By Ray Hickson
He might well be warming the saddle but apprentice Jean Van Overmeire is keen to make the most of an unexpected opportunity to ride Group 1 winning colt Prince Fawaz at Rosehill on Saturday.
It’s been 39 years since an apprentice won the Group 2 $400,000 Arrowfield Hobartville Stakes (1400m) – Maurice Logue in 1981 aboard Shaybisc - and Van Overmeire knows he’s on a horse good enough if the race pans out in his favour.
Two apprentices compete in the Hobartville, with Robbie Dolan riding Pancho for Chris Waller, and Van Overmeire picked up his ride when Nash Rawiller, who’d been on board in the colt’s recent trials, was suspended.
Prince Fawaz didn’t come up in the spring but trainer Anthony Cummings has been buoyant about how the three-year-old’s autumn preparation is developing and, as Cummings’ apprentice, Van Overmeire has seen that first hand.
“He has his regular track rider but on gallop mornings I hop on him,’’ he said.
“I galloped him earlier in the week and he gave me a sweet feel. Anthony has a huge opinion of the horse from what he did in his first preparation (winning the Group 1 JJ Atkins) and he has come back mentally stronger.
“We’ve been pleased with how he has been working and trialling and I’m sure Nash had the same opinion.
“I’m very grateful that Anthony has given me the opportunity, especially on a very smart horse. It could be because Nash is out but at the same time I’m counting my blessings as well.”
The bulk of 2019 was a virtual write off for Van Overmeire with an array of injuries but he’s hit the ground running this year and will have a leading chance in the Country Championships Final in Julian Rock and a likely Golden Slipper ride on See You Soon, both for Jean Dubois.
Prince Fawaz isn’t expected to make an impact first-up according to the TAB market where he’s a $19 chance but Van Overmeire says he gives every indication he’s come up very well.
And in a race devoid of a lot of obvious speed he won’t be afraid to make use of barrier one if the colt produces the early toe he has shown in his barrier trials.
“We have barrier one so if there’s a lack of speed I’m sure you would use your barrier,’’ he said.
“You can make up ground at the beginning where you don’t have to make it up at the end. But if he doesn’t want to be in that close a position you don’t force him. It’s about conserving energy for the finish.
“He took me a long way into the gallop the other morning, it was a solid gallop and he felt like he had plenty in hand on the line.
“It was nice to open the lungs and told me the horse is ready to go to the races, whether he will need the first-up run I’m not 100 per cent sure but he felt great.”
Prince Fawaz runs third in a trial at Randwick on February 6
James Cummings is eyeing his third Hobartville with Godolphin’s Group 1 winning colt Microphone, the $3 TAB favourite, following Kementari’s 2018 win and Hallowed Crown in 2015 in partnership with Bart Cummings.
Microphone has had his share of detractors since his Sires’ Produce win as a two-year-old but found winning form in the Group 2 Autumn Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield two weeks ago.
“He travelled back beautifully and his lead-up gallops have been good,” he said.
“He’s going to take terrific form and a deep grounding into this contest.
“He also gets the opportunity to make amends for being narrowly beaten at his only Rosehill start when second in the Golden Slipper.”
Hugh Bowman rides Microphone on Saturday, he partnered Hallowed Crown for the Cummings partnership and is chasing his fifth win in the three-year-old feature.