Trainer Michael Kent Jr has five chances to win his maiden Group 1 on Saturday after starting as a picnic jockey

Michael Kent Junior is leaving no stone unturned in his bid to win his first Group 1 on Saturday – much like he used to when he cheekily got the march on rival jockeys at the Yea picnic races.

Like father, like son and Kent Jr, the son of multiple Group 1 winning trainer Michael Kent, is striving to be a perfectionist in his training partnership with Mick Price.

The pair have five chances to win a Group 1 across the two divisions of the Guineas at Caulfield on Saturday, with their best prospects Cambourne in the Caulfield Guineas and Odeum in the Thousand Guineas.

A strong work ethic, inherited from his Dad, has been one of the hallmarks of Kent Jr’s training since the training partnership with Price was launched in March last year.

That shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone who saw him ride on the Victorian picnic racing circuit as a youngster.

“I was always on the heels of my dad who was very big on walking tracks – but at the picnics, rarely do any of the jockeys jump out and walk the track,” Kent Jr recalls.

“I always used to do it and it really paid off in spades at a track called Yea.

“They have got a country golf course on the inside of the racetrack and the sprinklers were generally on and the water would squirt out over the inside four lanes of the racetrack.

“It was always a heavy eight on the inside and the outside of the track was a fast lane.

“It used to amaze me how no-one would really pick it up.

“The straight had a downhill run of about 400m so my best plan was always to take off at the 300m and get to the outside fence and go for home.

“I was riding these very slow picnic horses but they were running home for me in these blistering sectionals.

“I think I had 13 rides there for seven wins.

“I was only an average rider but understanding some basic racing principles helped me out.

“I’m very much cut from the same cloth as my Dad – he was always my biggest mentor and always drove me, nothing was ever good enough, I had to keep learning.

“I am so thankful that Dad really pushed me.

“He actually wanted me to be a vet – I often joke it was because he wanted free vet services.

“But I had no passion to go and do a vet degree, I always wanted to be a horse trainer – once you have that bug you can’t get it out of you. It’s all I wanted to do.”

Mick Kent Jr walking the track at the picnics one day with his grandfather Bobby Scarlett who was a former leading apprentice and also a trainer.Source:Supplied

Kent Jr also recalls fondly the day he rode at the Tambo Valley races, on an Easter weekend, where the hoops used a 1960s caravan for a jockeys’ room and he came away with three wins from three rides.

Mick Kent Jr pictured after winning the Yea Cup.Source:Supplied

The picnic racing grounding and working at his father’s stables saw his love of racing flourish – then spending a stint in Britain where he worked for the likes of William Haggas and also as assistant to bloodstock agent Dermot Farrington.

Michael Kent Jr is a chip off the old block, trainer Michael Kent (pictured). Pic: AAP.Source:AAP

Kent Jr was riding trackwork for his father and doing bloodstock work when 35-time Group I winning trainer Price came calling last year.

In some respects the vastly experienced Price and Kent Jr, who turns 30 on Monday, are the Odd Couple training partnership.

But they work in perfect harmony because both are straight shooters.

“I think it’s a great dynamic – the old and the young and Mick is the easiest man in the world to work with because he’s so direct and you don’t have to second guess what he is thinking,” Kent Jr says.

“He is so honest and transparent.

“That’s important because if we talk to the same clients about a horse, it’s no good if they are getting different messages.

“The dynamic also works because Mick is the master and I am the apprentice.”

So what of the training team’s Guineas prospects?

They think Cambourne – an exciting colt who produced a flashing lights run storming home into fourth in the Caulfield Guineas Prelude – has an exciting future.

But Kent Jr feels the boys division of the Guineas is arguably the strongest in the last five years.

It’s for that reason he cites up and coming filly Odeum as his best chance of clinching a maiden Group 1 in the Thousand Guineas at Caulfield on Saturday.

“Odeum might be the best chance – she is really ready to peak, her coat wasn’t quite through last start when she won with a leg in the air,” Kent Jr says.

“But now it has really come through and her dapples are out in her hind quarters.

“She has been a slow learner, she was quite clueless to start with but it’s been amazing the transformation in her in the last four or five weeks.”

Kerrin McEvoy with Michael Kent Jr. Pic: Michael KleinSource:News Corp Australia

Regardless of how he fares in the hunt for his first Group 1 on Saturday, one of the biggest thrills of Kent’s life is just around the corner.

Oceanex is qualified for the Melbourne Cup and having a runner in the great race is the stuff of boyhood dreams for the young trainer.

Mick Kent Jr riding one in his Dad’s colours.Source:Supplied

Originally published asFrom pinching them at the picnics to Group 1 glory?

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