It was good to come back to England and I really enjoyed my stay.
It had been a while, but there hadn’t really been an opportunity to ride an Australian horse until this year. There were a lot of new faces in the weighing room, but there were also some I became friends with before and it was great catching up with them and riding against them again. l loved being part of the Royal meeting, and it was great to ride winners for Sheikh Mohammed again. I also had some nice rides for Sir Michael Stoute and a winner for the Queen. I rode two or three winners for the Queen before, but my children weren’t born then. They were excited when I told them that I was riding for her, and even more so when I rang them to say I’d won. They are aged ten, nine, six and two, so the older ones are at an age where they can take a keen interest.
When I was over the first time around, I was lucky to sit on some top horses and I’ve got some great memories.
The St Leger on Rule Of Law was my one and only Classic winner, but I was also second on him in the Derby, and second on Sundrop in the 1,000 Guineas the same year. I also won a Jacques Le Marois on Dubawi and a St James’s Palace on Shamardal, and it’s great to see them doing so well at stud.
The quality of the racing in the UK is as high as ever and the standard of the tracks and facilities are quite high too, but it was disappointing to see prize-money at such low levels.
There are obviously some good pots along the way, but the day-to-day prize-money is very poor compared to at home, where we work by a completely different model. It would be a big help in attracting new owners and keeping them in the game if the model could be changed; unfortunately, I’m not sure there’s any light on the horizon. The rivalry at home between New South Wales and Victoria might be good news in some ways, as the prize-money has gone up even further, but it’s not a friendly rivalry, and they should be working together. It does mean though that in Sydney on a Saturday they might be running for A$125,000 a race, and on a Wednesday horses rated 60, 70 or 80 can be running for A$50,000.
I didn’t miss much at home while I was in England because it’s our winter, when I usually take a break, but the good racing will be starting again soon.
Two horses I’m particularly looking forward to are Redzel and Classique Legend, who are both heading for the Everest. I’ve been lucky enough to have been on board for Redzel’s two wins in the race, but Classique Legend is a young horse on the rise. If they both make it to the race in October I’ll have a tricky call to make. Charlie might well have something for the Melbourne Cup, maybe Cross Counter again.
My dad was a jockey, my uncle Tony is a trainer and my mum’s father was a jockey then a trainer, so there were always horses in my life.
Winning the Melbourne Cup in 2000 on Brew when I was only 20 was my first big break. That got the ball rolling and not long after I started riding for Godolphin. I went freelance in Australia back in 2013 or 2014 but I still ride regularly for Godolphin when Charlie comes to town and also locally for James Cummings. It’s still great to pull on the blue colours.
It was a dream come true winning my first Melbourne Cup and the race has continued to grow, but it’s harder than ever to win, so it was very special to win it for a third time on Cross Counter.
Sheikh Mohammed had been trying for more than 20 years and I knew he would win it one day, and I just kept hoping to get on the right one. It was great to get it done for him, and I was delighted for Charlie, who was one of the head lads when I first came to England. It’s been fantastic to see his star rise; he hasn’t changed one bit.
I’m 38 now and I plan to stay riding so long as I stay fit and healthy and the passion and opportunities are still there.
I love the big races, so I focus on the city racing and don’t go chasing winners in the bush – I race a maximum of three or four times a week. I wouldn’t train when I finish riding, but I’d love to stay in the game so I would hopefully look for another avenue. I enjoy working with trainers in terms of getting horses fit and healthy, but I don’t think dealing with 60, 80 or 100 horses would suit me, as I like to do things outside of racing.
I was brought up in a little town called Streaky Bay, on the edge of a rugged coastline about seven hours west of Adelaide, where my mum and dad still live.
They have a dirt racetrack of about seven and a half furlongs round, and that’s where I learned to gallop. The big race on their one meeting a year is the Streaky Bay Cup, and every other member of my family who has ridden has won it. Unfortunately, it’s normally the same day as the Golden Slipper, and whereas the Cup is worth A$15,000 total, the Golden Slipper is A$3.5 million. I’ve already won a Golden Slipper, though, and I’ve never won a Streaky Bay Cup, so that’s a box I have to tick one day.