By Jon Lees
GB: Apprentice jockey Megan Nicholls will reach a new milestone this week when she is set to have her first ride in a Group race, aboard Rhythm Master.
In a huge vote of confidence from owner John Dance and trainer Richard Fahey, she will keep the mount on impressive debut winner Rhythm Master, whose next start will either be the G2 Gimcrack Stakes at York or the G1 Prix Morny at Deauville.
Nicholls, daughter of 11-time champion jumps trainer Paul Nicholls, has never ridden above Listed level on the Flat and is not going to give up the chance to ride Rhythm Master, even if she has to self-isolate should connections choose to go to France.
“Of course I am excited,” said Nicholls, 23. “Every morning I look forward to riding him out and looking forward to where we were going to send him next. No doubt there will be a streak of nerves, but that’s natural. I am hoping I can grab the opportunity with both hands and prove to everyone that John and Richard were right to let me have the chance.”
Rhythm Master, a 210,000gns son of Dark Angel, recorded a stylish four-and-a-quarter-length win at Haydock last month where he beat a field containing the Norfolk Stakes third Imperial Force.
“You couldn’t help but be impressed by his debut win,” said Nicholls. “The form of that race is strong, there have been winners come out of the race. It could be a lot to ask on only his second start but I think his mentality will help as much as his ability.
“These opportunities do not come around very often for anyone. I am still claiming and it’s huge thanks to Richard and John for sticking by me and letting me ride the horse in whichever race it may be.”
Dance, best-known as the owner of multiple G1 winner Laurens, said a final decision on the colt’s target will be made on Wednesday.
“Ideally we would have found something intermediate before stepping up to this level but there really wasn’t anything suitable,” he said. “Richard likes the horse and convinced me the Gimcrack or the Morny was the way to go.
“It’s a bit of a giveaway about how much we think of the horse and maybe for a second start it’s bonkers, but Richard ran Ribchester (who was second) in the Gimcrack on his second start.”
With Laurens’s jockey P J McDonald now riding freelance, 3lb claimer Nicholls has ridden the majority of Dance’s horses this year and retains the owner’s faith.
“Megan said she wasn’t going to give up the ride for anything,” Dance added. “We are not going to do a Tom Marquand/Frankie Dettori on her. She doesn’t have the experience of some of the older pros but she’s ridden him and knows him and I think that knowledge of the horse will more than offset any inexperience.
“He is a lovely horse and while we didn’t expect him to do what he did first time out, I think Richard did. Megan has been good for us this year and we felt it was right for her to have the ride.
A change to coronavirus travel advice which introduced a quarantine period for visitors returning from France led to Frankie Dettori having to miss York after riding in Deauville last weekend. Nicholls is prepared to do the same if she is sent to Normandy.
“Sometimes these things have got to be done,” she said. “You never know if you are going to get these opportunities again. I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t go. I have been in to ride the horse two or three times every week. I would hate to see someone else ride him just because of the quarantine.”