By Ray Hickson
He still claims 3kg and has only been a regular on city tracks for a few months so you could forgive Tom Sherry for sensing the occasion of riding Icebath in a $7.5 million race.
There may be a few leading jockeys absent from the riding ranks but Sherry is rapt to be given the chance by Icebath’s connections and trainer Brad Widdup to stick with the mare he guided to a breakthrough win on wet ground just last weekend.
It’s a huge show of faith in the 22-year-old who carries with him the expectation of being champion apprentice Robbie Dolan’s heir apparent this season.
And while Saturday’s Iron Jack Golden Eagle (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens isn’t a Group 1 one it has that feel and Sherry is treating it as such, though he’s never ridden in a Group 1 and has no experience in preparing for one.
“I wouldn’t be able to tell you because this is the biggest race I’ve ridden in,’’ he said.
“It’s a big deal for me, not being put on as an apprentice but just as a rider.
“Once the gates open everything else goes out the window, you try to get a nice position and get her comfortable and find the back of a horse to take us into the race.
“It‘s a massive opportunity, my manager has been terrific in chasing up opportunities for me and hopefully it can continue.”
Icebath had been a frustration through the autumn and spring carnivals this year as a mixture of bad luck and negative racing manners cost her victory on a few occasions and arguably cost her a valuable stakes win.
She proved she wasn’t too far from the leading Golden Eagle chances when she was beaten two lengths in fifth behind Flit and Alligator Blood in the Silver Eagle before Sherry was called up to ride her at Randwick last Saturday.
It was her first run at a mile since a close up finish in the Group 3 Kembla Classic in March and with a wet track Sherry was able to bring out her best – she unleashed the meeting’s fastest last 200m (11.77, Punter’s Intelligence) in a runaway four length win.
“She jumped a lot cleaner and we were in a nice position where Mr Widdup wanted her,’’ he said.
“The race unfolded nicely and she travelled really well and she let down like she’d only joined the race at the 200m pole.
“The track was getting pretty chewed up but she handled it well. That was her fifth up run in her prep, she’s been a shade unlucky on a couple of occasions so it was good to get a win on her.
“Mr Widdup and the owners were good to keep me on her and I’m looking forward to the race.”
The difference between a Benchmark 78 with 54.5kg and a race like the Golden Eagle at set weights is sizeable but Icebath’s wet track prowess is seemingly earning her respect at $17 with TAB despite owning the lowest benchmark rating in the race.
Sherry concedes his job will be tough but takes some confidence in the fact he’s on a horse in form, fit and on the back-up onto a testing track.
“We’ve got hard fitness on our side and when those fillies and mares hit form they can put a couple of wins on the board,’’ he said.
“If she gets the right run, we’ve got a good barrier, so I couldn’t see why she wouldn’t run well.”
Icebath wins at Randwick on October 24
Ten per cent of the prizemoney earned by each runner in the Golden Eagle is donated to a charity selected by the horse’s owners and Icebath will be racing for the Mark Hughes Foundation.
Among Sherry’s other Rosehill rides is Black Magnum, trained by his master Mark Newnham, who brings a compelling form reference into the Rendr Delivery Sprint (1100m).
The five-year-old was able to deny The Bopper to win a Benchmark race at Canterbury on October 5 – of course The Bopper won last Saturday’s Listed Brian Crowley Stakes.
After the 3kg claim, Black Magnum ($8.50 with TAB) carries 58.5kg and Sherry said there’s no reason why he can’t post an overdue win on a Saturday.
“The form out of that race is really good. Mark has changed his routine with Black Magnum and it seems to have worked,’’ he said.
“He’s been unlucky at Rosehill and on a Saturday before but hopefully we can change the luck. He has some form on wet tracks, he’s a genuine galloper who always puts his best foot forward.”