The Hawkes Racing-trained Estijaab gave Brenton Avdulla his biggest win in the saddle when leading all of the way to claim the $3.5 million Group I Longines Golden Slipper Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill on Saturday.
Avdulla, 27, moved to Sydney from Victoria to try his luck as an apprentice in 2009 and over the past 10 years he focused on “consistency” and now is firmly entrenched among the top few riders in one of the most competitive jockeys’ rooms in the world.
“Gai Waterhouse didn't have an apprentice at the time so when I got her call I took it as a chance to get to Sydney for a couple of months and see what might happen,” Avdulla said.
"I got the phone call and haven't looked back.
“It’s been a lot of hard work over the time but wow, I just won the Golden Slipper.
“I’ve made Sydney home now and to win a Golden Slipper, it’s something that I never thought I could do."
Last Tuesday when Estijaab drew barrier 17 Avdulla admitted to being initially disappointed but after his filly was loaded into barrier 14 and the gates flew back, he utilised her amazing speed to take up the running shortly after the start.
Estijaab ($8.50) found plenty when her opponents asked the questions in the straight to fight off the challengers and defeat the Tony McEvoy pair of Oohood ($17) by a long head with another length back to Sunlight ($5) in third.
Estijaab joins an elite few, including Todman, Vain, Manikato and Dance Hero, to lead all of the way and win a Golden Slipper.
“That is outstanding,” Michael Hawkes, who trains Estijaab in partnership with his dad John and brother Wayne, said.
“If my emotions could tell you how that makes us feel. I can’t believe it.
“It’s been a real rollercoaster over the past month or so, with Chautauqua, this filly getting beaten then bouncing back.
“We never gave up hope, plenty did but she’s a special filly and we knew she could do it.”
The victory by Estijaab was Hall of Fame trainer John Hawkes’ fourth in the Golden Slipper. He won the race with Guineas (1997) and Forensics (2007) when trainer for the Ingham family and with Michael and Wayne in 2014 with Mossfun.
“She’s just another horse,” John Hawkes said.
“We’re lucky enough to have a few expensive ones of course but it’s good to see an expensive one win a big race.”