,” King said post the track walk with Scriven.
“Being able to do it in the relaxed atmosphere as well, you get the pressure of race day later on but I was able to come here, take my time and have a look around.
“I was able to look at all the different starts, familiarise different markers and get a bit of inside information.
“There is nothing worse than being mid-race and not quite knowing where you are, it’s just about knowing where the half mile is or the 600 metres is - it is very, very important.”
As the well-travelled King explains, she will walk the track wherever she rides and will usually do so every Saturday in Sydney, despite regularly riding on the surface.
From the experience, King details she took away vital information around the 1400-metre starting point, the dog leg into the back straight, a few clues around where she can position herself on the track in the run, and was shocked about the long sweeping turn into the lengthy straight.
“It was great to get a look seven days out,” she said.
Scriven, these days a Senior Apprentice Coach for jockeys with Racing Queensland after retiring from race riding, connected with King through her manager, Shaun Flaherty.
Scriven and Flaherty go back many years he says, after the retired Group 1 winner rode a horse for the now manager's family earlier in his career.
“It shows her professionalism as it is not every day you get to ride a favourite in a Group 1 race,” Scriven said of King’s intent.
“She is new up here, so she is doing everything to make sure there is no stone left unturned ahead of Saturday.
“Credit to Rachel and her manager for doing this.
“I am a fan of hers, I watch her in Sydney, I like the way she rides and she will suit the horse and deserves the chance.”
While King has not won a feature race in the Sunshine State yet in her career, she has been around many a quality galloper in Queensland.
Then working for Waterhouse, the 30-year-old was around Almalad (J.J. Atkins winner) and Cosmic Endeavour (Tatts’ Tiara winner) back in 2014, while three of her four rides on Queensland Oaks Day were around the mark.
It was a great carnival for Waterhouse, King reflects, but she says plenty has changed at Brisbane’s premier racetrack since then.
King will touch base with Vega One's last-start rider this week around how to get the best out of the Tony Gollan-trained gelding, who Kah produced a magical ride on to claim the Group 1 Kingsford-Smith Cup last month.
“Being a lightweight rider, it definitely helps me in these big races because I have options,” King says, with Vega One to lump just 53kgs on Saturday.
“I have been lucky in Sydney to ride in a lot of Group 1s down there but I go into this race with a real live chance in a Group 1 interstate, it is something that I am really proud of and excited to be a part of.
“It is not easy to get these good rides when I am travelling, I am excited to be on a really nice horse in a big race up here.”
Scriven (pictured) called time on his career with five Group 1s to his name, including a Mackinnon Stakes win and two Doomben Cup triumphs, but a Stradbroke Handicap eluded him.
His best effort was a second-placed finish in 1995 behind Rouslan on Schillaci and the respected former rider is trying to help King go one better than he ever could.
Scriven believes you need a good miler to win the 1400-metre Stradbroke Handicap and made a special note of the TAB sign at the 600-metre mark just before they turned for home.
“The starts here are imperative and they can come from anywhere, so it is more about riding your horse than riding for the track,” Scriven said.
“It is about not being too far from them at the 600-metre mark, that is the take off place here, which the local riders know about.
“Rachel has a fantastic ride in the Stradbroke and really ticks all the boxes, he is the perfect Stradbroke horse, he is a perfect 1400 metre horse and he has beaten the handicapper.
“His last start, the way Jamie did ride him, that is a typical 1400-metre Stradbroke ride.
“She is in the race up to her ears, I wouldn’t be changing anything, as long as she is patient.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, Vega One is rated a $5.50 chance in the Stradbroke with TAB.
Click here for full details on the 2021 TAB Queensland Winter Racing Carnival feature races.