Hellfest a nose! Jye McNeil drives the Godolphin filly to victory last Friday night

McNeil amplifies star claims with another feature race success

By Ben Caluzzi

Has there been a better ambassador for racing in recent times than Victoria’s leading jockey Jye McNeil? Coincidently, the 27-year-old currently holds poll position in the Catanach’s Jockey Premiership at The Valley by an unassailable 27-point margin. He also heads the Victorian Metro Jockey Premiership by an impressive 12 wins, with undoubtedly the greatest jockey of all time Damien Oliver in second position and 2019 Ladbrokes Cox Plate winning jockey Damian Lane in third.

But talent and success are just the start of Jye McNeil’s rise to stardom over the past few years. After winning the 2020 Melbourne Cup with a masterful front-running on Twilight Payment, McNeil has quickly turned into the bannerman for Victorian racing – and for good reason. Well presented, well spoken, and only recently wedded with a young family, it is hardly surprising that the likeable countryman is a highly sought-after commodity in racing media each week.

In fact, McNeil has become a household name for those who enjoy racing even in the slightest, and his expertise was to the fore again last Friday night when he was able to win the Group 3 Spendthrift Australia Typhoon Tracy Stakes here at The Valley.

Settling fourth perched one horse-width off the fence, McNeil produced the perfect steer to claim victory aboard $21 chance Hellfest. Seemingly under heavy pressure early in the straight, the Godolphin filly picked up the bit strongly in the final 100m to nail Adelaide visitor Champagne Dreams in a thrilling last gasp effort, with the race favourite Scorched Earth back in third.

Whilst appearing like they had just missed in live time; the photo finish revealed a different story with McNeil thrusting the daughter of Fastnet Rock over the line to win by a nose. The Group 3 triumph was a first for racing giant Godolphin who had yet to win the Typhoon Tracy Stakes, and Victorian senior foreman Sean Keogh was full of praise for both horse and jockey post-race.

“Super win. The guys have had great success purchasing horses from the Magic Millions over the last couple of years,” Keogh in his interview on racing.com.

“Just an unbelievable ride from Jye McNeil as well tonight.

“In the run I though Jye got her into a super sweet spot. Even early in the race he didn’t get himself down to the rail too early and made the horse’s work just enough for him.

“That probably told late in the race. They (Champagne Drams and Scorched Earth) were peaking on their runs, and she was still finishing off very strongly. So (we’re) delighted.”

Jye McNeil wasn’t the only McNeil to have a night out either. Only the race prior his brother Logan, currently a 3-kilogram claiming apprentice was able to secure his first metropolitan double, riding Midwest to victory in race 4 and Nerve Not Verve in race 6. The latter performance also earnt him the Drummond Golf Ride of the Night honours, leading all the way on the Mike Moroney trained mare who was coming off a seven-length defeat here last start.

“I didn’t want him to show me up too much Richo,” Jye McNeil jokingly told Jason Richardson after winning the feature race.

“He’s going alright. He’s come off the back of a suspension so it’s important to get your name back up there in the winner’s list and he’s done that in great fashion tonight.”

The McNeil brothers add to long list of famous riding siblings over the years. None more so than Brad and Nash Rawiller, but others that come to mind in recent memory include Regan and Jake Bayliss, Andrew and Katelyn Mallyon and Jim and Larry Cassidy.

If they continue in their current ways – they could be as good as anyone in the years to come.