Opie Bosson is contemplating a riding stint in Australia during winter. Photo: Trish Dunell
The plaudits Opie Bosson earned for his ride on Te Akau Shark at Moonee Valley last Saturday has the champion New Zealand jockey seriously considering a winter stint riding in Australia.
Last season’s New Zealand Jockey of the Year, Bosson guided Te Akau Shark to finish third in the Gr.1 Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
“The plan was to go back from the wide draw and, to be fair, I was hoping to get on the back of something to be able to go wider across the top,” Bosson said.
“I’d walked the track the day before with Brent Thomson (former champion jockey) and he said you can’t be wide going into the first two bends and expect to win a Cox Plate. You have to get in behind something. He also said to try and get out and going before the turn.
“He (Te Akau Shark) hit a flat spot across the top when we were right behind the Japanese mare (the winner Lys Gracieux) and he took another 50 metres to get going again. At that stage Ben Melham (on 11th placed Homesman) was on my outside and wasn’t about to let me out.
“They all peeled four and five wide and off the fence and that’s when I decided to stick to the rails. If I had have tried to go out wider we’d probably have ended up where Kings Will Dream did (sixth).
“I just wish he’d drawn a good barrier. We’d have been able to be three or four lengths closer in the running.”
Bosson was full of praise for Te Akau Shark and can’t wait to be back riding him with the likely target now being the Gr.1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) in Sydney during autumn.
“He can still run a top mile, but the Queen Elizabeth Stakes looks the race for him,” Bosson said.
“He’s still learning, but he’s more relaxed now and took everything in his stride on Saturday. He’s grown up a lot and will be a top ride in Sydney. He’s proved he’s up to the best.”
Bosson has always made the most of his hit-and-run raids on Australian carnivals, right back to landing his first Australian Group One win aboard Grand Archway in the 1998 Gr.1 VRC Oaks (2400m) at Flemington as an 18-year-old.
Since then he has ridden a further four Group One winners in Australia, Mongolian Khan in the 2015 ATC Derby (2400m) and Caulfield Cup (2400m), Turn Me Loose in the 2016 Futurity Stakes (1400m) and Gingernuts in the 2017 Rosehill Guineas (2000m).
He has won a host of other black-type Australian features and most times he has ventured across the Tasman he has been approached by Australian trainers to shift from New Zealand to try his luck there.
“It first happened when I won on Grand Archway, but I was too young and too immature then. I was better off coming back to New Zealand,” Bosson said.
“Since then I’ve had offers from quite a few trainers to shift over there, but the timing hasn’t been right. Besides I love my lifestyle in New Zealand. That’s the main reason I’ve stayed here.
“Now it’s something I would really look at, with the way New Zealand racing is going, maybe for a few months during winter.
“I’m contracted to Te Akau Racing (Stables) and that comes first, but it’s a quieter time for them in the winter months. I’d look at staying on in Sydney after the autumn carnival if that works out and Dave (Ellis, Te Akau Principal) is happy with it.
“I’m determined to get out of here next winter and do something. Winter is so depressing and it’s hard to keep my weight down. There’s nothing to look forward to over here in winter.”
Bosson has always had a constant battle with his weight.
“I have to sweat hard to ride 56kgs,” he said. “It’s always a worry, but Emily (wife) makes sure we eat healthy and that helps.”
At 39, Bosson realises he doesn’t have many more years in the saddle.
“Ideally I’ve got another six years riding, but that depends on my body,” he said.
“Having our farm has helped keep me riding this far. I love getting out on the farm and doing things. The farm takes my mind away from racing.”
The Bossons have 350 acres in south Pukekawa (south of Auckland) and run 200 sheep and 180 dry stock.
“I do it all myself and on raceday I get out and shift the stock before I have a sweat and go to the races,” Bosson said. “And when we are away my father (Owen) comes up from Rotorua and looks after the place.”
Bosson admits he’s still learning the finer points of farming, but when he needs advice he turns to Ellis, who has excelled running his own Te Akau farms.
“Dave is the first one I turn to for advice around the farm,” Bosson said. “He’s such a big help. Last year I went out to Te Akau and docked 2500 lambs. This year I only did one day there because we had our own to do, too. Emily helped me with the docking and we had Max (their nine-month old son) there, too. I loved it.”
With Emily working for Trackside, the Bosson household is a busy place, especially on raceday, sometimes going in different directions. But they all got to Melbourne last weekend, including their German au pair.
“Our au pair took Max to the aquarium while we were at the races,” Bosson said. “He got to see real sharks while I was riding Te Akau Shark.”
Bosson’s older son, Cody (14) with his previous wife, jockey Sam Spratt, has weekend stays on the farm whenever possible and father and son share the love of hunting.
This weekend it will be hunting of a different sort for Bosson as he hunts down his 68th Group One win on nine-time Group One winner Melody Belle in the Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on Saturday.
“I worked her last Saturday and she did a nice, easy gallop,” Bosson said. “I’m hoping for a good draw and if we get one she has to be a chance.”
Like last weekend when he rode Te Akau Shark, Bosson has just the ride on Melody Belle this weekend.
“It’s hard to get rides in Australia when you just go over for the meeting and haven’t been doing the work on the horses,” he said.
“The Aussie trainers have got so many top riders to choose from and there’s also the top international riders over for the big meetings. It’s not like when the Australian riders come here and can get a full book.”
Doing that background work, establishing contacts and riding work regularly for a few months is another reason why Bosson is keen to spend next winter in Australia.