Saturday looms as milestone day in Tahlia Hope’s riding career, as she prepares to ride in her first Group 1 race.
The apprentice will ride the Mitch Freedman-trained Ho Ho Khan in the Australian Cup at Flemington.
“I’m obviously very excited but nervous at the same time,” Hope said.
“I probably couldn’t have picked a better horse to be riding in a Group 1 due to the fact that I just know him so well. He’s one of my favourite horses.”
Hope is currently on loan to Freedman and only found out on Wednesday morning that she would be competing in her first elite-level event.
“At the Ararat trials, he said, ‘You’re going to ride him on Saturday’,” she revealed.
“I was sort of in shock, I didn’t know what to say!”
Hope has developed an association with Ho Ho Khan, who she guided to her biggest success thus far in the G3 Hobart Cup last month.
“He’s an absolute dude,” she said of the former Hong Kong galloper.
“You could say he’s pretty push-button, you can sort of put him wherever you want to put him.
“Obviously, in the Hobart Cup he just relaxed out the back and then going into the Launceston Cup, he was more forward and up there with the big weight, we didn’t feel that we could make up that much ground.
“He’s a pretty casual sort of horse, he’s got plenty of character.”
WATCH: Hope’s win in the Hobart Cup on Ho Ho Khan
Sportsbet has Ho Ho Khan listed as one of the outsiders in the Australian Cup field at $46 but his jockey said he’s capable of having an impact on the race, particularly if the weather gods are on side.
“I haven’t really looked at the forecast yet, hopefully we can get a little bit of rain and I think that really brings him into the race,” Hope said.
“Obviously, you can never be too confident going into a Group 1, it’s just a pleasure to be in it, but I think the horse is going as well as he probably ever has at the moment.
“Mitch has him going great, being over in Tasmania on the beach, he really enjoyed that, and he’s come back feeling great in himself, he’s come back with a really positive attitude, it definitely didn’t knock him around, travelling back home on the boat.
“I think he’s going to go there with a cheeky little chance.”
Hope has certainly experienced the highs and lows of racing in recent months, after she was on the sidelines following a fall on Boxing Day, before bouncing back to land the Hobart Cup.
She also points to her move to Ballarat more than six months ago as being significant in her career development.
“It’s definitely been very up and down, but apart from that, I personally feel the move to Ballarat has been good to me, it’s opened up a few more opportunities,” Hope said.
“I come out of my apprenticeship at the end of March, so it’s great to be getting going and getting these opportunities just before I come out of my time.
“At the same time, I was hoping I could get going a little bit earlier and to try and outride my claim as much as I could in the city, but unfortunately these things happen.
“It’s great to be getting these opportunities, coming out in March, I’m not really knowing what to expect but hopefully it can continue and people are still happy to put me on, knowing that I won’t be claiming any longer.”