It didn’t take long for Billy Owen to become attached to pint-sized Single Gaze after the filly walked into the stables of Canberra trainer Nick Olive.
It has been a great ride already for all those connected to Single Gaze and another chapter will be written on Saturday when last year’s Group One Vinery Stud Stakes winner runs in the $3 million Caulfield Cup.
A former apprentice jockey to Olive, 25-year-old Owen is now the trainer’s foreman and Single Gaze’s regular trackwork rider and strapper.
Owen still rides in picnic races when travelling commitments with Single Gaze allow.
“Pretty much since day dot, the time she’s been in the stable or been away travelling I’ve been with her,” Owen said.
“That came about I guess through the Gundagai boys being the main shareholders and I’m a big fan of (sire) Not A Single Doubt, so when she first came in it wasn’t long and I’d claimed her as one of my own.
“She’s very special.
“A lot of people don’t realise that horses are personalities. We definitely have a connection and she does us proud every run, just the way she puts in.
“We know we’re going to get 100 per cent from her.”
One of Single Gaze’s shareholders Marty Hay, who, like Owen is from Gundagai, and is in Melbourne for Saturday’s race, played a role in Owen’s decision to become an apprentice to Olive as a teenager.
The 2011 Queanbeyan Cup on Voice Commander for Olive was his biggest win as a rider.
“I did three years with Nick as an apprentice and then I had a couple of bad injuries and the weight eventually got the better of me,” Owen said.
Although he no longer rides at TAB meetings, Owen still enjoys success on the picnic circuit.
“It definitely keeps my craving for being a jockey under control, and it’s so much fun riding at the picnics,” he says.
“It’s something I miss when I have to travel away with Single Gaze. But I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Olive and Owen say Single Gaze is spot-on for Saturday and hope she can cause an upset.
Single Gaze will be ridden by Kathy O’Hara who also shares a special bond with the mare and rode her to her Group One win.
“We’ve tasted Group One glory with her before and it was all quite raw with us because we’d never done it before,” Owen said.
“But a Caulfield Cup, on the biggest stage, and probably most of Australia watching, it would be pretty special.”