Winks makes most of O'Brien link

Grouse is how James Winks described his season and it's easy to understand why he is so upbeat.

Princess Zanzibar's success in the Puramaka Handicap at yesterday's VRC meeting at Bendigo provided Winks with his 31st city winner this season, a career-high.

Princess Zanzibar is trained by Danny O'Brien, who has lifted Winks from the periphery to become a Group 1 jockey.

O'Brien was prepared to give Winks a go when he returned from an overseas stint and it was just the opportunity the hoop needed. Winks teamed with the Flemington-based trainer to win his first Group 1 on Absolut Glam in the Winter Stakes last month.

He has also won three Group 2 races, including the Salinger Stakes on Swick, this season. "I rode in a Melbourne Cup and ran second (Douro Valley) in the Caulfield Cup," Winks said.

Just the experience of riding in those races takes the pressure off when they next come around.

"It's been a grouse season. I think after Hayes and Williams and Moody and Nolen, Danny and I have the third-best trainer-jockey winning rate."

He said O'Brien's depth had never been as good, which augured well for the spring.

"If they all hold up, the sky is the limit," Winks said.

Yesterday's win took O'Brien a step closer to cracking 50 Victorian metropolitan winners for the season with the stable sitting on 48 with just a week to go.

O'Brien will be hoping to add to his tally with Code Black and Sparkling Satine racing at Moonee Valley on Saturday and promising hurdler Thisonesonme and impressive last start winner Makeadreamcometrue are expected to line-up at Sandown for the final metro meeting of the season next Wednesday.

By Adrian Dunn.

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Photo by Bruno Cannatelli.

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