Beau Mertens has taken the pressure off himself as he enters the latter stages of a gripping premiership battle in Melbourne with reigning champion Craig Williams.
He has a one-win lead over Williams and gets another chance to extend it with a full book of rides at Flemington on Saturday as Williams sits out the final meeting of a suspension before returning next Wednesday.
Mertens, the son of retired Group One-winning rider Peter Mertens, was winless at Sandown on Wednesday but the 19-year-old says a talk with his boss Mick Kent after last weekend has helped his approach, calming his mindset and easing the pressure.
“My boss and my dad mainly said on Saturday, ‘look, you’re the underdog here, you don’t have to win it and Craig is the one under the pressure because he’s got to win it’,” Mertens said.
“He’s a five-time premiership-winning jockey and he’s gone all around the world and won Group Ones.
“So that sort of cleared up my mindset and let me ride a bit free-willed, because I was getting in a bit of trouble on Saturday and just frizzling myself, really.
“My boss sat me down and had a talk and it calmed me down a bit.”
Williams has shown he can notch a flurry of late-season winners having chased down Dwayne Dunn last season.
He trailed by four going into the corresponding meeting to Saturday but rode five winners to one at Flemington before going on to win the title by four.
Mertens could become the first apprentice since Nick Ryan in 2004/05 to win the Melbourne premiership.
His rides on Saturday, one of seven city meetings remaining, includes Schism who is favourite for the Leilani Series Final after the apprentice won on the mare last start.
“Schism is probably my main stand-out,” he said.
“She’s a mare that is progressing quite well.
“The way she won at Flemington last start, I think she can go on from it and get a lovely run and hopefully she should be doing the same.”
Banjo Paterson Series Final favourite Charlevoix is one of two rides he has picked up from Williams.
Whatever the outcome, Mertens has exceeded his expectations this season.
“It’s all happened very quickly,” he said.
“The April and May period sort of took charge and I rode a lot of winners and before I knew it I was down to needing two winners to outride my claim.
“Whatever happens at the end of the day, I’m rapt with the season I’ve had and how I’ve ridden all season.”
BEAU MERTENS’ RIDES ON FLEMINGTON FINALS DAY:
Rivette Series Final – Lady Lee ($10)
VRC-CRV Cup Tour Trophy – Hot Ruby ($7)
Leilani Series Final – Schism ($3.70 favourite)
Taj Rossi Series Final – Panda Wantzoff ($101)
A.R. Creswick Series Final – Highland Beat ($6)
Banjo Paterson Series Final – Charlevoix ($3 favourite)
Winter Championship Series Final – Coldstone ($9)
All Victorian Sprint Series Final – Ruettiger ($8.50)
Silver Bowl Series Final – Willi Willi ($13)