It was only six weeks ago when Luke Nolen approached me in the Caulfield jockeys' room, placed a hand on my shoulder, and said: "I'm passing you the baton now. Welcome to my world."
The horse of the carnival was ready to rock and roll again and what a privilege it is to be aboard. She goes by the name of Atlantic Jewel and has already given me the ride of my life.
Nolen's words hit home hard, for he was the regular jockey on retired, unbeaten champion Black Caviar. Never one to seek the limelight, Nolen handled himself admirably during Black Caviar's golden run of 25 victories.
But he was a marked man as the legend surrounding the mighty mare grew. The pressure was always building, and when the day came for her to be retired, there was a touch of relief for Nolen in addition to sadness that she wouldn't race again.
While the Black Caviar legend continued to grow, Atlantic Jewel was spending time on the sidelines recovering from minor injury.
Don't get me wrong, Atlantic Jewel is no Black Caviar, but the aura surrounding her is growing, and she is a budding superstar who can again captivate racing audiences. So after Atlantic Jewel resumed from 16 months away from racing with a Memsie Stakes demolition, then backed it up with a Stocks Stakes romp against the mares at Moonee Valley, Nolen's words were on my mind.
No other horse I have ridden has given me the feel that she has, and I've been lucky enough to be on some very good ones when winning such races as the Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate, Australian Cup, Caulfield Guineas, Victoria Derby and VRC Oaks.
Atlantic Jewel's cruising speed is unbelievable, and to top it off she can quicken even more when asked. Put simply, she has gears.
Atlantic Jewel's record speaks for itself - 10 starts for nine wins and a gallant second. Make no mistake, she's the real deal.
Another group 1 beckons on Saturday in the Caulfield Stakes, and even though she had her colours lowered for the first time in the Underwood Stakes last time out, I'll be full of confidence.
She was up against a top quality group 1 Underwood field that included triple crown-winning stayer It's A Dundeel, a horse I rode into second place in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick in the autumn. With no pace in the race, Atlantic Jewel was left in front. A great tactical ride by James McDonald resulted in It's A Dundeel sitting up outside Atlantic Jewel. After a stirring battle in the straight, It's A Dundeel managed to grab Atlantic Jewel in the final few strides and record a narrow victory. There were no excuses from our camp. Atlantic Jewel's trainer Mark Kavanagh and the mare's owners were gracious in defeat. After all, it took a bloody good horse to beat her.
Sure, we would have liked to have won and kept it at a perfect 10, but on the flip side, the pressure was off. No more talk of being unbeaten. No more comparisons to Black Caviar. Now we can just continue on and enjoy the ride.
The Caulfield Stakes has only a small field of six runners, but it won't be a gimme for Atlantic Jewel. She won't be leading this time, she'll be stalking and, hopefully, pouncing in the straight.
The presence of Spacecraft ensures there is a noted leader, which is a help. Atlantic Jewel's stablemate Super Cool, on which I won an Australian Cup, is in the field, as is last year's Melbourne Cup winner Green Moon and Chris Waller's multiple group 1 winner Foreteller.
While it won't be a walk in the park, I have no doubt I am on the best horse in the race. If she can win then it will be full steam ahead to her grand final in a fortnight - the $3 million Cox Plate at Moonee Valley. That is the race Kav has set her for and he has maintained all preparation that she will be at her peak on that day.
The Melbourne Racing Club has a bumper 10-race card on Saturday and we have to wait until the final event for the Caulfield Guineas.
The Gerald Ryan-trained Charlie Boy is my ride and he is drawn to figure right in the thick of things. He won the Danehill Stakes up the Flemington straight when resuming and hit the line well for a fourth in the Guineas Prelude. Villa Verde awaits in the Blue Sapphire and her trainer, Shaun Dwyer, has her ticking over nicely. Villa Verde was a top-line two-year-old and she resumed with a strong second at Caulfield. She is good enough to win, we just need a bit of luck.