By Ray Hickson
He saw it as an unlikely prize a matter of months ago but Robbie Dolan now has his sights firmly set on claiming the champion apprentice crown.
As the carnival closes, the 23-year-old holds a seven win lead over Sam Weatherley (28-21) but he’s testament himself to how the tides can change and says he’s far from home and hosed.
“Early on in the season I was focusing more on the provincial title because I didn’t think I would ride in the city so much,’’ Dolan said.
“I had a couple of winners early on and it catapulted me up a bit, Sam was 15 or 16 in front of me and didn’t know if I could run him down.
“I’m a few winners clear now and the number one goal is to try and win the apprentices title but I’m not taking it for granted, it can change very quickly.’’
Back on January 5, Dolan rode Easy Eddie to victory in a Benchmark 88 at Randwick and finished that day seven winners behind Weatherley.
How things have changed in just over three months with that 14 win turnaround between the two star apprentices and Easy Eddie, coming off a Group 1 placing, taking on the Group 3 $160,000 TAB Hall Mark Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick.
Dolan said trainer Joe Pride’s loyalty to him has been unbelievable and still can’t hasn't fully processed that he’s won a Group 3 race and been placed in the Group 1 Galaxy.
“It’s very hard to keep the momentum going during the carnival, you don’t get to sit on the good horses that much,’’ he said.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be kept on some of my regular rides like Easy Eddie.’’
It’s been almost a month since Easy Eddie’s Galaxy placing and Dolan was impressed with how he felt during a spin in a trial at Warwick Farm last week, saying he's turned into ''a unit'' in the last few months.
Godolphin galloper Home Of The Brave ($1.95) stifles the TAB market with Easy Eddie a $7 chance.
But the four-year-old has only missed a top three finish once in his last 14 starts, and given how he continues to raise the bar Dolan knows nothing other than to be bullish about the horse.
“It’s an unbelievable feat because he’s raced against some good horses,’’ he said.
“I don’t know what it is, I’m just so confident on the horse and I’m sure the horse is confident when I ride him as well.
“I just feel I can win any race at all on him.’’
Dolan does have a healthy respect for Home Of The Brave, who hasn’t raced since the spring and would have contested The Everest had it not been for a temperature in the days prior.
“Home of The Brave could end up outside Music Magnate and I could end up behind him, you just need a bit of luck,’’ he said.
Easy Eddie wins a trial at Warwick Farm on April 12
“Whatever speed they go I am sure he will just cruise into it and hopefully he can run them down.
“I’m not saying it’s just Home Of The Brave, there are nice horses in the race, but he’s the one to beat.’’
Of his other three rides at Randwick on Saturday, Dolan said he’s interested to see how Live And Free comes back, having not raced since they combined for a win in January, in the JCDecaux Handicap (1400m).
The John O’Shea-trained four-year-old will carry just 51kg after Dolan’s claim and he’s expecting to keep things simple from his wide gate first-up.
“I’m sure John will say go back, get on the back of something to bring me into the race, save as much ground as possible and see how we get on,’’ he said.