Chief steward of Racing NSW Ray Murrihy has just about seen it all throughout his 16 years at the top of the game but never has he witnessed a plethora of talent quite like this.
He’s referring to the level of jockeys across the state, particularly in Sydney where this season they’ll fight out arguably the most competitive jockey’s premiership anywhere in the country.
To make the statement clear all you need to do is look through the names currently battling their way through the Sydney season.
Five of them are already premiership winners, Jim Cassidy, Nash Rawiller, Hugh Bowman, Corey Brown and the returning Blake Shinn.
Two more are probably destined for the premiership sometime in the near future, those being Kerrin McEvoy and Glyn Schofield.
Throw into the mix the likes of Christian Reith who had one of the best strike rates in the country when he came down from Queensland and veteran Rod Quinn and that in itself is an intimidating book of riders.
The fact is though the talent goes far deeper than even that, in terms of young senior riders the likes of Tommy Berry, Nathan Berry and Brenton Avdulla keep constant pressure on their more seasoned rivals.
That’s even before you take into consideration the impressive group of apprentices featuring Sam Clipperton, Josh Adams, Blake Spriggs and Chad Schofield to name a few.
It’s really of no surprise then when Murrihy calls the current crop the best ever.
“In both the senior and apprentice ranks, it is a very healthy situation – the more competition the better,” he said.
“The riding ranks have never been stronger.”
It’s a statement backed up by Cassidy who knows he has to keep on his toes if he’s to remain in the top few riders in Sydney, let alone be number one.
“When I first came here, there was Mick Dittman, Larry Olsen, John Marshall, Ron Quinton, Peter Cook, Peter Cuddihy, Kevin Langby, Miracle Mal (Johnston) … I was blessed to be able to ride against those jockeys,” Cassidy said.
“But there is great depth with the boys riding at the moment like Brownie, Nash, Hughie, Schoey, Blake coming back, Macca will win a premiership soon rather than later.
“The fields aren’t that big in Sydney so there’s lots of talented jockeys vying for the good rides and the competition keeps everyone on their toes.”
Murrihy points out that were it not for a couple of key defections interstate, the Sydney jockey ranks would be bursting at the seams.
“We have had some very good riders here in recent years who have gone to ply their trade elsewhere to get rides,” he said.
“Glen Boss, Chris Munce and Larry Cassidy are very, very good riders and they complement any ranks, but they made a decision to move interstate and for each of them it was the right decision.
“It just shows the competitiveness of the Sydney ranks at the moment.”
With so much competition both on and off the track it’s expected tensions could be a little more on edge in 2012 than in previous years.
That said Murrihy expects no drop in the standard of behaviour that has been so commendable over the years.
“I’m sure there is a certain level of ego among the jockeys but by and large they are exceptional riders and they don’t take unnecessary risks,” he said.
“Falls in Sydney racing are, touch wood, a rarity. They occur mainly because of a gear failure, or a horse breaking down rather than rider error.
“From the stewards’ point of view, the more competitive and broader the riding group the better it is for the presentation of racing.”
Schofield currently leads the premiership with 26 winners only just ahead of Brown and Bowman on 25 a piece.
Showing just how tight things are McEvoy is on 24, Reith and Cassidy on 23 and Rawiller is on 22 despite having had considerably fewer rides than those above him.