Back to Caulfield P.B. Lawrence Stakes Day, in a racing sense at least, is when winter and spring collide. Numerous equine stars invariably return at the first Group 2 meeting of the season, which also features the first three-year-olds features of the racing year, while also showcasing a host of horses who have performed well throughout winter, reports Racing Victoria.

It is a similar story in riding ranks. Victoria’s star hoops are back in action, having chased carnivals in late autumn and early winter before embarking on a well-earned holiday, but opportunities still exist for the apprentice riders who relish the chance to shine in the absence of the big names.

There is no better example of that than the $80,000 Winslow Constructors Handicap, Race 3 on Saturday’s Caulfield program.

Three-kilogram claimers Patrick Moloney, Kayla Nisbet and Jye McNeil, plus their two-kilogram counterparts Damien Thornton and Jackie Beriman, will pit themselves against some of the sport’s biggest names.

Hong Kong champion Brett Prebble, three-time Melbourne Cup winner Glen Boss, globe-trotter Craig Williams and triple Melbourne Jockeys’ Premiership winner Luke Nolen head a list of rivals, which also include last year’s Lawrence Stakes-winning hoop Chris Symons and rising star senior riders Damian Lane and Daniel Stackhouse.

The youngsters would be excused for feeling daunted, but Moloney said he was becoming used to it and was excited by the opportunity more than anything else.

“Riding against senior riders is not something new, but Brett Prebble and Craig Williams have only just come back and riding against them will be a bit of a buzz because they’ve been on the world stage and get used by the best trainers in the world,” he said.

“That’ll be a big thrill for me and the other apprentices riding in the race.

“It’ll be a good experience to know where these jockeys get in the run and maybe follow them, especially if they’re on a good horse. You know they’ll put themselves in the best position and it’s a good chance to learn from them.”

Victoria’s current crop of apprentice riders have already proven themselves quick learners and have upstaged their senior rivals at the past two Saturday meetings.

After combining for five wins at the eight-race Moonee Valley card on 3 August, they again shared five wins at last Saturday’s nine-event Aurie’s Star Handicap Day card at Flemington.

Moloney rode a double at the latter meeting, including Tuscan Fire at 100-1, while Nisbet, McNeil and Katelyn Mallyon also made a trip to the winner’s stall.

Moloney and Nisbet were also in the spotlight at Moonee Valley, winning on quality three-year-olds Clevadude and Gregers, as was Mallyon. Beriman and Jake Duffy were other claiming apprentices to score victories that day.

They are results that have Moloney jointly atop the Victorian Jockeys’ Premiership, sharing the lead with Luke Nolen and Nick Hall.

The 19-year-old is amazed with how well his season has started and while he is aware opportunities at Saturday city level will soon become scarce, it has only heightened his desire to ride as deep into Spring as possible and one day be one of its star performers.

“I might take a photo of that metropolitan premiership at the moment because I don’t think it will last very long,” Moloney said with a chuckle.

“It’s been fantastic the way this season’s started. I couldn’t have imagined that I’d be riding in town at this stage let along riding winners and riding doubles. It’s just been fantastic.

“It’s where you want to be. Everyone strives to be the best they possibly can and for a jockey the pinnacle is riding over the Spring Carnival and at the metropolitan meetings consistently.”

Moloney’s mount in the Winslow Constructors Handicap is the Ken Keys-trained First Course, who the young jockey partnered into second placing last time out at Sportingbet Park (Sandown).

He is a is a $9 chance with Nisbet’s mount Sea Galleon ($4.20), Noble Warrior (Thornton, $16), Rowland ($21) – who provided Beriman with her maiden Saturday city success at last year’s Lawrence Stakes meeting – and Crafty Cruiser (McNeil, $41) the other runners to be handled by apprentice riders.

Bells of Troy, Williams’ ride, is the TAB’s $3.80 favourite with Prebble’s mount Exceptionally ($6) the other leading contender.

Two other apprentice jockeys will be in action at Caulfield on Saturday; Duffy and Chad Schofield, Victoria’s leading apprentice of last season, who has four rides for the day including Pago Rock in the $220,000 Group 2 feature.

Victoria’s apprentice riding contingent is just days away from having another member added with Melissa Nicholls, who is apprenticed to Paul Maher at Seymour, to have her first ride at provincial level at Narrandera on Saturday.

Nicholls, a former picnic rider, was one of four members of Racing Victoria’s first-year riders who last month gained approval to ride in races and two others might not be far off joining them.

Emily Tremelling and Caitlin King have received their ticket to ride in official trials, edging them closer to being granted approval to compete in races.