Freedman gives Dittman a leg up
From GRAEME KELLY in Melbourne
MICK Dittman - not that long ago regarded as supreme among Australia's jockeys - is about to return to racing's limelight.
The 42-year-old Dittman, who went down with an attack of chicken-pox in the week leading up to the Melbourne Cup carnival, spent more than three months on the sidelines.
During that time he made an unsuccessful attempt to secure a licence to ride in Singapore and Malaysia.
He finally resumed his career on the New South Wales provincial course of Hawkesbury last week when he registered two thirds from four rides.
'It felt good to be back,' said Dittman. 'I hadn't missed race riding while I was out, but it is great to be back.
'I realise that I will need to do a lot of hard work if I'm going to climb back to where I was, but that doesn't worry me. If I can pick up some rides on good horses and win a few races I'll be right back in business.' Fortunately for Dittman he has not had to wait long for this wish to come true.
With the suspension of Melbourne's champion jockey Damien Oliver for three weeks, leading trainer Lee Freedman has asked Dittman to fill in as his stable's replacement jockey.
As a result, he has 10 rides for Freedman over this weekend's two-day meeting at Flemington.
Among Dittman's mounts for Freedman is the promising Danasinga, who will compete against the David Hayes stable's St Covet and Blevic in the Group One A$352,000 Cadbury Australian Guineas (1,600 metres).
Dittman's other rides on the first day include the Foster's Caulfield Cup winner Paris Lane in the Group Two A$101,000 Blamey Stakes (1,600 metres) and two-year-old Havana, who is rated one of the best chances for the A$512,000 Mercedes Benz Blue Diamond Stakes (1,200 metres) at Caulfield on March 4.
On the second day his rides include the 1993-94 Australian Champion Racehorse Mahogany, who makes his comeback to racing in the Group One A$201,000 Lightning Stakes (1,000 metres).
But Mahogany has a difficult assignment ahead as his rivals will include the flying Hareeba, who is the nation's latest racing sensation.
THE Melbourne jockeys' list has been depleted, of late.
First, Steven King decided to have a break from race riding because of his disappointing performances in the saddle.
Then Oliver was suspended.
This was followed within a matter of days by the suspension of Danny Nikolic - one of the most improved riders in Australia - Jason Patton and of the gifted Patrick Payne.
Incurring the wrath of the stewards is going to be particularly expensive for the 19-year-old Payne.
He was outed until midnight on March 7, which could prevent him from participating in the World Junior Jockeys' Series in Japan on March 4 and 5.
Payne has been one of only six junior jockeys from around the world to be invited to ride in the series.
However, Payne has not completely given up hope of riding in the series.
He has lodged an appeal with the Victoria Racing Club against the severity of the suspension in an attempt to still make the trip to Japan.
THE John Hawkes stable's Strategic is now a clear-cut favourite for the A$2 million Tooheys Golden Slipper Stakes (1,200 metres) at Rosehill on April 8.
Strategic was elevated to favouritism after comfortably defeating Zadok - ridden by Lester Piggott - over 1,100 metres at Rosehill last weekend.
By the former star two and three-year-old Zeditave, Strategic is in line to provide the Woodlands Stud Syndicate of Jack and Bob Ingham with their sixth Golden Slipper triumph.
The Inghams have either owned or part-owned previous winners in Sweet Embrace (1967), John's Hope (1972), Marauding (1987), Star Watch (1988) and Burst (1992).
DANNY Brereton, who is well known to the colony's racegoers, will ride the Hong Kong-owned Look Who's Talking when he resumes today in the A$30,000 Cadbury Handicap (1,400 metres) at Flemington.
It will be Look Who's Talking's first outing for the Freedman camp.
The winner of the Group One New Zealand Derby, Look Who's Talking was previously prepared by former jockey Nigel Tiley, who rode with success in the territory.
According to Freedman, the Grosvenor gelding has 'come along really well' since joining his stable and he is being aimed for the A$1 million AJC Australian Derby (2,400 metres) at Randwick on April 15.