Newcastle born-and-bred jockey Blake Spriggs hasn’t ridden at 50 kilograms since his days as an apprentice.
And dropping four kilograms in one week is no mean feat when you're already 54kg.
But 18 months after his most recent group 1 ride – in the Melbourne Cup – Spriggs is not shying away from the hard road back to elite company.
Spriggs has turned down a book of rides at Newcastle to accept one, on Gallic Chieftain, for Australian premiership-winning trainer Darren Weir in the $2 million Sydney Cup (3200m) at Randwick on Saturday.
He will guide the $71 outsider from gate 18 of 20, rejecting easier bookings with Godolphin, Gary Portelli and David Nugent-trained horses at Newcastle.
Asked if it was stretch to get down to that weight, Spriggs said: “On short notice it is.”
“Darren Weir’s stable wasn’t sure this horse was going to get a run until acceptance morning. Even though they calIed earlier in the week, because they weren’t sure, they couldn’t lock me in.
“I was a tick under 54 then so I basically had four kilos to lose, which doesn't sound a lot, but it’s nearly 10 per cent of my body weight. It's a bit to lose in less than a week.”
Personal trainer and former South Sydney Rabbitoh Scott Geddes helped Spriggs shed weight for his winning ride on Sir John Hawkwood in the 2016 Metropolitan and the pair have teamed up again this week.
”I rode 51 in the Sydney Cup two years ago when sixth [on Like A Carousel] but I wouldn’t have ridden at 50 since I was an apprentice,” he said late on Wednesday.
“I’m 52.6 now so I’m tracking well and if I keep doing that I should be OK.”
Although mindful of the weight cut, Spriggs was confident of success and keen to make the most of the opportunity.
“I could live with going to town and missing out on a couple of winners at Newcastle, but I couldn't live with going to Newcastle and missing out on a group 1 win,” he said.
“I said to my manager that we better go to town and see what this horse can do, especially when the premier trainer, Darren Weir, is calling. It’s pretty hard to say no.
“And when I won the Metrop, I only had one ride that day, so it seems to work well for me. If I can make it count like I did that day, it will be worth it.”
Spriggs believed Gallic Chieftain was a genuine chance of finishing in the prizemoney if they could overcome the wide draw.
“I think it should be a lot further in the market,” Spriggs said of his ride’s $71 price.
“I thought it should be around the 20s mark. It ran a nice third behind Lord Fandago in the Herbert Power, only beaten a length. And we’re meeting him a kilo and a half better, and that horse is 20-1.”
The French-bred five-year-old gelding won the listed Winter Cup at Rosehill last July for his third of four victories in Australia. It was also his one and only venture to Sydney.
His most recent win was in the $75,000 Stony Creek Cup (2100m) and he has since finished fourth in the Mornington Cup and third at Bendigo, both over 2400m.
Newcastle trainer Kris Lees has Admiral Jello and Doukhan in the Sydney Cup from gates 15 and 14 respectively. Doukhan was first emergency and gained a start with the scratching of Fanatic.
Lees also has Danish Twist (gate 8) and Sugar Bella (13) in the group 2 Sapphire Stakes (1200m). Sugar Bella was battling for favouritism at $5 on Wednesday.
Lees’ Aide Memoire drew 13 for the group 1 Coolmore Legacy Stakes (1600m) and Chilly Cha Cha got six in the Australian Oaks (2400m).
In the Provincial Championships Final (1400m), Lees secured Glyn Schofield to ride Kool Vinnie (gate 18) and Josh Parr for Tawfiq Boy (9) after earlier booking Hugh Bowman for Just Dreaming (13), Kerrin McEvoy for Basita (10), Jason Collett for Serene Miss (17) and Damien Oliver for Princess Posh (5).
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