In a season of decisions today's was one of the toughest for jockey Sam Collett.

And the tempo of today's $225,000 Levin Classic at Trentham could dictate whether she has pulled the right rein.

New Zealand's smiliest jockey, that is not an official title but one Collett would be the warm pre-post favourite for, has chosen filly Travelling Light over Riodini in the group one 3-year-old mile today.

That will surprise a few punters because while Riodini was beaten by Dragon Leap in the Auckland Guineas last start that was his first defeat and had excuses, leading the field up to the tearaway pacemaker and being left a moving target for the winner.


Riodini is undoubtedly a class act. Which means Travelling Light must be something else.

Collett says her choice was based on what she expects to unfold today and in the months ahead.

"I think Travelling Light might be better suited to a tough mile on a testing track like Trentham," she explains.

"Riodini is very good and I was hoping they wouldn't meet this early, or ever for that matter, cause I would have loved to stay on them both.

"But I think Riodini might be more of a natural 1400m horse because he is so fast whereas the filly might be a better miler or further."

Today's group one looks to have two natural on-pacers in Our Creed and Callsign Mav so the mile should be a true test which might suit Travelling Light more because her connections believe she will handle even longer trips.

"That is another one of the reasons I chose her this week. She might take me further. She might race up to 2000m or even the Oaks, whereas Riodini may not have as many big races coming up."

As talented as that pair are, Harlech deserves his favouritism for today's group one after booming seconds in the 2000 Guineas (to Catalyst) and to Travelling Light at Ellerslie on Boxing Day.


He got well out of his ground in both and has been set for today, with its group one status potentially crucial to any future stallion career.

Travelling Light has beaten Harlech both times they have met although Collett is realistic about how that record came about.

"He is a good horse, Harlech, and you could maybe makes excuses for him both times she (Travelling Light) beat him but still, he is yet to beat her.

"So I'm excited to be riding her against the boys again."

Whether the $2.50 on offer for Harlech feels like value mid-race may depend on how handy rider Mick Dee can keep him. The ace is not an ideal barrier for him but if he gathers himself well enough early to trail and gets clear air in the straight it will take a special horse to fight him off.

There is, however, no shortage of quality horses in the races, even outside of Travelling Light and Riodini, the latter likely to be ridden with a sit today.

Mascarpone has been flashy in weaker fields and is all reach and raw potential while there are other swoopers in the field. So while it may only be a small Levin Classic it should still live up to its name.

Collett suggest punters warm up for the highlight of the day with an each-way bet on her mounts Opalescence, in the 2-year-old race, and even Waisake in race five.

"I really like the 2-year-old and she has the ace draw which will help.

"And Waisake won this same race last year."

While she is focused on the carnivals and the group race opportunities of summer, Collett also has a second national premiership on her radar, with the title increasingly looking a two-jockey battle between her and apprentice sensation Kozzi Asano who has 58 wins to Collett's 51.

"I'd love to win the premiership again, it was an amazing feeling," she told the Weekend Herald.

"But at the moment my main focus is on the carnivals and trying to ride some group race winner. I don't want to start chasing it too hard and travelling south for every meeting because that can tire you out for the premier days. So I want them to be the focus for now and then at some stage Stu (Laing, manager) and I need to decide when we really chase it and go to as many meetings as possible.

"But if I can stay close to Kozzi we are going to have a real go."

Smiling Sammy

Sam Collett. Photo / Race Images
Sam Collett. Photo / Race Images

Name: Samantha Collett

Age: 30

New Zealand wins: 764

Group and listed wins: 33

Premiership: Won in 2018 with 131 victories.

Career stakes in NZ: $13,172,244

Family connection: Dad, Jim Collett, former top jockey, now trainer; Mum, Trudy Thornton, jockey still riding with 1114 NZ career wins.