Racing: McEvoy makes most from riding his luck

Young Australian jockey second choice for Godolphin but not second rate as he shoots for the top
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The Independent Online

If timing in life is indeed the secret of success, then Kerrin McEvoy was blessed at birth not with a silver spoon, but a golden watch. The young Australian, who has made such an impression since his arrival in this country to ride as No 2 for the powerful Godolphin operation, owes his chances as much to serendipity as to his self-evident ability.

If timing in life is indeed the secret of success, then Kerrin McEvoy was blessed at birth not with a silver spoon, but a golden watch. The young Australian, who has made such an impression since his arrival in this country to ride as No 2 for the powerful Godolphin operation, owes his chances as much to serendipity as to his self-evident ability.

Back home, he was six days out of his apprenticeship when he was offered the ride on an outsider, Brew, in the 2000 Melbourne Cup after the booked jockey rejected the mount half an hour before declaration time. It was the young man's first ride in his nation's most competitive contest; in true fairytale fashion he sailed home by two lengths.

That victory accelerated the opening of doors. Nearly two years later, the Dubai Racing Club sponsored a fairly routine day at Melbourne and, with four wins on the card, McEvoy won the leading jockey's prize of a busman's holiday in the Emirates. Following that, riding the Godolphin second string Beekeeper in the 2002 Melbourne Cup, he came in third, 15 places ahead of Frankie Dettori on Pugin.

"I mentioned then to the Godolphin team that I'd be in Dubai," he said, "and asked if I could ride out for them in the mornings. I was meant to go for two weeks and I stayed two months. I went back again this winter, and that's when I was offered the position as Frankie's deputy.

"I'd always planned to see the wider racing world one day, but I'd never imagined I'd be having my first season in England at the age of 23 in such a job. It's eerie how it's all worked out. I've taken the chances as they've come, but if Brew hadn't won that Cup, I'd be two steps further back, that's for sure."

McEvoy hails from Streaky Bay, a small town on the eastern extremity of the Great Australian Bight, about 500 miles from Adelaide, and is one of a racing dynasty; his father, Philip, was a successful jockey, as were two uncles and his maternal grandfather. The South Australian looks younger than his years, but carries himself a great deal older, and the emerging talent here could do worse than learn from the savvy that has eased his passage to the different lifestyle and working environment. "I am really enjoying it," he said. "The season seems to be jam-packed with good racing, which keeps you focused week in, week out.

"The tracks are all new to me, but that is part of the excitement, learning about them. Most are so unlike those back home and it's imperative that I'm on the ball at all times. I've got a book about the courses, and I walk each one when I get there. The pace of the races themselves is different, they go a real genuine gallop here, whereas racing back home is more like the French style, slow early and then a sprint home. But you're still riding a race, with tactics and judgement, and you just have to adjust. And I've not had to change my technique in the saddle much; I was never a typical Australian stylist, having more or less copied the European method from early on."

The responsibility of a hot seat such as his might have been daunting so early, but not for this cool wizard from Oz. His first win here came on Destination Dubai at Haydock in May, shortly after which he was thrust into the spotlight at Goodwood when Dettori broke his finger, and completed a stylish double on Papineau and Gonfilia at that most idiosyncratic of tracks.

"I'm a competitive jockey with a competitive nature, and pressure is what I enjoy," he said. "The Godolphin team have been most welcoming and don't make you feel it any more that you should, and I got a few winners for them on the board early, and a few for outside stables as well, which helped."

McEvoy makes his Royal Ascot debut on Tuesday. "I haven't ridden at the track yet, but it was the first British racecourse I went to when I arrived in April," he said. "I went for a look around with Frankie and Johnny Murtagh.

"It looks a lovely galloping track. I just can't wait to be there this week, not just for the racing but for the history and tradition, which is something I've heard about all my life. The team should have two runners in six or seven races, and I'll be on the second choices."

It should be noted that McEvoy has not done too badly on Dettori's rejects so far. On his first ride in an English Classic, on Sundrop in the 1,000 Guineas, he came within half a length of victory, with Dettori back in sixth on Carry On Katie. In the Derby he stormed to second place on Rule Of Law, with the Italian behind him in seventh place on Snow Ridge. It might be unwise to bet against the man from Streaky Bay streaking home in front again this week.

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