The suspension of jockey Michael Walker has paved the way for New Zealand-based hoop Danielle Johnson to pick up a Group 1 ride down under on Sofia Rosa in the Makybe Diva Stakes this Saturday.
Walker will spend eight meetings on the sidelines after being suspended for his ride on Sebring Dream (5th) in the Listed Atlantic Jewel Stakes at Moonee Valley on Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes Day.
The careless riding conviction has Walker missing the ride on the Stephen Marsh-trained Sofia Rosa this weekend in the $500,000 Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m).
Winner of the Group 1 ATC Oaks (2400m) as a three-year-old at Royal Randwick during Sydney’s The Championships’ back in early April, the now four-year-old daughter of Makfi races second-up at Flemington Racecourse on Saturday.
In her resuming run, Sofia Rosa and jockey Damien Oliver combined for a somewhat disappointing 10th when beaten 7.45 lengths by the Darren Weir-trained winner Black Heart Bart in Caulfield’s Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m).
The five-time winning Kiwi mare will be out to improve second-up on Saturday taking on a similar field at weight-for-age over the mile in the Makybe Diva Stakes.
Cambridge-based horseman Marsh acted quickly to the Walker suspension, booking his partner Johnson for the ride on Sofai Rosa in the Group 1 in Victoria.
Johnson has been aboard the mare four times previously in New Zealand for three wins and the Group 1 NZ Oaks (2400m) second to Fanatic in March, a good record Marsh hopes she can add to in Melbourne.
“We’re very keen to get Michael on for her spring campaign but with him being suspended and a lot of the interstate riders not yet in Melbourne, we decided to put Danielle on,” Marsh told The Informant.
“She knows her well and the added advantage is that Danielle will be able to give us a line on how she’s going.
“We’re happy with the progress she’s made since her first-up run but we’re not exactly sure where to next, so Danielle may be give us an indication.”
Since the success of the Pat Hyland-trained Saleous (1996) 20 years ago, just one other mare has won the Makybe Diva Stakes when Southern Speed stole the show in 2012 on the back of an Adelaide win in the Listed Penny Edition Stakes.
The last Memsie Stakes graduate to back-up and win the Makybe Diva Stakes meanwhile was Dissident (2014) who completed the double for his then trainer Peter Moody two years ago.
Other likely Makybe Diva Stakes entries for this weekend include the returning Paul Beshara-trained veteran nine-year-old Happy Trails who ran fifth to Fawkner in the race last September and Memsie Stakes runner-up Rising Romance.
Former New Zealand-trained mare Rising Romance is now prepared by David & Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig from Lindsay Park.
The six-year-old daughter of Ekraar won the 2014 ATC Oaks, but has been first past the post just once since.
She placed second in last year’s Makybe Diva Stakes on the back of a Memsie Stakes sixth and looks to be travelling better this spring.
Oh August 27 she crossed only 1.25 lengths off Black Heart Bart in the Memsie and will only improve the more metres she sees over her preparation.