Brenton Avdulla holds fond memories of Epsom Handicap day and is hoping to add to them with victory on his favourite horse in Saturday’s $500,000 feature.
Avdulla grew up in Melbourne and only arrived in Sydney two days before the Epsom meeting two years ago as an apprentice on a two-month loan to Gai Waterhouse.
“It has been a good day to me,” Avdulla said as he prepared to ride Secret Admirer in the Group One Epsom (1600m) at Randwick.
“Two years ago it was the first meeting I ever went to in Sydney. I arrived on the Thursday night and then Gai took me to the races on the Saturday, I didn’t ride but she won the Epsom with Rock Kingdom.
“Then last year I won my first Group One on this day on Secret Admirer in the Flight Stakes. So it’s a bit of a special day for me.”
Secret Admirer has been near the top of betting for the Epsom since markets were first released with two slashing runs to start her preparation when second in both the Toy Show Quality and Tramway Handicap.
However, the four-year-old appeared disappointing on face value last Saturday in the Shannon Stakes, missing a place when fourth in the Group Two 1500m event at Rosehill.
Secret Admirer is on a seven-day back up with trainer Grahame Begg deliberately repeating a pattern which resulted in the Group One win in the Flight Stakes 12 months ago.
“I’m looking forward to the Epsom,” Avdulla said.
“The sting out of the track helps me, an outside barrier helps too because she appreciates a bit of galloping room.
“Hopefully they run along a bit, which they should, and she’s also back on her home track where she has won a Group One.
“They are all positives for her.”
Avdulla admitted he was disappointed when crossing the line on Secret Admirer last weekend but believes it was hard to make ground and the mare will appreciate a softer surface on the weekend.
“She’s better with the sting out of the track and that’s what she’ll get on Saturday now we’ve had some rain,” he said.
Secret Admirer is on the third line of Epsom betting with Sincero, the horse that has had the wood on Begg’s stable stars so far this spring, the favourite.
Sincero narrowly defeated Secret Admirer in the Tramway Hcp (1400m) at Warwick Farm and then the Stephen Farley-trained gelding rallied to deny Begg and Avdulla a Group One win with Ilovethiscity in the George Main Stakes (1500m) two weeks ago.
“He’s the benchmark,” Avdulla said.
Sincero will jump from barrier one and jockey Chris O’Brien is confident the gelding is a different horse to the one well beaten the only other time he’s started from the inside gate in the QTC Cup earlier this year.
“He’s a lot more mature now and more race smart as well,” O’Brien said.
“I went and watched him work on Tuesday morning and he looks like he’s improved since the George Main.”