By Ray Hickson
The coronavirus pandemic has forced all jockeys to raise their game and champion apprentice Robbie Dolan can attest to that as he sits two winners shy of outriding his claim.
He’s been in that position now since May 9 when Blazing Miss won at Randwick so you could forgive Dolan for feeling like a batsman stranded in the ‘nervous 90s’.
It’s an achievement all apprentices aspire to and Dolan said while the changes brought on by COVID-19 have made his job harder they make every win sweeter.
“Since the coronavirus has happened the competitiveness of racing has gone through the roof,’’ Dolan said.
“It’s good to go out to the country and provincials to get some confidence but you can’t do that anymore so you’re relying on the city winners which are very hard to come by.
“Everyone is really trying extra hard to get winners. You can sense the pressure starting to build in the room, winners are scarce because there’s less racing for us.’’
The 24-year-old Irish expat doesn’t finish his apprenticeship until the end of September and he's keen to complete his time not only having lost the claim but with successive premierships to his name.
Dolan heads to Kensington on Wednesday sitting 7.5 wins clear of Jean Van Overmeire with just over two months remaining in the season.
“It mightn’t seem like it’s a big deal to a lot of people but it’d definitely mean a lot to me to lose my claim,’’ he said.
“It’s been a harder year for me. That’s due to my claim going down and the coronavirus situation.
“It was great to win a premiership once but I’d love to win it again.’’
Of his four rides at Kensington on Wednesday, Dolan is keen to finally chalk up a win on the Gary Portelli-trained Spaceboy, $3.40 equal favourite, in the Ranvet Salkavite Handicap (1100m) and edge closer to that 80 career metro wins mark.
Spaceboy resumed with an all the way win, to break his maiden status at start 10, at Kembla Grange two weeks ago and Dolan hopes he’s turned the corner having already had five rides on the gelding for four second placings.
“Gary will tell you himself he has so much ability but hasn’t fully bought it to the races yet,’’ he said.
“If he puts his right foot forward on the day he’s a very nice horse. I’ve tried everything on him.
“I’ve tried to let him slide from the 600m and he’s run second and I’ve tried to hold him up as long as I can and then let him roll but he always seemed to get beaten by a better one on the day.
“It gave me a bit of confidence watching him let down the other day. Hopefully I can get a winner on him because the owners have been great putting me back on.’’
Spaceboy wins at Kembla Grange on May 7
He’s upbeat about the chances of Mark Newnham’s promising filly Money Magic in the Sky Racing Active Handicap (1550m) while he’s not sure what to expect from Newnham’s import Spirit Ridge at his local debut in the TAB Handicap (1550m).
Money Magic, $6 with TAB, was an upset winner when she returned at Hawkesbury and Dolan expects her to measure right up as the distances increase.
“I’ve ridden her heaps at home and trialled her and she’s a nice prospect,’’ he said.
“Her trials weren’t very flash this time in but she was getting her fitness right for that day at Hawkesbury and she will only improve again from that run.
“Spirit Ridge’s trials were not too bad looking at them and I’ll definitely speak to Josh (Parr) before Wednesday and he’ll give me the heads up.
“He’s run a couple of nice races in England over a staying trip, whether he will need the run or not remains to be seen.’’