Michael Dee heads to unfamiliar territory in Sydney on Festival Stakes day as he approaches a significant milestone in the latter stages of his apprenticeship.
The Melbourne-based New Zealander needs two city wins to lose his claim and and will ride at Rosehill for the first time on Saturday.
The 20-year-old is booked to partner the Ciaron Maher-trained Hazzabeel in the Group Three Festival Stakes (1500m) and will also be aboard Husson Eagle in the Listed Starlight Stakes unless Racing NSW does a backflip and lets Michelle Payne ride.
Racing NSW doesn’t recognise dual trainer/jockey licences which Payne holds in Victoria, meaning she is classed as a trainer only in NSW.
Payne has been hoping Racing NSW will reverse its decision so she can continue her association with Husson Eagle who is trained by her brother Patrick.
On Monday, Racing NSW said its position was unchanged.
“If she doesn’t get her licence granted, I’ll be going up for two really nice rides,” Dee said.
The 20-year-old Dee has only ridden once in Sydney when third in the Group One Metropolitan on the Godolphin-owned Allergic last month at Randwick.
He was keen to stick with Hazzabeel after riding the former Perth-based horse to a 1-3/4 length win in the Listed Kilmore Cup (1600m) on November 20.
“He just won the Kilmore Cup that well and I think Ciaron has got him back on track,” Dee said.
“He was originally going to go to Perth for the Kingston Town Stakes (this Saturday) but due to flights getting cancelled and he had to divert and change plans. There was this nice race in Sydney for him.
“The race was run to suit him in the Kilmore Cup with good tempo and he was able to work into it nicely and win running away from them. I think if there was good speed in the race this weekend, he should be able to do the same.”
At what is a vital stage of his career, Dee is keen to use Saturday’s opportunity to show trainers he can compete against the senior riders without a claim .
“It’s also a good opportunity to get in a different area and be riding in these good races,” he said.
He is looking forward to the challenge as a senior rider.
“I won the Kilmore Cup the other day and I’ve won a few other stakes races here in Melbourne. So I don’t see why I can’t take the next step,” he said.