I hope to repay faith shown in me by winning the Cup for Godolphin
Looking back, the year 2002 was a very significant one in my riding career.
It was the year I was first approached to ride for Godolphin, and I remember it like it was yesterday, the horse was Beekeeper, a good stayer trained by Saeed bin Suroor. I rode him in the G1 Caulfield Cup and retained the ride at Flemington, where he ran a very good third behind Media Puzzle and Mr Prudent in the G1 Melbourne Cup.
It was the start of a long association with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and his Godolphin stable that has continued to this day, I’m pleased to say.
It would be great to get that Cup win on the board for Godolphin. Personally, it would be great to repay Sheikh Mohammed and his family for the faith they have shown in me over the years. I am very grateful for having had those opportunities.
Cross Counter, my Cup ride, has a nice chance. He slots in with the right profile, a nice weight, and he has good form in the UK.
I will be riding at 51kg (8st) — I can do lighter — which is a nice weight for me.
Cross Counter is a horse with a good attitude. That was the feel he gave me when I rode him in a gallop at Werribee. He is willing. He travelled in behind a lead horse, and it was nice sharp work.
He was very responsive. When I asked him, he was up and rolling. That’s exactly what you want in a Melbourne Cup, you need to travel. You need to be able to move forward when you want to.
I have ridden two winners of the Melbourne Cup — Brew (2000) and Almandin (2016) — and I think that helps build your confidence.
I think it’s easier mentally, having ticked the box already. You go there knowing that you can do it. You are a bit more relaxed in the lead-up to the race, and you can enjoy it.
Godolphin have given me many good opportunities. I was fortunate enough to win an English Classic in the stable colours, Rule Of Law (2004) in the G1 St Leger at Doncaster, and to land G1 races on two of their best horses, Dubawi and Shamardal.
It means a lot to put on the Royal Blue colours at any time, but more so in Australia’s biggest race, the Melbourne Cup. And to win it for Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin would be liking putting the cherry on top of my riding career.