On the global stage, Hong Kong has no finer representative than Prebble

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 June, 2009, 12:00am

Brett Prebble will again answer to the domestic dominance of Douglas Whyte in the jockeys' premiership, but at Royal Ascot on Saturday he has the opportunity to further expand his personal domain of superior performance.

Prebble has emerged as the leading jockey in the international arena and the recent KrisFlyer Sprint in Singapore on Sacred Kingdom gave him his third foreign Group One as a representative of Hong Kong.

Now we are admittedly talking about a limited sample here, with just six Group One races having fallen to Hong Kong-trained horses on foreign soil since Fairy King Prawn created the precedent in the 2000 Yasuda Kinen in Tokyo, ridden by Robbie Fradd.

But if Prebble and Sacred Kingdom can conquer the best from Europe and Australia on Saturday in the Golden Jubilee Stakes, that will give Prebble four of Hong Kong's eight foreign successes, and 50 per cent would be an amazing strike rate for something that most jockeys regard as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Prebble came to Hong Kong originally for the final tranche of the 2002-03 season. He arrived with outstanding credentials, having been champion apprentice and twice Melbourne's champion jockey.

However, after he settled in at Sha Tin he also learned what so many other jockeys had experienced before him - it's a thankless task pushing around horses that no one else wants to ride at the back end of any season.

Prebble broke through at only his sixth ride on the Tony Cruz-trained Successful Spirit at Sha Tin on March 23, 2003. The gelding started at 26-1, making it the shortest priced horse he'd handled to that point. However, it was another 81 rides before his next winner, the David Oughton-trained Bravissimo (22-1) at Happy Valley on May 7 and things were far from rosy.

The turnaround rested on the ample shoulders of a noble grey called Precision, who should have been ridden by Whyte in the Group One Champions & Chater Cup (2,400m), but the Durban Demon was held to a prior engagement for Blue Stitch by trainer Tony Millard.

Almost by accident, at trackwork on the Tuesday before the Champions & Chater, Oughton's assistant trainer saw Prebble walking past and ushered him into the British trainer's presence, with the scripted request to ride Precision on the weekend.

Despite having won just two of his previous 121 rides, Prebble handled Precision with the confidence we now know to be his trademark and the grey defeated favourite Elegant Fashion, who had won the Derby the previous March. The HK$8 million race was, at the time, the biggest win of Prebble's career.

Not only was Precision the breakthrough Prebble required, he was the difference between staying on or going home with his tail between his legs. No Precision would have meant no invitation to return.

Fast forward to today and Prebble has ridden 342 winners, 73 of which have been this season. He's an amazing 35 wins clear of third-placed Olivier Doleuze and Darren Beadman and will be premiership runner-up to the dynamic Whyte for a fourth time.

The public loves him - he's well ahead once again in voting to be Most Popular Jockey, garnering 50 per cent of votes and that will be his second award in the past three seasons.

And he's on a winning roll, having won seven of the last 11 Jockey Challenges in which he's participated and has been favourite more often during that period than arch-rival Whyte.

These days Prebble's mounts often start at a shorter price than their form suggests and the translation of all that to Jockey Club powerbrokers is simply this - the 31-year-old is very good for business.