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By Matthew McGillivray with Graham Potter | Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Matthew McGillivray joined the Group 1 winning rider’s club when he piloted the Gary Newham trained, $21 chance Winning Ways to victory in the Queensland Oaks at Doomben on Saturday. It had been a rough and somewhat lonely week for McGillivray leading up to race-day and little did he know at that time that confirmation of his arrival in the big league was just a matter of hours away. Here, McGillivray talks to HRO’s Graham Potter about the week, the race and what it feels like saluting at the elite level

"Saturday was only my third ride in a Group 1 and I didn’t have the best of week’s health-wise leading into it.

"I was sick for the last four days before race-day. I don’t know how I had the energy to give that shout after the race. That shows just how much adrenaline was pumping.

"I thought she was a good chance, Obviously, a Group 1 is always a tough race. They ride a lot more competitive in a Group 1. I didn’t really get an inch until about the 800m. I was held quite tight there inside of Etana. I didn’t have room to move at all.

"Once Etana sort of dropped off at the 700m I thought, geez here’s my chance. So, I shoved her up and I just went for home.

"She hit the line really well. I still reckon when she got to the front … and she got to the front too early … she just half floated a little bit. I was roaring at her and I threw everything I could at her to try and get her to the line first.

"I had to go. I couldn’t wait and maybe find more traffic problems. I’m glad I watched the replay of the previous start and learnt from my mistake. That’s one thing I’m proud of myself for doing.

"I didn’t have any definite instructions. She is a very versatile horse. She can go forward … go back. We thought we’d take bad luck out of the equation and try to make our own luck so we went forward because we didn’t think there was much speed in the race and, even so, they did steady up mid-race.

"She is very tractable. She comes back to me quite easily. She can go from twelve to the furlong back to fifteens in a heartbeat.

"I did say I thought she had a good chance but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t a bit stunned when I crossed the line. I was a little bit stunned at winning my first Group 1.

"I didn’t know what to do. Then I let out this scream … but that was well after past the post as things started to sink in.

"It hadn’t been a good four days beforehand. The doctor threw everything at me actually. I had the flu, body-aches and a cough.

"Also, my wife and son were away on holiday for the week and I didn’t even get the chance to see them on race-day morning either, but to see them rock up at the races in time to see me ride in the Group 1 just sort of livened me up a bit.

"That sure gave me a bit of a boost and then, after the Oaks, the turnaround in how I was feeling was complete because, here I was, a Group 1 winner.

"It was all just such a lift. I don’t think there is a better feeling for a jockey … and, boy, did I suddenly feel better.

"I have to say I’m very appreciative of people who have supported me, not just now, but throughout my career.

"People who have pushed me along. People who, when I have struggled, were there for me … they have all played their part in me being able to achieve this Group 1 goal.

"I hope there is more to come."

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Photos: Ross Stevenson and Darren Winningham
Photos: Ross Stevenson and Darren Winningham
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