Fred Kersley will tick New Zealand off his bucket list this weekend when he fulfils a long-held ambition to ride here.
The Melbourne-based jockey has jumped at the opportunity to travel outside of Australia for the first time, enticed by a book of mounts at Awapuni on Saturday that includes last-start winner Aprilia in the Gr.1 Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m).
The U S Navy Flag filly is trained by Andrew Forsman, whose invitation to partner the two-year-old was quickly accepted by Kersley.
“I’ve been pretty keen to get over there for a while and finally everything has worked out,” he said.
“When Andrew was recently in Melbourne we sat down and had dinner and obviously he has plans to expand over here.
“With a quiet week here, I thought I would come over for what is a good meeting and I haven’t ridden outside of Australia before so it’s a first.”
“I’ll fly in on Friday and be leaving Sunday so I will have some time in Wellington and they tell me it’s a beautiful city so I’m very keen to have a look around there as well.”
Forsman also has Riproar in the Sires’ Produce and he will be partnered by Gold Coast-based jockey Noel Callow with expatriate Kiwi rider Samantha Collett, currently plying her trade in Queensland, to also be in action at Awapuni.
Their services have been snapped up due to a lack of local riders available, among them the suspended quartet of Michael McNab, Jake Bayliss, Kozzi Asano and Wiremu Pinn.
Kersley’s mounts also include the Tony Pike-prepared Cheval D’Or in the Gr.3 Higgins Concrete Manawatu Classic (2000m).
The daughter of Almanzor, a last-start fourth in the Gr.3 Sunline Vase (2100m), is raced by the Rick Williams-managed The Oaks Stud.
His son Dean, who formerly worked for Pike and is now with Michael Moroney at Flemington, was instrumental in Kersley gaining the ride.
“I am really looking forward to getting to New Zealand and I am sure it will be a great experience,” he said.
Kersley is a grandson of trainer and Western Australian Racing Hall of Fame member Fred, who trained the great Northerly to win two editions of the Gr.1 Cox Plate (2040m) and also numbered the Gr.1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) among his multiple top-flight triumphs.
“My grandfather practically raised me and he has been a huge influence on my life and played a huge part in shaping me to be the person I am today,” he said.
“He has always spoken highly of the quality of New Zealand horses and right from an early age it’s always been in my mind to venture out and get over there.”
Kersley, 23, said he didn’t pay a lot of attention to his career numbers, but was recently reminded of a memorable mark achieved.
“I think I rode my 250th winner the other day, someone mentioned that to me, but I’m not really one for stats and just focus on trying to get the better rides.”
Kersley’s highlight so far was a victory in the Gr.2 Danehill Stakes (1100m) aboard the James Cummings representative Kallos and has gone close to an elusive Group One success on two occasions.
“Frustratingly, I’ve been the bridesmaid in a Newmarket Handicap (1200m) and the VRC Derby (2500m). I’ve been around the money, but not quite been able to quite crack it yet,” he said.
Kersley finished runner-up in the Newmarket aboard The Astrologist and second in the Derby with Hit The Shot.
Meanwhile, Pike initially contacted Callow about making the trip from Australia and the multiple Group One winning jockey will partner Lauding in the Manawatu Classic for the Cambridge trainer.
“We’ve used him before in Brisbane and know him very well. With the lack of senior riders this weekend we looked at all the options and he was happy to come over,” Pike said.
“Obviously, Lauding is coming off a maiden win but he’s a progressive staying horse and it will be interesting to see how he goes.”