Brenton Avdulla winning aboard Smart Melody at Canterbury (Image: Bradley Photos)
Brenton Avdulla, Sydney's premier jockey, isn't overly fussed on chasing another premiership this season.
If it happens, then so be it, but there is not the determination there once was to have his name etched on the honour roll.
It is already there and that can't be taken away.
Avdulla's focus is now on winning more feature races and that is the reason he is riding at Flemington Saturday.
He missed out on a ride in the Group 1 PFD Food Services Makybe Diva Stakes and while it would have been nice to partner Egg Tart or potentially Unforgotten if Chris Waller had decided to send either south, the focus of the weekend is Smart Melody.
The unbeaten filly is a horse Avdulla has significant faith in, despite having only ridden her once in her short three-start career.
After returning from a one-month stint in Japan, Avdulla could have easily remained in Sydney and ridden at Royal Randwick this Saturday but he took the initiative and sensed there was an opportunity to establish himself as the rider of Smart Melody this spring.
Kris Lees is toying with the idea of stretching Smart Melody out to a mile in the Thousand Guineas but also has the fall-back option of the Coolmore Stud Stakes over 1200m if she is too brilliant.
"I think she is the real deal," Avdulla said.
"I've only been on her back once but I am a big believer in that your first thoughts are always your best and I was really taken with how she felt when I won on her at Canterbury.
"Prior to that she had won a 900-metre maiden at Newcastle and while that form can sometimes be suspect, she could not have been more impressive.
"The next start she came to town and she was a bit hot, she is doing everything at a frantic pace but felt to me like there is so much more to come and in time she should continue to relax.
"When I heard Kris was thinking of sending her to Melbourne I thought it would be a good opportunity to put my hand up and say that I could go and ride her at Flemington.
"I'm keen to play a major part in the Melbourne Spring Carnival and she could be a filly that is competing at the top end.
"She is up there with the best juveniles I rode last season and that includes Estijaab."
Last season was clearly the highlight of Avdulla's career. Before he was crowned the champion rider of Sydney, he won his first major aboard Estijaab in the Golden Slipper.
It was a season were Avdulla emerged from the shadows of Hugh Bowman, Kerrin McEvoy and Blake Shinn.
His efforts resulted in being awarded a short-term contract in Japan, an experience that has widened his exposure even further.
"Spending the first month of the new season in Japan basically ruled me out of winning the premiership again," Avdulla said.
"It is hard to think you can win a title in Sydney when you know you are already four weeks behind the rest of the competition.
"That is part of the reason why I'm not thinking the premiership is a goal.
"My goal is to win more feature races.
"Japan was a great experience, it is the first time I've ridden overseas and I loved it.
"Going there I didn't know what to expect.
"It was great to get a winner on my first day at the races, that helped my confidence and put me on the right track.
"I was able to ride a couple of winners every weekend after that and built some really good relationships with leading trainers.
"It is different there, jockeys go into lockdown on Friday night and the boys are great but it is difficult because I don't speak Japanese.
"Even something as simple as getting dinner is difficult. I was having to sit and wait to see what everyone else is eating and then go over and point to what I wanted.
"But that is all part of the experience."
Avdulla can return to Japan for another one-month stint and is hopeful that could occur at the end of the Spring Carnival.
"I might go back around December," he said.
"I've been asked if I want to go back now but my focus at this point is the spring and hopefully I can get some good opportunities in Melbourne."