Teo Nugent (Image: Racing Photos)
After coming so close in previous seasons, apprentice Teo Nugent is excited that the Rising Stars Trophy is finally heading towards his mantlepiece.
Nugent is at the top of the leaderboard on 65 points and has a 17-point advantage over Thomas Stockdale in second place, meaning that he will take home the trophy regardless of the result of Saturday's series final at Flemington.
"It's something my manager Ash Beer and I sat down with at the start of the season and worked out," Nugent said.
"I think the past three seasons, or certainly the past two, I've run second, and to win the final heat at Flemington last year, it really made me even hungrier this season and to do it without a claim at all, and to have ridden in just over half the races this season, was a pretty big thrill."
While Nugent has secured the series, he would still like to take out the final at Flemington again this Saturday and will ride the consistent Galgani in the race.
"That would be the cherry on top," he said.
"I think she's got a great chance. (She's) drawn a beautiful barrier, we'll be in the first four and hopefully she can come out on top with a light weight."
Nugent will also ride imported stayer Bartholomeu Dias on Saturday, who he partnered in a trial at Traralgon recently, as the six-year-old resumes in the Sir Eugene Gorman Handicap.
"I don't mind him, I was quite impressed with his trial the other day and heading into a mile race, I know he'll get in quite light with my claim," Nugent said.
"He meets some fancied runners like Dice Roll and that horse of Rob Hickmott's (Degraves) that'll come up even-priced favourite, I reckon he'll give them a shake at a big price."
Nugent has missed parts of this season due to injury and suspension, and under the circumstances, is pleased with his output this season.
As this point in time, he's ridden 56 winners for the campaign.
"I'm quite happy, I'm trying to get as close to 60 winners this season, it's been pretty good if we take away the time I've missed," Nugent said.
Two key moments standout for the young hoop when he looks back at his season.
"Definitely my Group 1, winning the Oakleigh Plate on Portland Sky, I think that would take the top shelf, followed by Grandview Avenue winning that Stakes race (the Carlyon Stakes) at Moonee Valley, so they're probably my two highlights," Nugent reflected.
Nugent has a clear goal that he's working towards as the start of a new season approaches.
"I've got about 11 or 12 more winners left of my city claim, hopefully we can knock that over before the end of the year," he said.