Jockeys the stars of the autumn as big-name horses fail to sparkle

The Sydney autumn started with plenty of stars looking to climb to the next level. It still has the stars of the turf, but they have failed to sparkle.

It has The Championships in a couple of weeks, but it seems unlikely it will anoint a champion.

However, the efforts of the men in the saddle have rarely been better. Among the jockey ranks in Sydney there are several riders who have earned the tag champion, and those quickly rising towards it. One of the joys of going to the track during the next month will be to watch them ply their craft.

Zoustar, Geulph, It's A Dundeel and Fiorente have found the glass ceiling impossible to break in the past couple of weeks for varying reasons. This week, underrated pair Boban and Appearance will have the opportunity to take another step up the ladder. However, it would seem racing at the moment has an even bunch of horses without a standout, so don't count out another surprise.

A horse that captures the public imagination and gives the sport its next Black Caviar or Atlantic Jewel might be away off.

But that's not to say the racing has not been exciting.

Take the surprise of the Ranvet. It was a race made by some brilliant rides.

While the jockeys of Fiorente and It's A Dundeel, Damien Oliver and James McDonald, staged their own battle in the opening 400 metres, Kerrin McEvoy and Nash Rawiller turned in rides that could be used at apprentice school for years to come.

Their mounts, Carlton House and Silent Achiever, fought out a stirring finish that didn't get the credit it should have because of the attention focused on the favourites.

McEvoy counted off the furlongs on Carlton House, then conserved energy and went again in the straight. He was a head off being a genius. Rawiller tracked his rival all the way and made his move on the turn but still had to be at his best to lift Silent Achiever to victory.

However, those rides weren't in the same postcode as Jim Cassidy on Steps In Time in the Coolmore Classic.

The hall of fame hoop was on a mare that hasn't been able to get the job done at the top level. She was suspect at the 1500 metres and had twice before found the Coolmore beyond her and her free-running style.

Cassidy harnessed that style, her greatest asset, for the first 300 metres and then unleashed it to spectacular effect to win by a head.

It left his rivals in awe. Gai Waterhouse said it was 20 years of experience that won the race. In all honesty, it was more than that.

It was hard to fault McDonald's ride on Sweet Idea, which was left flat-footed when Cassidy turned up the pressure, but came hard in the final 100 metres. "There was nothing wrong with his ride, Jimmy was just better," Waterhouse enthused.

With racing so competitive, the ride, the run and the luck will play a large role in determining the winner of the group 1s in coming weeks.

It would appear that in the two-year-old ranks the fillies have a big lead over the boys. Earthquake proved the best of the fillies on Saturday, beating Golden Slipper second pick Mossfun.

However, Earthquake had the advantage of an inside draw on Saturday. Whether she has that on Slipper day remains to be seen. There is not that much between her and Mossfun.

It will be the experience of McEvoy against the youth and incredible talent of McDonald on Slipper day, which could turn out to be one of the great battles of the carnival.

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