Via Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Jockey Michael Rodd must be feeling blessed, both in his career and personal life these days.
First of all, the Australian and his wife Cara are expecting their second child towards the end of November. While their first child, daughter Lila was born in Singapore in 2016, baby No 2 will be born in Rockhampton, Queensland.
So, before Rodd flies up there to welcome their new bundle of joy, he is in the meantime having plenty of joy on the track as well – and in pairs as well!
Just one week after being blown away by Inferno, the horse many have described as the heir apparent to his former champion Debt Collector, Rodd will get to ride… Debt Collector himself.
The 2016 Singapore Horse of the Year may have bowed out of Kranji after the Group 1 Invitational Kranji Mile in May, but he has resurfaced in Australia under a new moniker, Debt Agent (given there is another Debt Collector racing in Adelaide) for Mornington trainer Jim Conlan, a close friend of his Singapore trainer Cliff Brown (also the trainer of Inferno).
Rodd can’t wait to reunite with that magnificent galloping machine he has steered to 11 of his 12 wins, including all five Group 1 wins, this Saturday on Cox Plate day in the A$300,000 Group 2 Schweppes Crystal Mile (1600m) at Moonee Valley.
It’s a race Rodd won 11 years ago (when known as the Waterford Crystal Mile) on a horse called Sea Battle for trainer Mark Kavanagh.
That October 25, 2008, proved to be a red-letter day for Rodd. That day, he also won the Group 2 AAMI Vase (2400m) on Whobegotyou, and most pointedly, the Group 1 Tatts Cox Plate (2040m) on Maldivian for a memorable hat-trick on such a big day of the Australian racing calendar, all for Kavanagh.
This time around, Rodd may not have such a wide book of rides at Australia’s richest Weight-for-Age race meeting – just Debt Agent – but he is still getting goosebumps at the thought of jumping back on his “old friend”, he still refers to by his old name.
“It would be like I haven’t seen a friend who has moved to another country, and I’m excited to see how he has settled in and where he is at,” said Rodd.
“Debt Collector is so special to me. He’s the horse I’ve won the most races with, Atlantic Jewel is one under (10 wins) and next (on nine wins) is Irish Bunny, who was no superstar but was a lovely country horse I rode at the beginning of my career in the Sunshine Coast.
“I’ve spent hours and hours with Debt Collector, I know him so intimately, and worked with Cliffy so closely on all his races.”
Ridden by Ben Melham at his first Australian assignment in a Listed race over 1400m at Flemington on October 5, Debt Agent ran eighth four lengths off the winner Rich Itch.
Rodd saw the race on TV and thought it was still a laudable performance first-up.
“There was plenty of merit to the run. He was fresh, and still ran the fastest sectionals in the last 600m,” he said.
“I’m not surprised he’s come back to his best. He is lucky to be at Jim’s Pinecliff, which is an amazing training facility.
“The blinkers come off this time as he was too keen at his first run. He’s a racehorse, he doesn’t need them, he’s worn them before, it’s hard to tell if they made any difference.
“We’re going back to basics with him. He will flop at the back and sprint home.
“I haven’t seen the field yet, but they are all genuine Group performers who are heading towards their grand finals. He will have to be at his absolute best to beat these, and to see him run on will be a big deal.
“(Barree Stable owner) Glenn (Whittenbury) is a great guy and thought it’d be a good idea I ride him this Saturday as I know the horse really well, and I’d then be able to tell him where the horse is at.
“I’m not sure what they have in mind for him after that, but I suppose that mile race on Derby Day or the Mackinnon Stakes could be options.”
Rodd is so bent on preserving all his energy and mental focus for that Melbourne mission that he has decided to forego this Friday’s standalone meeting at Kranji.
“I didn’t want to take a late flight after the races on Friday night,” he said.
“I thought it’d be better I fly on Friday morning at 11am and reach there at night at 9pm, and be fresh and ready for the next day. Cliff was happy for me to go early and skip the races here.”
With only one booking at this stage, the Melbourne Cup-winning jockey (Efficient in 2007) will have plenty of spare time to soak in the electric atmosphere of the Cox Plate.
“I’m so looking forward to Saturday, not just for Debt Collector, but it’s also the Cox Plate. It’s a great amazing day and is the grand final for so many good horses,” said Rodd.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think I will get another ride as they are at the Valley and they are usually small fields, but that’s fine.”
After the Melbourne pitstop, Rodd will take the opportunity to fly to Rockhampton to be by Cara’s side before flying back next week to get ready for the first November weekend (1st and 3rd).
The Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2000m) will then be next up on November 10, but as it’s a handicap race, the heavyweight jockey will wait for the final declarations to have a better idea what ride he gets.
But if there is one horse he has a very good idea what is under the bonnet, it’s got to be Inferno.
As widely expected, July’s Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe (1200m) winner made a smashing comeback in the last race on Queen Elizabeth II Cup day on Sunday, a Class 4 race over 1200m.
After the $8 favourite gave his rivals a spanking to extend his unblemished record to three-from-three, it’s scary to think he was not fully screwed down.
“He had only one trial and was on the fresh side,” he said of Barree’s new exciting find by Holy Roman Emperor.
“Being such an athlete, he can handle that freshness very well. Once I wrestled him around the barriers, he was fine and his game face came on.
“He was the first one out and was straight on the bridle, but we had a horrible run, he was caught three wide.
“I probably rode an arrogant race on him, but from the 800m to the 600m, I was able to give him a little breather when we were three deep with cover.
“Just before the turn, another horse flushed him out, but then he just put it away. He still gets this tendency to hang in and it’s something we are working on.
“Once I gave him one on the backside, he just took off, he couldn’t be more impressive. He also ran fast time (1min 9.66secs).
“The Saas Fee Stakes will be his next start, and we will then bring him back next year for the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge.”
The Group 3 Saas Fee Stakes (1200m) on Dester Singapore Gold Cup day on November 10 will for the first time be run as a race for three-year-olds only