Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Blake Shinn after his win with Viewed in 2008. Photo: Vince Caligiuri
IT'S a far cry from saluting in the Melbourne Cup, but top Sydney hoop Corey Brown says every jockey wants to have a Black Opal Stakes victory on their resume.
Brown is one of three Melbourne Cup-winning jockeys with rides in the listed $256,000 feature race at Thoroughbred Park on Sunday. The others are Blake Shinn and Kerrin McEvoy.
While it does not have the same lustre as the race that stops the nation in front of 100,000 full-throated spectators at Flemington, Brown still rates it as an important day on the racing calendar.
Kerrin McEvoy celebrates winning the 2000 Melbourne Cup aboard Brew. Photo: David Tease
He won the 2009 Melbourne Cup on Shocking, six years after he saluted in the Black Opal on Handsome Ransom.
Brown said the Canberra Centenary Cup was the only one of Canberra Racing's four listed races he had not won.
The hoop from Wingham, near Port Macquarie, will ride $4.80 favourite Quartzite in the Black Opal on Sunday.
Corey Brown aboard Shocking after winning the 2009 Melbourne Cup.
''There's a lot of difference, mate, to be honest,'' he chuckled when comparing the Cup and the Black Opal. ''The Melbourne Cup's obviously our grand final and everyone, whether you're involved with racing or not, stops or knows that the Melbourne Cup's on.
''It used to be the race that stopped the nation, but it's vastly growing and everyone all over the world now tunes in to watch the Melbourne Cup.
''The Black Opal's a long way down the ladder, but it's a nice race to have on your CV. And it's a good race for this time of year because we're going into the autumn carnival in Sydney and it's always a good lead-up race for the two-year-olds heading towards the Golden Slipper.''
Brown said two-year-olds' races were always a bit of a lottery, with whichever horse mentally switched on a chance. He rates Quartzite, however, as a genuine contender.
The Tim Martin-trained colt finished second in his only start - a maiden for two-year-olds at Wyong (1000 metres).
Brown said the addition of blinkers would help ''straighten him up'' and barrier three was ideal. A good showing would see him head towards the world's richest race for two-year-olds.
''If he holds up, he could end up in the [$3.5 million] Golden Slipper if he's very competitive in the Black Opal tomorrow … that's where they'd be obviously heading with him,'' Brown said.
Shinn rode Viewed to Melbourne Cup glory in 2008, while McEvoy was on board 2000 winner Brew.
McEvoy will ride Peter Snowden's entries in both the Black Opal and Canberra Centenary Cup - Sidestep and Sindarin respectively.
For punters who like a name, look no further than $17 long-shot Star Wars - Shinn's mount.
Shinn said he had ''quite a good opinion'' of the Scott Aspery-trained colt.
''It's drawn favourably in barrier five, its first run in a race was very encouraging, its trial recently was really good and I think he goes into the race with a great chance,'' Shinn said.
Shinn grew up in Kilmore, in country Victoria, and said that getting out to country meets always made for a great day.
He said ''every race was just as important'' and it did not matter whether it was the Melbourne Cup or a maiden race in the middle of nowhere.
''The Black Opal's obviously got a lot of prestige and to win it would be a bit of a highlight,'' he said.
''I always like supporting the country meetings, I enjoy going back to the grassroots of where I came from and it's always a big thrill to win races, even though I haven't won one like the Black Opal.''