Jonathan Riddell has had a tough grounding for his first ride in the Cox Plate on Saturday aboard the well-fancied New Zealander Jimmy Choux.
Riddell, 30, who has ridden the John Bary-trained entire in the past 11 of his 12 wins including five Group One successes, is also an experienced jumps jockey.
He has ridden around 130 winners over the jumps and spent a season in Victoria riding for the Eric Musgrove stable.
“I’ve won most of the big ones at home. I won the Crisp (Steeplechase) here a few years back and a couple of minor races in Japan,” Riddell said.
Riddell said he rode in a select dozen jumps races for trainer Paul Nelson last season and has not retired from the jumps despite a bad fall a couple of years ago.
“I don’t think you ever do (retire). But I knew Jimmy (Choux) was in the background and it was probably a risk that I didn’t need to take knowing I was going alright on the flat.
“I enjoy the jumping. It doesn’t scare me, it doesn’t worry me.
“I had a bad fall a couple of years ago. It sort of set me back a bit and made me look at life I suppose.”
The heavyweight rider has a constant battle with his weight, even to ride Jimmy Choux at 57.5kg on Saturday.
Apart from sweating in the sauna, he said he liked to go for a run to keep his weight in check.
“I’m never on top of it. Every time I ride I have to plan my week around my weight,” Riddell said.
“But I’m not crying about it. It’s part of the job.”
Riddell, who has ridden Jimmy Choux in all but two of his 21 starts, says he is excited about riding in his first Cox Plate.
“Just to be here and be a part of it and to be associated with a horse like Jimmy is quite special,” he said.
“I suppose what you have to do is just enjoy the moment really.”
Riddell believes Australians have given Jimmy Choux the respect he deserves.
“The Rosehill Guineas win showed you what he could do,” he said.
“He didn’t bring it on in the (AJC Australian) Derby but maybe he’d probably had enough by that stage of his preparation.”
Riddell admitted to not being happy with Jimmy Choux’s Breakfast with the Best gallop when soundly beaten by Cox Plate rival Rekindled Interest at the Valley on Tuesday morning.
“I wasn’t very happy. It didn’t pan out how we wanted it to in a work sense,” he said.
“It took me half an hour to cool down after it and I just reassessed it and he pulled up alright after it and didn’t seem to take any ill effect.
“It wasn’t ideal work but it wasn’t the gut-busting run he could have had if I went all out to chase the other horse.
“I sprinted him up yesterday morning (on Thursday at Flemington) and he did it on his ear. He was flying.
“The horse is well. He’s eating and it was just something we didn’t need to happen the week leading into a Cox Plate.”
“It didn’t look pretty and it was there for everybody to see which was probably the worst thing but he’s stepped through it and I’m more than happy.”