A suddenly in-form stable and a wave of confidence has top Adelaide jockey Barend Vorster poised to play a major hand at South Australia’s two upcoming carnivals.
In a purple patch of form in recent weeks, Vorster has zoomed up the metro premiership ladder, booting home 11 Saturday winners during January and now sitting just one win behind suspended leader Jason Holder.
As stable rider for the Tony & Calvin McEvoy camp, the former South African hoop added to his tally again at Morphettville on the weekend with the improving Night Passage.
It’s a far cry from mid-2021, when winners were harder to come by for both stable and jockey.
“I can’t say there was a patch where I was in bad form, but Tony and Calvin went through a stage where they were setting up Ballarat and our numbers here at Angaston went down quite a lot,” Vorster said.
“I needed to do a bit of work with outside trainers and start building up relationships.
“Now I’ve got a good group of trainers I ride for, so when I don’t ride for Tony I’ve still got support.”
The McEvoy stable sits second on the SA metropolitan training premiership ladder, behind Richard & Chantelle Jolly, and Vorster said a combination of better rides and old-fashioned confidence has him riding in the best form of his three-year Australian stint.
“Obviously I’m getting some good quality rides at the moment, but it’s like any sort of sport that once you’re in form or in the zone, you feel comfortable with things,” he said.
“I’m just assessing and reading my races right – and at the same time I’m really enjoying my racing.”
The local build-up to the 2022 Adelaide Cup begins in earnest this Saturday with the 2000m Listed Premier’s Plate (formerly Birthday Cup) at Morphettville, where McEvoy and Vorster will team up with improving stayer Resurge, an emphatic winner of the $100,000 Strathalbyn Cup last month.
The Group 3 Lord Reims Stakes (2600m) follows a fortnight later, followed by the Adelaide Cup on Monday, March 14, while sandwiched between the two is the revamped Magic Millions SA Raceday at Murray Bridge on March 5.
Vorster has seemingly found the key to Resurge, with the So You Think gelding posting successive dominant victories.
“There’ll be quite a lot of raiders coming from Victoria and elsewhere for the Adelaide Cup, but our best chance – and we’ll just take it race by race – is Resurge,” he said.
“He’s never a horse that naturally showed us that he’s going to go that distance, but I’m sure Tony will assess him and if he feels he’s the right horse for it, then he’ll try to aim him for it.
“In his races you’ve just got to have him really quiet for the first half of the trip – you can’t have him on the bridle for most of the way.
“He’s got to be really loafing underneath you, so when you do start your run, he has that fuel left in the tank to produce that finish, like he has in his last two starts.”
A dedicated track walker, Vorster seemingly found the fast lane when riding multiple winners at Murray Bridge and Gawler last month.
“It’s a bit of an instinct thing, but I really enjoy walking the tracks and getting a good feel for it,” he said.
“I think I’ve picked up a lot of knowledge by doing that. I can see somewhere I need to avoid, or somewhere I need to be.
“It’s quite satisfying knowing after a race that you’ve made the right decision and that it’s paid off.”
The McEvoy stable has a player in the major two-year-old races of 2022 with Xtravagant Star, which claimed the $2 million Inglis Millennium (1100m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Vorster, who rode the filly in SA before she hit the race track, said the victory had boosted the stable at just the right time.
“I’m really pumped for the team to find a nice filly again,” he said.
“Obviously some of the older, stalwart horses have been retired and moved on, and we just need one or two of these youngsters to step up.
“I think timing wise, it’s quite important for the yard, with all the sales and building up towards the carnival. To have a bit of success like that helps get the team confident and owners supporting us.”
Meanwhile, Vorster said his Saturday winner, Night Passage, could be aimed at some black-type races during the Adelaide Racing Carnival in April and May.