Jockey Lee Magorrian will make a return to New Zealand next weekend to partner emerging three-year-old Master Brutus in the Gr.1 Gee & Hickton Funeral Directors Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham.
The Irish native hasn’t ridden in New Zealand since relocating to Sydney in 2016 but has answered the call of long-time friend Derek Nolan, whose partner Sophia Orting trains the talented Swiss Ace gelding, who is yet to finish out of the placings in six starts.
Orting elected to pay a late nomination for the three-year-old feature after Master Brutus fought tenaciously to be beaten a long head in the Listed Mufhasa Stakes (1400m) behind The Intimidator at Te Rapa earlier this month, after racing three-wide with no cover throughout.
TAB Bookmakers have marked The Intimidator a $4 favourite for the Levin Classic, which has dropped away markedly in recent weeks, while Master Brutus is a $6 second-elect.
Orting and Nolan turned to Magorrian, who regularly rides for leading Sydney trainers at the provincials in New South Wales.
“Derek got on to me about riding the horse,” Magorrian said. “I had to get off my rides here for Chris Waller and Gai Waterhouse but they were quite understanding and let me off considering it is a Group One race over there.
“He seems like a very versatile horse. He looks pretty easy to ride really. He just got caught out on a limb at Te Rapa the other day. It was a bit of bad luck.
“He seems to have had a bit of bad luck through his career. You could argue that he nearly should have won every race he has contested.
“The only time he has had good fortune is when Opie (Bosson) rode him, and he just takes bad luck out of the equation and that is why he is probably the best there.”
The 28-year-old jockey is looking forward to linking with Orting and Nolan, with the latter a mentor to Magorrian through his four seasons riding in New Zealand.
“When I was coming through as an apprentice, Derek used to help me out with my riding,” Magorrian said.
“Derek was someone I always looked up to, being an Irishman that had been successful everywhere he had been. The weight got the better of him as a jockey, but it is great to see him and Sophia having so much success with their breaking and pre-training business (Lilywhites Lodge), plus with the handful they take to the races.
“Sophia is extremely hard working. She used to work for Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman and rode all the good ones there. She knows the feel of a good horse and it is good to see them doing well.”
Magorrian was awarded the Northern Racing Apprentice Scholarship in 2016 which saw him spend time with Chris Waller, fueling the fire to relocate across the Tasman.
“Chris asked me to stay and I am pleased I listened,” Magorrian said.
“New Zealand racing has always been on my mind. It taught me so much and has given me everything really, including the platform to come here.
“I am good friends with Sam Weatherley and I have always kept an eye on New Zealand racing with him there. It will be good to catch up with him plus a lot of others.”
Magorrian hasn’t ridden raceday since late last month after incurring back-to-back suspensions but has been keeping busy riding at trials and in trackwork.
“I am riding a lot for John Thompson, Chris Waller, Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott and another Kiwi in John Sargent. I have been sidelined for a bit as I had a bit of bad luck with suspensions as I got two suspensions in a week,” Magorrian said.
“But I have kept busy and my weight isn’t too bad. I’ve been riding trials twice a week which is a big help.”
While Magorrian has ridden horses the calibre of Mo’unga, Unforgotten and Fangirl as they have come through their grades, he said a Group One victory would be the ultimate.
“It would mean everything. It would be Sophia and Derek’s first Group One as well as mine, which would be pretty cool,” he said.
“I think I am on the right horse to do it. He is well in the market and if he gets an economical run and the luck, he should be thereabouts.”