New Zealand’s premier jockey Michael McNab can’t wait to grasp his opportunity in Group One company in Brisbane on Saturday.
McNab will ride Cheval D’Or (NZ) (Almanzor) for Cambridge trainer Tony Pike in Saturday’s Gr.1 Queensland Oaks (2200m) at Eagle Farm, his first shot at an elite-level race in Australia – and he’s aiming to make the most of it.
Already with nine Group One wins under his belt in New Zealand and on track to win his second consecutive New Zealand jockeys’ premiership, McNab has won 14 races in Australia, chiefly through a brief stint based in Queensland in 2018.
However, Saturday’s Queensland Oaks will be his first ride in a Group One race on that side of the Tasman.
“I’m really excited about Saturday. It’s the opportunity to hunt another Group One win – and to ride a Group One winner in another country would be really special,” McNab said.
Racing in the colours of Dick Karreman’s The Oaks Stud, Almanzor filly Cheval D’Or sealed her trip to Brisbane with a clinical win in the Gr.3 Championship Stakes (2100m) at Pukekohe in late April.
While she won’t have raced for six weeks before the Oaks, Pike gave her an exhibition gallop at Te Rapa in mid-May with McNab delighted with her hitout.
“She worked well but it was on a really heavy track. She felt good and she was moving well, which was the main thing,” McNab said.
“She’s always shown good promise and it was nice to see her build to a good win last time off the back of a consistent season.
“By all accounts she’s travelled well. She was having a gallop this morning (Tuesday) with Michael Cahill riding her so I’m looking forward to hearing how she goes. I’d like to think she can be really competitive but one thing that will help is a good draw.”
TAB bookmakers have Cheval D’Or as a $15 equal fifth favourite for the Queensland Oaks.
McNab, who has ridden 140 winners – four at Group One level – in New Zealand this season to set up a commanding 34-win lead over nearest rival Craig Grylls on the premiership and broken his own record for stakes earnings in a season, has also been booked to ride the Robbie Patterson-trained The Fearless One on the undercard.
“I’m looking forward to riding over there again. It will be a nice break from the cold and wet winter we’re having here,” he said.
“It’s been another amazing season; my best season yet. I couldn’t have hoped for a better season really. I just didn’t want to win the premiership once and that be it, so I’ve sacrificed a lot to be in this position. This was definitely the plan at the start of the season and it would mean a lot to get it done.”