McEvoy’s a winner on and off the racetrack
DON'T tell Kerrin McEvoy he's something special. He won't have a bar of it.
"When you strip it back, I'm a person who can ride horses very well ... but that doesn't make me a better person. At the end of the day, I'm just a jockey," says McEvoy, who will shoot for his third Melbourne Cup triumph when he rides imported stayer Red Cardinal on Tuesday.
But speak to most involved in the thoroughbred industry and they'll tell you McEvoy is much more than just a jockey. He's a damn good one.
He's also widely respected and acknowledged for his work ethic, professionalism and humble approach to a career in which he's so richly skilled and has enjoyed remarkable success.
There's no cockiness, no sense of self-importance.
A great bloke as well as a great rider.
And the fresh-faced 37-year-old from Streaky Bay on the far west coast of South Australia has certainly achieved his fair share of turf greatness since he kicked off his riding career in 1997 as an apprentice jockey for his 'pop' Bill Holland.
As well as his dual Cup success - on Brew in 2000 then last year for Lloyd Williams on Almandin - McEvoy has an astonishing 64 Group 1 wins to his credit.
Just a few weeks ago he won the inaugural running of the world's richest turf race, the $10 million The Everest on gritty sprinter Redzel at Randwick, helping McEvoy's career prizemoney surge past $140m.
And earlier this year he was inducted into the prestigious SA Racing Hall Of Fame, alongside the likes of Bart Cummings, Colin Hayes, Pat Glennon and John Letts.
Not bad for just a jockey.
Along with big-name stars like Hugh Bowman and Damien Oliver, McEvoy is regarded among the top few jockeys in the nation - and many would suggest he deserves the No. 1 mantle on the back of a string of big-race successes in the past 12 months.
While Bowman has won rave reviews for his association with the champion mare Winx, McEvoy has earned his stripes on a range of horses and for a variety of trainers.
It's that versatility that has many experts, including two-time Cup-winning jockey Letts, heaping praise on the South Australian.
"It's a real credit to him that he's done so well as a freelance rider," Letts says.
"It's a whole lot easier if you're riding for a big stable like Chris Waller or Darren Weir, with hundreds of good horses and you get to pick the cream of the crop.
"Kerrin hasn't got that advantage but he's still doing it.
"He may not be the leading jockey in terms of wins but I think he's the best when it comes to the big races - and that's what makes him a champion."
McEvoy hails from a family rich in racing tradition and there was never any doubt he would try his hand as a jockey.
His father, Phillip, and his uncles, Tony and Peter, were jockeys. Phillip later trained
and was a part-owner of On A Jeune, who ran second in the 2005 Melbourne Cup behind Makybe Diva, while Tony is now one of Australia's most respected trainers.
"It was always my intention to be a jockey, for as long as I can remember," McEvoy says.
"I was growing up as the son of a jockey and having a couple of uncles as jockeys and my pop was a jockey then a trainer, so I was always around horses.
"I watched the races as a young boy and really enjoyed going to the races. I was always trying to nick a day off school to go to Port Lincoln or Port Augusta ... or even if pop took a few horses to Adelaide I'd try to go along for the ride. Even if it was a four or five-day trip away, I always wanted to be on board.
"I was taking trips away with pop, even when I was only five or six."
Right from those formative years, family has always played a huge part in McEvoy's blossoming career.
And he says it's those early days in Streaky Bay that has helped him stay grounded in a sport where the financial rewards are significant and many of the industry's top performers enjoy near-celebrity status.
"I think it throws back to your upbringing, where you come from and what your values are," he says.
"I'm very grateful for what racing has done for me ... but I do pride myself on not getting ahead of myself. I do like to go through life by always maintaining a high set of morals ... and that comes from my family."
McEvoy, who is now based in Sydney, tries to get back to Streaky Bay as often as possible and remains a proud South Australian, despite spending a large chunk of his adult life either interstate or overseas.
"I try to spend at least every second Christmas back at Streaky Bay," he says.
"I really enjoy getting back home. It's where I grew up ... and it was a fantastic upbringing. I had some wonderful times there as a youngster.
"I still definitely call it my home town."
McEvoy's family ties to the racing industry strengthened even further in 2008 when he married former jockey Cathy Payne, the sister of 2015 Melbourne Cup-winning hoop Michelle Payne.
The couple now has four children - Charlie, 8, Jake, 7, Rhys 4 and Eva-Mae, whose first birthday falls on Tuesday.
"Cathy has been amazing. I'm so lucky because she understands the rigours of race-riding from her days as a jockey. She does a fantastic job with the kids," he says.
"She couldn't make it to Flemington last year because she was so heavily pregnant with Eva.
"But she's bringing the whole family down this year, so that'll be great."
If Red Cardinal delivers Eva-Mae and McEvoy the ultimate birthday gift on Tuesday, the jockey will join Jim Johnson as the only South Australian jockey to win the Cup three times.
And McEvoy says the six-year-old import, trained by German horseman Andreas Wohler, who won the 2014 Cup with Protectionist, has given every indication he is capable of fighting out the finish of the two-mile test.
"I've ridden him in work a couple of times. He's a quality stayer and he's travelled out here well," he says.
"He's got a change of gears when the question's asked and that's what you need for a stayer in a Melbourne Cup. And he's trained by Andreas Wohler, who knows what's required as well.
"He's a nice big horse with a good temperament. He stays the trip well and he's shown that he can travel. He went to America and won. I think he's in the race with a good each-way chance."
Born: October 24, 1980
Group 1 wins: 64
Biggest wins: 2000 Melbourne Cup (Brew)
2016 Melbourne Cup (Almandin)
2008 Caulfield Cup (All The Good)
2011 Golden Slipper (Sepoy)
2017 The Everest (Redzel)