The last time trainer Grahame Begg saddled up a Cox Plate starter, young jockey Brenton Avdulla had never even ridden a horse.
Avdulla has taken major steps in his riding career in the past two years working closely with the Begg team at Randwick, and on Saturday the two will combine with outstanding mare Secret Admirer in the $3 million Cox Plate.
Begg has only ever had one runner in the famous race, Our Egyptian Raine who finished 11th in 2004, while 20-year-old Avdulla has never even been to a Cox Plate at Moonee Valley let alone ridden in the weight-for-age championship of Australasia.
But both Avdulla and Begg have enough faith in the talent of Secret Admirer to believe they are a genuine chance of claiming one of the major races on the Australian calendar.
“At 15 I hadn’t ridden a horse and hadn’t put a head collar on a horse and now at 20 I’m riding in a Cox Plate with a live hope,” Avdulla said, admitting his career had taken off far sooner than expected in the past two years.
Avdulla, a Melbourne boy who moved to Sydney as an apprentice two years ago, will be the youngest rider in the field of 14 and is grateful for the opportunities Secret Admirer has given him.
Secret Admirer has already presented Avdulla with his two biggest moments in racing with wins in the Flight Stakes last year – Avdulla’s first at Group One level – and the $500,000 Group One Epsom Handicap last start.
Saturday looms as another for the highlight reel.
“Even Saturday, she doesn’t have to win (for it to be a highlight),” Avdulla said.
“Just the week that she’s given me with the Breakfast with the Best on Tuesday and all the lead-up. Then on Saturday there’s going to be Black Caviar there and a massive crowd, so she’s probably going to give me yet another buzz.
“I’m confident she’ll run well, she’s only lightly raced having had the eight starts and she’s a dual Group One winner.
“She’s obviously very gifted and we don’t know what heights she can reach, but I’ll be more than happy if she can take that next step.”
Secret Admirer has handled her two workouts at Moonee Valley with aplomb and Avdulla is looking forward to the daughter of Dubawi getting to 2040m in a pressure race.
“This Saturday up to 2000 metres in a fast-run race, I think it will suit her down to the ground,” he said.