By Ray Hickson
There’s no way Jean Van Overmeire is going to be overwhelmed by the possibility of being the first apprentice in 36 years to win the Golden Slipper.
The 25-year-old will be the only apprentice in the $3.5m Longines Golden Slipper (1200m) at Rosehill on Saturday when he partners smart filly See You Soon, a $14 chance with TAB, in the world’s richest two-year-old race.
He’s not nervous, he’s buoyed by the backing by trainer Jean Dubois and the filly’s connections and he only has one small concern - that surrounds the 2020 Slipper taking place without spectators.
“It’d be weird if I wasn’t looking forward to it, if I wasn’t I’m probably in the wrong career,’’ Van Overmeire said.
“The question is, do you celebrate or not? It’s every jockey’s dream and it’s an open race this year.
“If we roll back 12 months, while I was out with injuries and so on, and if someone said to me ‘you’re going to have a ride in the Slipper in 2020’ I would have said ‘yeah right, next joke’.
“And to think that ride could possibly be a chance as well, it’s a bit surreal.’’
Two apprentices have won the Golden Slipper since its inception in 1957 - Darren Beadman on Inspired in 1984 and Wayne Harris on Century Miss in 1979.
Van Overmeire has been See You Soon’s regular partner all season, nobody else has ridden her in a trial or race, and it’s just reward for the apprentice to be given such an opportunity.
The fact he rushed back from an injury, suffered in a trial in mid-December, to make sure he was fully fit when the filly returned for the Slipper says plenty about his opinion of the youngster.
“When it comes to the association that Jean and I have I was always confident I wouldn’t get replaced,’’ he said.
“There’s so much talent in the jockeys around and you could go to anyone really so you always have that small bit of doubt in your thoughts.
“It gives me a huge amount of confidence that Jean has faith in me.
“Her first race gave it away, the way she won. And the Golden Gift, she overcame every obstacle in the race to finish second.
“I think that’s when everyone got the opinion she’s a nice horse.’’
If a filly is to win the Golden Slipper for the fourth year running, after She Will Reign, Estijaab and last year Kiamichi, then Van Overmeire would argue See You Soon has the form on the board.
She produced a huge performance to down Dame Giselle on debut back in October then chased that filly home in the $1m Golden Gift (1100m) on November 9.
The two fillies clashed once more in the Group 2 Reisling Stakes (1200m) two weeks ago and See You Soon failed by a centimetre to run Dame Giselle down.
See You Soon clocked the fastest last 600m in the Reisling, running 34.51 (Punter’s Intelligence) or more than a length and a half faster than the winner.
“It was a really good run, she was drawn the outside and while it wasn’t a huge disadvantage it wasn’t where I wanted to be,’’ he said.
See You Soon runs second in the Reisling Stakes at Randwick
“She had one trial and was straight into that race so I wanted to give her the kindest run in the race as possible.
“As it happens it panned out that way but I was gutted the tempo slowed up as much as it did.’’
So far See You Soon’s pattern has been to get back and rush home and Van Overmeire said he doesn’t plan to force the filly to change her pattern in the Slipper.
But at the same time his tactics have been somewhat dictated by the barrier draw and in the Slipper they will jump from the middle of the 16 horse field.
“She can be wherever I want her to be and I do think if I asked her to be forward she can be there but she will be out of her comfort zone,’’ he said.
“That’s not to say she couldn’t put herself there and be happy.’’