Shortly after landing in Mauritius on Wednesday afternoon, Sydney jockey Jason Collett was quickly bundled off to The Ravenala Attitude Hotel just in time to find out who were his mounts for the upcoming Attitude Hotels International Jockeys’ Weekend this Saturday and Sunday.

Still weary from the long-haul 15-hour flight from Sydney via Perth, Collett, who will fly the New Zealand flag at the annual jockeys’ series in the tropics, was able to take cognizance of his rides (drawn by ballot), albeit without having much of a clue about their form.

Despite the jetlag, Collett, who travelled with his father-trainer Richard, still graciously fielded a few questions to the media scrum avid to know more about a jockey who had never ridden at the Indian Ocean island.

“I’m quite excited to be here, it’s a great opportunity to ride at a jockeys’ series I’ve heard quite a lot about,” said the 28-year-old from Pukekohe.

“I wanted to come along with my partner Clare Cunningham, but she’s a trainer at Goulburn and couldn’t make it for the weekend. So, my old man got the run instead!

“This is my first jockeys’ series and my first visit to Mauritius. It was like killing two birds with a stone.

“I spoke to the Sydney lads who rode at that event like Kerrin McEvoy and Nash Rawiller, and they gave me a few pointers. I also spoke to Stacky (Daniel Stackhouse) who rode there last year and he was very helpful, too, as he knows the track even better.

“But at the end of the day, the acid test is when you ride there yourself. Obviously, I don’t know much about my rides, but I’m planning to go to the track on Friday morning just to have a better idea what it’s like.

“I’ve seen a few videos and it looks very tight. I can’t really think of a track that comes close to the Champ de Mars.”

Collett said when he was invited a couple of months ago for the jockeys’ challenge, he gave the nod without skipping a beat.

“They asked me early doors. I had no commitments and as it’s pretty quiet in Sydney at this time of the year, I accepted the invitation right away,” he said.

“It’s a bit of a working holiday as well. I had a great last season with my first Group 1 win in the Tatt’s Tiara (1400m) on Invincibella for Chris Waller at Eagle Farm in June, but this new season has started a little slowly.

“I haven’t won a Group race yet this season, though I did finish third with Mizzy in the Golden Eagle, but it’s picked up since and it’s going pretty well right now.”

Collett was meant to have Glen Boss as Australasian teammate and a big drawcard for the day, but the Australian Hall of Fame jockey had to unfortunately pull out after he was suspended for excessive use of the whip on Star Of The Seas in the inaugural The Gong at Kembla Grange last Saturday.

It’s former Sydney and Brisbane jockey John Powell who will replace Boss, even if he will represent Singapore, the country the globetrotting jockey has been riding at in the last 14 years.

Powell, who rode in Mauritius in the mid-90s and in the mid-2000s, was not on hand at the draw ceremony as he only arrives on Thursday afternoon.

Going with the local pundits’ grapevine, both Collett and Powell have drawn evenly with no real standouts among their dozens of rides while recently-crowned Mauritius champion jockey, Brazil’s Manoel Nunes is among one of the early favourites to take the weekend’s honours.

Points will be allocated as follows: Win (nine points), second place (four points), third place (two points) and fourth place (one point). The winner will be the jockey who racks up the highest score based on the eight best finishes.





Michael Lee