Harry Coffey winning the Schweppes Oaks on Sopressa (Image: Atkins Photography)
It is usually Harry Coffey's medical condition that limits his race-day opportunities but the young rider is set to make the most of an illness to friend and colleague Ben Allen when he takes possibly his strongest-ever book of rides into Saturday's meeting at The Valley.
Coffey, 22, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, has five rides at the feature meeting, highlighted by the ride on unbeaten Atlantic Jewel Stakes fancy Anjana and on his Group 1 Schweppes Oaks winner of last autumn in Sopressa.
With Anjana, who is unbeaten in three starts, Coffey takes over from Allen - who is on the sidelines with glandular fever - and Damian Lane, who is currently suspended.
"Ben's just taking it slowly in his recovery so it's a good chance for me but it's a pity about the barrier (13)," Coffey said on Friday.
"She's a very smart filly who I've ridden in work a few times and she's given me a great feel. It's a step-up for sure on Saturday but as long as we can have some luck from the barrier, I'm sure she'll run well."
Allen's illness has also handed Coffey the Dato' Tan Chin Nam Stakes ride aboard the internationally-performed stayer Red Cardinal, who will start the outsider of the field in the Group 2 race but is worth keeping an eye on according to Coffey.
"He lacked match practice first-up (when 16th in the Lawrence Stakes) and he'll probably need this run as well given all his form overseas was at a mile-and-a-half (2400m)," Coffey said.
"But he's a smart stayer just getting his eye back in so I'd expect him to be hitting the line and then improving on that into his next run.
"He was the favourite for the Melbourne Cup 12 months ago so he's a good horse."
Sopressa hit the line hard first-up over 1500m at The Valley last month and Coffey said he expected more of the same when she runs in the final race on the card over a mile.
"We had to ride her back from a bad barrier first-up and it was an on-pacers' track but she really finished it off well. She felt great underneath me and she seems a bit more switched on this time around.
"Last time, she won her maiden at 1850 metres at Kyneton and usually those sort of maiden winners are pretty one-paced but she's much sharper."
Coffey warned that while a Caulfield Cup might be the ultimate aim for the campaign, her preparation will be taken one run at a time.
"She came a long way in a short space of time in the autumn from her maiden win to a Group 1 win so whether that impacts how far she goes this spring, we'll wait and see," he said.
Along with the mount on Ozi Choice in the Bendigo Bank Stakes, Coffey also rides Last Week in the opening event and he said the imported galloper was worth following this spring in lesser staying races.
As for Allen, his sister Mandy said the young rider was taking his recovery slowly since discovering his mystery illness was indeed glandular fever.
"Dr (Gary) Zimmerman was still a bit concerned about his spleen but he's had more blood tests and an ultrasound on Friday and we'll get those results on Monday," she said on Friday.
"But hopefully everything will come back okay and he'll be able to resume trackwork in the next couple of weeks and start getting his fitness back."