Jockey Jim Byrne hasn't been around much in Australian racing these last few years. He was mostly in Macau, booting home his fair share of winners.
This year, though, he's returned home and is based again in Brisbane and I'm tipping that when the carnival period arrives he's going to be the jockey to watch. Byrne's one of the very best in the business.
He swung back effortlessly into Brisbane racing after quitting Macau a few months ago, and I feel sure that trainers will be lining up to put him on their horses in the major races during the carnival.
Who won the Prime Minister's Cup at the Gold Coast last May? None other than Jim Byrne. He was aboard the Rex Lipp-trained Laurinel Argie, who beat Homewrecker (Greg Childs) and Piachay (Craig Newitt).
There's been nothing wrong with Byrne's form since his return from Macau. That silken touch is still there, and so is the aggression in tight finishes (very reminiscent of Noel Callow at his vigorous best).
The two Scotts, Galloway and Seamer, will also be jockeys to watch during the carnival.
Seamer remains one of the best jockeys in Australia. Why on earth he got dumped from Starcraft is beyond me. He rides the perfect race, runs 2nd to perhaps the best 3yo for a long time, and doesn't get the ride next time out.
Beats me, but owners can be an unpredictable lot. Anyway, I'm sure there are plenty of owners and trainers happy enough to put this great rider aboard their carnival hopes.
Scott Galloway has been riding with enormous success in Brisbane and the Gold Coast for many years. If you want to meet a totally professional jockey . . . well, say hello to Scott Galloway.
He gets a lot of good rides from the John Hawkes stable and this trainer only uses the best.
Michael Rodd is the local jockey who is very likely to be snapped up for some of the better rides during the carnival. He enjoyed a nice winning run last winter.
As I write this, he's in Hong Kong on a month's contract, though he did return on March 6 for the plum ride on Regimental Gal in the Newmarket. The filly ran a splendid race for 3rd.
Rodd is becoming more and more accomplished and I believe he's destined to be one of the top 10 in future years. He has everything it takes.
The Brisbane carnival always attracts the cream-of-the-crop riders from interstate. And heading them, barring injury or suspension, will be the irrepressible Glen Boss.
Who'll ever forget his magnificent winning ride on Private Steer to win last year's Group 1 Stradbroke at Eagle Farm? And which riders were on 2nd and 3rd? Michael Rodd on Diamond Dane and Scott Seamer aboard Into The Night!
Boss is a fantastic big-race rider. He seems to blossom into something extra-special when the "majors" come around. We only have to glance back to last November and his winning ride on Makybe Diva in the Melbourne Cup.
I doubt we'll see a better Cup ride than that one. It was masterly in its execution. So, please, take the tip and don't let Glen Boss get away with a big race without ensuring you have something on him!
The most recent statistics I have for the Eagle Farm track (from racenet.com.au) show that Rodd, Galloway, John Powell, Glen Colless and Scott Seamer are the top jockeys there. Next comes Zac Purton but he's been out on the injury list for some time and I don't know whether he'll be back for the winter.
If Purton is back, then he's another we have to keep careful track of, because he's a gun-rider.
The stats for the Doomben track for the last 12 months show Colless as the leading rider, followed by Rodd, Galloway, Seamer and the "pocket rocket" Lacey Morrison.
We'll also see some good racing at the Gold Coast and the stats for that track for the past year show Chris Whiteley on top from Arron Kennedy and Matt Bennett. But whether these local riders get top carnival rides is another matter.
What usually happens is that the interstate jockeys descend and snap up all the best rides.
As for the trainers to watch during the winter? Let's stick to the locals. Bruce McLachlan is one, Shaun Dwyer is another, Bryan Guy has a few likely types, Liam Birchley can always pop up with a winner, and so can Alan Bailey.
Gold Coast trainer John Wallace is another worth keeping a close check on. Of these Queensland trainers, I think Dwyer and McLachlan are likely to wreak the most havoc!
By Martin Dowling
PRACTICAL PUNTING - APRIL 2004