Rising Stars Series set for thrilling finale at Flemington

Hannah Edgley is firmly in contention to become the first female rider to win the RMBL Investments Rising Stars Series, but it is Matt Cartwright who holds a slender lead over his nearest rivals heading into the final of the apprentice-only series at Flemington this Saturday (16 July).

After 23 fiercely-contested heats held across Victoria, just nine points currently separates the top three on the leaderboard, with Cartwright leading the way on 62 points ahead of the in-form Edgley on 58 and Laura Lafferty on 53.

With 12 points awarded to the winner of Saturday’s $75,000 Rising Stars Final (1600m) and six points available for second, a top two finish for Edgley could see the 21-year-old usurp long-time leader Cartwright, who has registered four wins in the 2021-22 series so far.

Challenging for a late swoop in third place on the leaderboard is Laura Lafferty, who with 53 points requires an outright win and for rival Cartwright to finish lower than third place in order to secure victory in the series. Lafferty will ride the Henry Dwyer-trained mare Moscow Red in the final.

Both Cartwright and Edgley will ride last-start winners in the finale, which is due off at 1.10pm. Intriguingly the pair have been drawn alongside one another, with Cartwright set to jump from barrier three on Angelic Scent (trained by Matt Laurie) whilst Edgley and her mount, the Luke Oliver-trained Spanish Tides, have been assigned gate four. 

Of the pair, it is Edgley who heads into Saturday’s Benchmark 70 for Fillies and Mares with the better recent strike rate, having ridden no fewer than four winners from her last six starts. Of that quartet of wins, perhaps the most crucial came at Cranbourne last week when she piloted Spanish Tides to victory in the final regular heat of the Rising Stars Series.

It marked a third win in this year’s series and a 50th overall for the Wangaratta resident, whose infectious smile has made her one of the most popular members of Victoria’s highly-competitive riding ranks.

“It’s a big step up in class for Spanish Tides, but she’s a mare in form so hopefully we can come out with the same result on Saturday,” said Edgley.

“After I got a couple of Rising Stars wins on the board earlier in the season my manager and I really started to focus on winning the series, and it’s really exciting to be in with a good chance heading into the final.  

“My confidence is up at the moment after some good results lately, and I think horses can pick up on that so hopefully the run can continue. I’m sure I’ll be keeping half an eye on Matt’s horse during the race, but I’ve got to focus on my job and with a bit of luck in the run, we might be able to come out on top on Saturday.”

Cartwright, who currently sits second behind Josh Richards in the apprentice jockeys’ metropolitan premiership after a breakthrough season, is confident of sealing the Rising Stars title to follow in the footsteps of Jye McNeil, a two-time winner of the series during his apprenticeship.

Cartwright has never ridden Angelic Scent before but was very taken by her first-up win at Geelong at the start of the month, when she powered home under another dual winner of the Rising Stars Series, Ethan Brown.

“She was very impressive that day so hopefully she can turn up in the same sort of form and help me win the final,” said Cartwright.

“My main goal at the start of the season was to win the apprentice’s metro title, if I have a good day on Saturday that’s still possible but if not, the Rising Stars would be a huge consolation prize.

“It’s been a really competitive series this year, there’s definitely been a healthy rivalry between the apprentices all season and it would be a privilege to come out on top.”   

Points in each leg of the Rising Stars Series are awarded down to fifth place, with the winner receiving 12, six points collected for second, four for third, two for fourth and one point for the fifth finisher. The overall winner of the series will receive a $4,000 retail voucher and the Rising Stars trophy, with a $2,000 voucher awarded to the runner-up and third place collecting a $1,000 voucher.