A jockey who arrived in Australia with three bags of clothes and $500 in his pocket has the most to gain in the absence of Sydney’s glamour riders at Rosehill on Saturday.
Household names will be missing from Rosehill because of Magic Millions commitments, presenting the 29-year-old English rider Kevin May with an opportunity that has been almost five years in the making.
And while he might be struggling to attract the attention of a booking agent, May will turn up on Saturday with the backing of a trainer who has presented him with two rides.
May rides stablemates Zippity Zou and Jamie’s Star for Rosehill trainer Greg McFarlane knowing any reasonable result will go a long way towards justifying his decision to leave England and then sever ties with the trainer who helped him relocate.
“Four-and-a-half years ago Chris Waller sponsored the trip out to Australia for myself, my wife and our first child,” May told AAP.
“All we had were three bags of clothing and five hundred dollars.”
May earned a weekly wage as a trackwork rider for Waller’s premiership-winning stable but he has swapped the security of a fixed income for the uncertainty of starting at the bottom of the professional jockeys’ ranks.
“I had to wait to get residency until I could get my licence to ride in races and I was hoping to get some provincial rides for Chris,” May said.
“But Chris said he couldn’t help me out until I had ridden 20 winners so I decided to leave the stable to give myself a chance.
“Chris was a bit upset I was leaving but after we had a chat he agreed you’ve got to keep moving forward.”
Opportunity came in the shape of McFarlane, a former top cyclist who works with a small team of racehorses at Rosehill.
They joined forces for a double at a country NSW meeting last week and – off limited numbers – both trainer and jockey will take a 50 per cent winning strike rate for 2013 into Rosehill.
“With all the best-known jockeys away, it’s obviously a good chance for Kevin in town,” McFarlane said.
“He knows my two runners very well and a lot of times that is half the battle when trying to get a jockey.”
In Zippity Zou, an outsider in the Onemorenomore First Crop Handicap (1100m) and Jamie’s Star in the Australian Turf Club Handicap (1400m), McFarlane finds a similarities to his rider’s long journey to Rosehill.
“Zippity Zou is a horse who probably wouldn’t find a home in a big stable and Jamie’s Star deserves her chance in the city,” he said.