If you needed any proof that Joe Bowditch is riding at the peak of his powers, you only had to be at Ascot on December 2 or watching the Perth races from anywhere around Australia.
Bowditch was aboard outstanding Adelaide mare Viddora in the Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes and, by the time they turned for home, she had gone from second favourite to near certainty. He'd given the five-year-old the run of the race a few back on the rails before edging her way into the clear poised to strike with 300m to go.
The win was special for Bowditch for a number of reasons - not the least that he helped young Morphettville trainer Lloyd Kennewell land his first Group 1 win. Bowditch is developing something of a habit of giving trainers their first Group 1 wins. He did the same favour for Mark Kavanagh back in 2004, when he rode Hard To Get to victory in the South Australian Derby. He's confident there are more wins at the elite level for Lloyd Kennewell and, for the next decade or so, he'll probably be the jockey riding them. If Viddora adds to her Group 1 tally, you can be sure he will.
The Ascot win was just reward for Bowditch and Kennewell after Viddora had been very close up twice previously this season at Group 1 level - second in the Moir Stakes and then a desperately unlucky fourth in the Manikato. In both cases, the jockey gave the horse every chance but track conditions or traffic conspired against them.
"We always knew she was very good," Bowditch says. "She was unlucky in the UBET Classic (at Morphettville in May) and she was unlucky in those couple of Group 1 sprints in Melbourne. She just got held up at the wrong time, then we tracked Vega Magic in the Manikato and it was the worst run of his career and we got caught behind him.
"But they were great runs and they earned connections good money and then we got our Group 1 at Ascot. It's hard to line up the Perth horses but they have some very good ones. Still, I looked at (favourite) State Solicitor's latest win and didn't think he had the turn of foot that she has. So we went in very confident and as soon as she got fresh air coming to the straight at Ascot, I thought it was game over.
"Winning a Group 1 was great but it meant even more to me because of who I won it for. Lloyd (Kennewell) is one of my best mates and my wife Jennifer has a share in the horse. It took us a few days to come back to earth."
Just as well Bowditch and Kennewell are great mates because the jockey was not that keen on Jennifer being a shareholder in Viddora when he first saw the filly.
"Lloyd was trying to get a girls' syndicate going for Viddora but he couldn't get enough numbers and ended up putting Jennifer into the horse," he recalls. "I was a little dirty on him at the start for giving her a share because Viddora didn't look much at the start. She was a pretty plain little thing. But he said don't worry she'll be alright. So obviously he saw something in her that I didn't see and now she's so strong she looks like a stallion."
One suspects Bowditch has a lot of confidence in Kennewell's judgment. He has ridden for both Lloyd and father Gary, who is still a force in the training ranks, since he returned to Adelaide from Brisbane five years ago. He had finished fourth and fifth on the Brisbane jockeys' premiership riding for the likes of Brian Guy and Robert Heathcote, but injury eventually stifled his time in Queensland and brought him home to rediscover his best form.
It was the best move he could have made, and he developed a strong working relationship with Team Kennewell to help establish one of the state's most formidable trainer-rider combinations. He currently sits high up on the State and Metropolitan jockeys' premierships but he can't tell you his exact position or the number of winners this season.
"To be perfectly honest, I'm not that worried about winning jockeys' premierships," he says. "They're just numbers. You can't eat premierships and I've done pretty well recently winning races at home and going interstate when I need to. Recently, I've had a week in Perth and a trip to Ballarat for a winning double and we've got the Gold Coast Magic Millions coming up with some serious chances. That keeps me busy and, as long as I'm riding winners, I'm happy."