Normally hard-working jockey Dean Yendall would have been riding at Hamilton in Victoria’s Western Districts on Monday but he had more pressing things on his mind – preparing for his first ride in a Melbourne Cup.
Horsham-based Yendall, 37, is in with a good chance aboard the third favourite Niwot who has come in from $101 before his impressive win in the Lexus Stakes on Saturday to $10 with TAB Sportsbet.
The seven-year-old has firmed from $17 since Saturday night’s barrier draw.
Yendall missed out on riding Dolphin Jo (15th) in the 2006 Melbourne Cup when he broke a leg in a race fall at the Moonee Valley night meeting on Victoria Derby eve.
“It’s massive. I was pretty pumped after his win on Saturday,” he said of his ride on the Team Hawkes-trained Niwot.
“It was a marvellous effort by the horse to back up after a tough run in the Caulfield Cup (when 12th) and to win like he did with a leg in the air and eased down the last 50 metres.
“He has a real live chance coming into tomorrow’s race and I’m really excited.”
Yendall rode 157-1/2 winners, more than any other jockey in Australia last season, and he and his wife and fellow jockey Christine Puls cover tens of thousands of kilometres in search of winners each season.
Yendall relinquished his three rides at Hamilton while Puls, who rode a double at the meeting, will be at Flemington on Tuesday to support Yendall.
The jockey said he had gone through about a dozen cars over the years.
In the last year or two he has raised his profile and is riding for bigger stables such as Peter Snowden, John, Wayne and Michael Hawkes, Mick Kent and Darren Weir.
He rode his first Group Two winner aboard the Rick Hore-Lacy-trained Chase The Rainbow in the Bill Stutt Stakes at Moonee Valley in late September.
“It’s just been hard work and better opportunities. Getting better rides from the better stables,” he said.
“And when you do get those better rides you have to make the most of them.”
Yendall picked up the ride on Niwot in April winning a 2000m race at Flemington on the gelding.
He was unable to ride him in the Warrnamboool Cup when he ran second with Luke Nolen aboard as he was committed to the Weir-trained Streaky Fella who finished third.
“I guess I was lucky to get back on him,” Yendall said.
The jockey won the Andrew Ramsden Stakes, the other 3200m race held at Flemington, in May and hasn’t been off his back in his five lead-up runs this campaign.
“He has a light weight (51kg) and I dare say we should get a good run (from barrier nine),” he said.