What began as a job for extra cash during a gap year has turned into something quite extraordinary for Jess Taylor as she prepares for two Group One rides on Sydney’s most significant race day of the spring.
It will not be the 28-year-old’s first experience in the Group One arena – she ticked that box aboard Cambage in the 2017 ATC Australian Oaks – but having a brace of big race rides is new territory.
Taylor will partner Canberra filly Girls Are Ready in Saturday’s Flight Stakes (1600m) and will have just her second ride for premier trainer Chris Waller aboard Le Juge in the Epsom Handicap (1600m).
While thrilled by the opportunity, Taylor is not overwhelmed and says her Oaks experience rid her of big-race nerves.
“That’s definitely given me good experience riding in that sort of race, so I’m not too nervous going into Saturday,” Taylor said.
“I know the first filly really well and the one for Chris, well Chris always presents his horses at the races spot-on.”
Taylor has been aboard Girls Are Ready in seven of her nine starts and has no doubt the filly will relish a mile.
While markets and exposed form have the Tea Rose stakes quinella of Funstar and Probabeel as stand-outs, Taylor knows the value a Group One placing will add to any filly’s pedigree page.
And she thinks that is within reach for Girls Are Ready.
After partnering the three-year-old to a Highway Handicap placing two starts ago, Taylor suggested Cleary put blinkers on Girls Are Ready and the filly responded by lugging 58kg to win an open three-year-old handicap at Canberra.
It’s a long way from a race in the nation’s capital to a Group One but Taylor knows firsthand the leaps and bounds that can be made in racing.
Having grown up around pony clubs, Taylor finished school, deferred her university studies and started riding trackwork, initially for pocket money.
“A couple of people said to me, ‘why don’t you try an apprenticeship’ and it went from there,” Taylor said.
Taylor began her career with renowned horseman Albert Stapleford before transferring her indentures to Mark de Montfort, who remains a mentor, as does her idol, rival jockey Kathy O’Hara.
She has gradually been making inroads in town and was unsurprisingly thrilled to get the call-up from Waller to partner Le Juge.
“I was pretty excited. I’ve been watching his replays and he’s got super form over the mile,” Taylor said.
“He’s drawn a terrible gate but he generally gets midfield to back in his races so hopefully we can slot in somewhere and get a nice run and if he can get a good cart into it I won’t be surprised to see him finishing really strongly.”