The road to the top can come via many different pathways.
Clayton Douglas would be the first to admit that he has a long way to go to reach the top: the 23-year-old is in 20th spot on the Victorian jockeys premiership in the early months of the season with 12 winners from 149 rides.
But he is at least on the pathway – something that would not have seemed possible a few years ago when the young jockey, who did not even try to serve a traditional apprenticeship because of his size – was riding as an amateur on the picnic racing circuit.
And, while Douglas has already landed one of the biggest prizes in the jump racing sphere – triumphing in the Grand Annual aboard Gold Medals at Warrnambool earlier this year – he is keen to try to make his mark on the flat now he has his weight under control.
Former jumps jockey Clayton Douglas is savouring his early success on the flat. Credit:Morgan Hancock
The Mornington-based jockey will take his first classic ride on Saturday when he partners Tahitian Dancer in the $500,000 Thousand Guineas at Caulfield for trainer Shane Nichols, for whom he works when not race riding.
Douglas' mount might be a long shot but her starting price of $71 (after touching $101 in earlier betting) didn't prevent her from running a terrific third in the Thousand Guineas Prelude at Caulfield at her last start with Douglas in the saddle.
If she can better that effort at the weekend it would be a remarkable turn of events for the rider, whose father, Vic, won three Grand Annuals as a trainer and whose uncle, Rod (Rocket) Douglas is racing manager for Jonathan Munz.
''I am really looking forward to it and delighted to get the chance. She ran well the last time (behind Mystic Journey and Spanish Whisper) and won at The Valley in the winter. She is only lightly raced so hopefully is improving,'' Douglas said.
It's been an unorthodox route for the jockey who, instead of a traditional apprenticeship, starting at the picnic races with amateurs..
''It was when I was 14 , my weight was starting to go up and I thought I would go to the picnics and see where we go from there,'' he said.
''It obviously teaches you a lot on different horses and very different tracks.
''I went through the the transition to be an amateur, then I got to the position where my weight started to stabilise and I started riding over the jumps. I rode over jumps for three seasons and now I do both.''
He will ride at 55.5 kilos on Saturday.
Nichols, who will also saddle top class mare I Am A Star (with Dwayne Dunn on board) in the Toorak Handicap, has no qualms about putting Douglas up in such a big race.
''He is a good lad and he rides well and he won't be overawed by the occasion,'' says the Mornington handler.
And he believes his prized I Am A Star can go well in The Toorak despite drawing barrier 15 of 16.
Dunn has taken the ride at 52.5 kilos, which would be very much at the limit of his weight scale, and Nichols is delighted to have such an experienced big-race rider on his side in such a tricky handicap.
''I would rather have seen her draw four than 15 but that means we will probably have to take a sit on her,'' he said.
''I think she's come on well since the last win (in the Stocks Stakes at The Valley on grand final eve) and we don't have to go forward on her. She does in mares races because she can control them.''
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