By Ray Hickson
The sacrifice jockey Koby Jennings has made to take the ride on Bobbing, and attempt a rare piece of history, at Randwick on Saturday can’t be understated.
When NSW jockeys were asked to select which region of the state they’d base themselves under the coronavirus restrictions Jennings turned his back on riding at country and provincial meetings, which he would normally focus on, to ride in the metropolitan area where his opportunities are infrequent.
That’s how much it means to the 25-year-old to have the chance to win the $400,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final (1400m) for trainer Bernie Kelly after they combined a year ago to win the Provincial Championships Final.
Kelly was based at Hawkesbury when Bobbing won the Provincial feature in 2019 and soon after he moved to Scone where he’s prepared the gelding to complete that unique double.
“I don’t get these opportunities very often,’’ Jennings said.
“We had to choose where we were going to ride, I don’t ride in town very often and I chose metro to ride this horse.
“It’s a big commitment. I don’t have any rides on Wednesday, I won’t ride until Saturday and he’ll probably be the only horse I’ll be riding.”
Jennings hasn’t ridden in a race since March 7 but that’s for the most part due to serving a suspension for not riding Café Royal out to the line at Newcastle on February 29, a ‘brain fade’ that cost the horse a win.
He was suspended for six weeks but had the penalty reduced to three on appeal.
That meant he wasn’t able to ride Bobbing in the Wild Card at Muswellbrook but he had done all the lead up work trialling the gelding and it came as no surprise when he swept home to be narrowly beaten by Two Big Fari.
Bobbing clocked a last 600m of 33.23 (Punter’s Intelligence) there, more than two lengths faster than his rivals, and while his last 200m of 11.50 was also the fastest it wasn’t by such a margin suggesting there’s upside.
“It was almost a repeat of what happened last year,’’ Jennings said.
“Wyong wasn’t his track and he got back and he rattled home and just missed out, he’s run the same race first-up again.
“He’s second-up and I’m very confident he will be fit enough for the 1400m, he’s just a horse you can’t promise anything about before the race.’’
Bobbing, the $4.60 favourite with TAB on Wednesday, is not an easy horse to ride and Jennings said his aim from barrier 11 (after the emergencies come out) will be to give him the cleanest run possible.
“You’ve got to time it right, you’ve got to get a good run,’’ he said.
“He’s not the type of horse that can recover from mistakes easily and that’s the biggest pressure part of riding him.
“You can’t predict what’s going to happen when you are riding a horse like him, I can only hope that everything unfolds in front of me the way I want it to.”
Trainer Bernie Kelly said it was a big call by Jennings to stay with Bobbing and hopes that eagerness transfers to a career best ride on Saturday, just like he produced a year ago.
Bobbing runs second in the Wild Card at Muswellbrook on March 22
Jennings and Bobbing have actually only combined four times for the Provincial Championships win, a second in the Provincial Qualifier, a third in The Kosciuszko and a fourth at Newcastle in November – illustrating the jockey’s opinion of Bobbing.
“I didn’t put any pressure on him to say he has to ride this horse. I left him to his own devices,’’ Kelly said.
“He knows the horse and how he needs to be ridden. He needs to get his momentum going and his breathing right, I’ll stick by the fact that’s the best way to ride him.
“He’s probably on the same sort of fitness level as he was for last year’s Championships.
“He didn’t look like he was quite screwed down (at Muswellbrook), you could see there was room for improvement.
“To the eye he looks like he has come through it all right, he should run a forward race but it’s like anything with backmarkers you need luck.’’