POPULAR Koroit jockey Declan Bates rates the Lindsey Smith-trained Sacred Palace in a $135,000 restricted race as his best hope of winning from two rides at Caulfield on Saturday.
Bates, 32, also has the mount on Aznavour for Ballarat trainer Archie Alexander in a $135,000 three-year-old race, on the tricky nine-event program.
The Irish-born hoop, who has ridden 68 winners this season, is looking to take his tally above 70 winners before the 2020-21 season ends on July 31.
"I rode 70 winners three years ago and that's the best I've done since we moved here from Ireland in September 2015," Bates told The Standard.
"The last couple of years I've had a few injuries with my kneecap and cheekbone but those injuries are behind me.
"I've been injury-free this year and I've been having a good run."
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Bates has high hopes for Sacred Place.
"I think Sacred Palace is my best chance on Saturday," he said.
"He was a strong winner last time at Bendigo but Aznavour is a rough place chance. I would love to ride more than 70 winners for the year.
Alexander, Smith, Horsham trainer Paul Preusker and Warrnambool's Daniel Bowman make sure the father-of-one is kept busy.
"I ride work for Lindsey and Daniel and other local trainers a few mornings a week while I also go to Horsham for Paul and to Ballarat for Archie," he said.
"I'm kept pretty busy but it's a great way to be. I've had a lot of support from trainers and owners since we moved here and I'm very grateful for the support and assistance.
"My wife Jennifer and I are expecting another child in September to join our daughter Molly. It's an exciting time for our family. We love living in Koroit. It really suits our lifestyle."
Warrnambool trainers Symon Wilde and Aaron Purcell join Smith with runners at Caulfield.
Wilde accepted with Inn Keeper and Ammoudi Bay while Purcell will saddle up his imported galloper Kings Full. Smith, also has La Vina, Continuance and Chantrea running at the meeting.
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