Long journey not in vain for Australian duo

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 March, 2004, 12:00am

Visiting Australian jockeys Damien Oliver and Patrick Payne may have lucked out in the race for which they flew all night but they didn't leave empty-handed.

Payne, Oliver and Brett Prebble rode in Australia on Saturday before making the 10-hour flight into Hong Kong yesterday morning and heading to Derby day.

Prebble, who had won two major races in Melbourne on Saturday, made his trip worthwhile by picking up third place in the Derby on Ain't Here, but Oliver and Payne also took out support races.

In Payne's case, it was a matter of shoring up last week's agreement to ride the last two months of this season on retainer to Caspar Fownes when he arrived on Good Heart for the yard to nudge Oliver (Inside Mail) out of a double in the final race. 'Good Heart's been going terrific lately and a great rider like Patrick has just been able to get the extra little bit out of him to make all the difference when it's close,' said Fownes, who trained a double after winning earlier with Northern Rose (Anton Marcus).

A relative heavyweight, Payne will join Fownes' yard from April 20, despite some fears that he may be restricted by his weight.

'Actually, I don't think that's a concern. We'll work on getting Paddy's weight down a pound or two when he's here. Even though retained riders now have some leeway with putting up overweights - we'd prefer not to do that,' Fownes said. 'To me it isn't an issue and Craig Williams has done a bit of riding for me this season and done very well, so he will be ideal to pick up on the lightweight rides that Paddy can't make.'

Oliver's winner, My Choice, was the second leg of a double for trainer Derek Cruz and a lucky pick-up for the Australian since Anton Marcus had been a regular with the horse all season.

'I didn't have a trump card on My Choice and he was looking like first reserve from the entries, so Anton decided to ride Whatabob, who was sure of getting a start,' Cruz said. 'When I did get a run, all the riders were booked but I remembered Damien was coming for David Hayes in the Derby and snapped him up. I knew he'd do the right job.'

My Choice took his record to nine starts for four wins and four seconds, but the best is yet to come.

'He'll have another run or two this season, but he's only a three-year-old and will be stronger next year,' said Cruz, who also won with Shenanegan (Anthony Delpech).