Chris Johnson will get advice from the best ahead of Savvy Coup's Oaks assignment.
It’s many years since veteran Sydney horseman Ron Quinton rode competitively on his home track, but his experience will still be invaluable when he takes Kiwi jockey Chris Johnson on a course walk at Randwick today.
Quinton was the champion jockey of his era in Sydney and these days continues to command great respect, both as a trainer and as a mentor of the next generation of jockeys.
Canterbury trainers Michael and Matthew Pitman are using Quinton’s stable on the hill overlooking Randwick racecourse as a temporary base for their Australian Oaks candidate Savvy Coup. With more than 20 years having passed since tomorrow’s big race jockey Chris Johnson last rode at Sydney headquarters, the Pitmans were only too happy for Quinton to give the South Islander a familiarisation tour.
“Ron is one of racing’s gentlemen, he’s been a fantastic host and we really appreciate his offer to take Chris around the track,” Michael Pitman said after Savvy Coup had completed her work this morning. “It’s been a few years since he rode but after all he did win the Oaks here four times and I’m sure Chris will learn something.”
Johnson’s Sydney experiences include a winning double on the Pitman-trained Just Tommy in 1992. In a three-race campaign immediately after winning the Gr. 1 Thorndon Mile at Trentham, Johnson combined with Just Tommy for wins in the Listed Frank Underwood Cup and Gr. 2 Canterbury Cup.
Pitman reports that Savvy Coup has trained on well from her New Zealand Oaks victory a month ago and will strip fit and ready for tomorrow’s A$1 million classic.
“The New Zealand Oaks was in some ways her grand final, but with the form from that race into Sydney over the past few years and the way she came through it, we have to have a go.
“She’s ready for another big race and I’m sure she can be in it.”
There’s no lack of confidence elsewhere amongst the connections of Australian Oaks contendors. Graeme Rogerson is his normal bullish self about the prospects of Contessa Vanessa, the winner of the Sunline Vase and runner-up to Savvy Coup in the New Zealand Oaks.
“Look at her, you couldn’t get a more relaxed filly with a shine in her coat,” he enthused as the Bullbars filly tucked into breakfast at John Sargent’s Randwick stable. “She’s got a decent draw for a change and I think the race will be run to suit her.”
Across the way the Sargent-trained Luvaluva was out of her box for a photo-shoot with reigning Miss Universe Australia Olivia Rogers, parading fit and well for her big assignment.
“She’s a tough filly and the way it’s worked out, backing up from her win in the Adrian Knox last Saturday will be in her favour,” said Sargent, who won the 2015 Oaks off a similar back-up with Gust Of Wind.