Julian Kokotajlo is hoping Friaresque can help shrug off a difficult and emotional week with victory in the $100,000 Coolgardie Cup (1760m) at Kalgoorlie on Sunday.
The French-born jockey is still coming to terms with his role as the central player in last Saturday’s extraordinary protest at Belmont Park following the Idyllic Prince Stakes (1300m).
The $100,000 Listed race was won by Rebel King, ridden by Mitchell Pateman, who got the better of William Pike’s mount Man Booker in a tight finish.
But in a post-race sensation Pike fired in a protest claiming Rebel King had gained an unfair advantage from stable mate By Decree, who faded to fourth after leading for Kokotajlo.
Pike argued that the French-born Kokotajlo shifted his mount outwards to allow Rebel King to gain a clear passage approaching the 250-metre mark.
Despite stewards dismissing Pike’s objection, Kokotajlo said he was bitterly disappointed by the incident and conceded it had taken a personal toll.
“I was really upset because it attacked my professionalism,” Kokotajlo said.
“I was trying my best and I was still upset a day after it happened.
“I didn’t think there needed to be a protest, it’s upsetting but I will get over it.
“I’m lucky to have been supported by very good friends and other trainers and jockeys.
“My manager Karlee (O’Heare) has been magnificent and my biggest supporter.
“She has helped me get better rides and we have big plans going forward.
“I’m just want to keep moving forward and upwards.
“It was upsetting, but I love this place and I’m not giving up.
“I want to improve as a rider and I’m looking ahead now.”
Kokotajlo can look forward to the Coolgardie Cup with confidence after a top start to the 2018-19 racing season.
The 32-year-old international has ridden seven winners, which is just under half his total tally from last season.
Kokotajlo said Friaresque had a good chance to win the Coolgardie Cup, but he was surprised the Vaughn Sigley-trained galloper was the current $4.20 favourite.
Since a Belmont victory a year ago, Friaresque has been placed in seven of his past 16 starts including a last-start third in the Peninsula Mile at Belmont.
In a bid to spark Friaresque into winning form, Sigley has elected to remove the blinkers and race the Blackfriars five-year-old in winkers.
“I’m really surprised he is favourite because there are a lot of good horses with good jockeys racing” Kokotajlo.
“He is a difficult horse to ride and is not easy to handle.
“He is a good horse with a lot of ability, but mentally is not as strong.
“I have to push him and convince him to be better.”