Opie Bosson’s loss is Danielle Johnson’s gain.
With Bosson unable to make the 56.5kg weight to ride the Jamie Richards-trained Avantage in Saturday’s Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings, Johnson will be the beneficiary.
Johnson partnered the mare into an impressive first-up win in the Gr.2 Foxbridge Plate (1200m) earlier this month and has forged a good relationship with Avantage, victorious on four of the five occasions she has ridden the Te Akau star.
A five-time Group One winning jockey, two of those elite level wins have come aboard Avantage, including the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) and the Haunui Farm WFA Classic (1600m), while she was also successful on the mare in the Gr.3 Hawkes Bay Gold Trail Stakes (1200m).
“I obviously won on her last start and it was a terrific win and she looks like she has come out of the run really well and is in fine order heading into Saturday,” Johnson said.
“Everyone seems happy with her and she is eating well.”
Johnson said Avantage was the calibre of horse every top jockey aspired to ride.
“She is pretty boisterous and has a mind of her own. Once she is in the gates and in the race, you know it is game-on, but beforehand she is definitely the boss,” Johnson said.
“She is the ultimate professional in a race, and she has just got that will to win. She is tough and that is what everyone wants to see in a mare.
“She is the horse that everyone dreams about having and being able to ride. I have had the five rides on her and won two Group Ones, a Group Two and a Group Three.”
On the strength of her Foxbridge victory, Avantage has been supported into $1.70 favourite for the Tarzino Trophy but the premiership-leading hoop said she did not feel the weight of punters’ pressure.
“You just take it as it comes, and you can’t worry too much about what they’re paying,” she said.
“You just go out and give it you’re all. I’m lucky that I have got such a classy horse underneath me.”
With 14 wins on the board already this season, winning the premiership is an attainable goal for the 29-year-old, who has spent some time on the sidelines over the last couple of seasons due to injury.
“I sort of had that gap year last year, so it is time I knuckled down and try to kick home a few goals,” she said.
“I have got two good teams right behind me that I ride for (Jamie Richards and Stephen Marsh).
“There are horses that go to the Central Districts and Stephen and Jamie both have teams down South, so that is another opening as well.”
Fresh from a winning double at Taupo on Sunday, Johnson said jockeys do recognise when they’re riding in the zone.
“I think when you’re winning races, you ride with a lot of confidence and on the flip side you can lose confidence when you’re not riding winners.
“But you need the horse-power underneath you as you can’t make slow horses run fast.”
While happy to take the breaks of a favoured Group One pick-up ride when they come her way, Johnson has no doubt colleague Opie Bosson will be back soon.
“It is good for me at the moment, but he will get his weight back down and we will be happy to see him back out there because he is the best,” she said.
In addition to Avantage, Johnson has a host of handy rides at Hawke’s Bay on Saturday, including Yourpoint in the Listed El Roca - Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m) and Bonita Aurelia in the Gr.3 Hawke's Bay Breeders’ Gold Trail Stakes (1200m), as well as talented mares Savy Yong Blonk and Vamos Bebe on the undercard.
“I’m looking forward to riding Savy Yong Blonk in the Open Mile. She went really well last start and I think she is ready to win and Vamos Bebe, who I won on at Avondale, she is in the special conditions maiden and looks a nice horse going forward.”
Avantage and Danielle Johnson, picture Trish Dunell
Dragon Leap side-lined
Kiwi four-year-old Dragon Leap has suffered a set-back that will curtail his Sydney spring campaign.
The Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott-trained gelding had looked in for a good preparation, having found the line well for eighth in the Gr.2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) , beaten just two lengths, and was on target for the Gr.1 Epsom Handicap (1600m).
“It’s a minor injury and certainly nothing of any note that is going to have any long-term effect on his racing career,” O’Sullivan said.
“It is a case of six weeks rest and he will be as good as gold.”
The Hong Kong-owned galloper will recuperate initially in Australia but will return to the O’Sullivan-Scott stable in Matamata.
While a decision is still to be made as to whether the horse heads to Hong Kong to continue his career, O’Sullivan said the multiple Group Two winner could become a permanent member of his team.
“We were probably more likely for him to have gone to Hong Kong if this hadn’t occurred,” O’Sullivan said.
“He’s only had six career starts, so all it’s all ahead of him. The less racing they do as young horses the longer they race for.”
Dragon Leap’s owners Hermitage Thoroughbreds appear to have another smart performer on their hands, with impressive trial winner Rocket Spade to make his debut for O’Sullivan and Scott in the near future.
“He’ll run in a maiden three-year-old 1400m race at Matamata on Wednesday week,” O’Sullivan said.
“I was hoping there would be a 1400m three-year-old race this week so we could get the show on the road.”
Meanwhile, the stable’s smart stayer Sir Charles Road holds nominations for both the Gr.3 Newcastle Gold Cup (2300m) on Friday and the Gr.3 Kingston Town Stakes (2000m) on Saturday at Randwick.
Tiptronic building nicely
Group One winner Tiptronic was one of the eye-catching runs at Ellerslie on Saturday, with the O’Reilly seven-year-old lumping 60kgs into a close-up fourth in the Auckland Co-Op Taxis 1600 won by Codecracker and looks set to make an impact deeper into the campaign.
The Graham Richardson and Rogan Norvall-trained galloper was second-up after resuming with a sixth placing at Taupo.
“I was very happy with the run on Saturday because he carried six kilos more than anything else, with the exception of Fiscal Fantasy (57kgs). It was a very good effort,” Richardson said.
“He ate up well, has done everything right and was stretching out well this morning. He’ll go to Te Rapa on October 2 for a mile or 2100m and then we’ll go down to the Livamol (Gr.1, 2040m) after that.
“Then we’ll give him a freshen up and get him ready for the Auckland carnival then Te Rapa for the Herbie Dyke (Gr.1, 2000m) again.”
The winner of in excess of $500,000 in prizemoney, Tiptronic won last season’s Herbie Dyke Stakes, defeating True Enough.
Richardson believes 2000m is Tiptronic’s peak distance, particularly as an older horse.
“I don’t want him peaking too quickly so he’ll more than likely go to the mile at Te Rapa next to be at his best for the Livamol,” he said.
Richardson is pleased with the depth of younger horses coming through the stable.
“I’ve got a lot of nice young horses at the moment including a filly by Exosphere called Belle Moi,” he said.
“She went shin sore after her last trial, which was a shame because she would have been going around at Hastings this weekend in the Gold Trail (Gr.3, 1200m) and there are plenty of others including Devotioninmotion. It’s really pleasing.”