James McDonald, who continues to strip fitter with each meeting after a long and well-deserved spell, has plenty of goals he wants to work through this season.
The easy one is to “ride as many winners as possible”, which McDonald should do a few times on Saturday at Rosehill given he is on six early favourites.
One of those rides is Tiz Invincible in the $200,000 feature Rosebud (1100m).
But the big one on McDonald’s to-do list is winning the one major that has eluded him – the Caulfield Cup – and the scheduling finally allows him to return south for a shot at the time-honoured race.
When you ask the man who has basically ticked every box there is to tick in racing what the next challenge is, McDonald says: “This year we get a chance to compete in the Caulfield Cup, and that’s the only major I haven’t won. I’d love to get a really good ride and give that race a crack.
“It’s every jockey’s dream to be a part of that club.
“The Everest has clashed on the same day the past few years. But that race I’ll be keeping an eye on – that’s the race I need to complete the grand slam.”
McDonald went close to winning the Caulfield Cup in 2014 when second on Rising Romance behind Admire Rakti, the Japanese stayer that died in the Melbourne Cup a couple of weeks later.
The champion jockey’s wins in the other three legs of the slam are: last year’s Cox Plate on Anamoe; the 2021 Melbourne Cup triumph on Verry Elleegant; and the 2014 Golden Slipper on Mossfun.
There is also his win in the unofficial fifth major, the 2021 The Everest on Nature Strip.
Before McDonald heads west to Rosehill for the second Saturday meeting of the new season, his two best horses will be waiting for him at the the trials this morning at the same track.
Team Waller’s Golden Slipper winner Shinzo and nine-year-old stablemate Nature Strip step out for the first time.
“They haven’t taken a backward step, put it that way,” McDonald said. “Shinzo is a beautiful colt. I’m thrilled with him. He’s far from being [too colty].”
Tiz Invincible resumes for Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, and could not have been more impressive in her last trial with McDonald in the saddle.
“She’s a very smart filly and unlucky not to have broken her maiden status already,” McDonald said. “She’s come back in really good order.
″She’ll look a bit hairy in the parade and will improve with the run, but she’s just a classy, classy filly. The improvement from her first trial to the second was significant, and she will improve again. She’ll run well on Saturday.
“She does have to carry a [weight] penalty, which is a shame, and she meets a couple of horses who have had a run under the belt. Cigar Flick won when resuming and is a stakes performer but has drawn awkwardly. My horse definitely deserves to be around the mark [in the betting]. She’ll be hard to beat.”
McDonald also had plenty of time for Pericles, the Godolphin gelding that won a trial impressively and will measure up in a few of the spring features up to2000m. “He’s returned in good order. He’s had two nice trials to prepare and will be trained as a miler – this is a good stepping stone,” he said.
McDonald liked Garza Blanca in the last and Extremely Lucky, anew addition to the Chris Waller yard that last ran in group1 company.
“Extremely Lucky goes extremely well, he’s trialled well; it was your typical Chris-like trial where they get back and hit the line nicely,” McDonald said.
“Chris has given the horse a bit of confidence; he’s taken his time with him, and hopefully we see him run well on Saturday.”
McDonald rode at the Royal Ascot meeting in his time off from the Australian scene. He also spent a month holidaying in Europe, including the Greek Islands.
Pride happy to weather Storm
Joe Pride, a passionate South Sydney supporter who happens to be a very good horse trainer, says he has no issues with his best chance on Saturday, Anagain, being part-owned by the father of a Melbourne Storm player.
Gino Loiero, the father of Storm back-rower Trent Loiero, races the ultra-reliable mare shooting for her second straight win at Rosehill.
Pride said he had known Loiero for 25 years, and was happy to turn a blind eye to his adopted NRL side.
“To be fair, Gino is actually a Bunny, I don’t mind the fact his boy plays with the Storm – but if Trent played for the Roosters, it would be a different story,” Pride quipped (we think).
“Anagain has been really honest and consistent, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she puts two together on Saturday.
“She’s always thereabouts. She’s a tough mare, she’s already group placed, so she’s got her value, but if she wins this, I’d take her to the Mona Lisa Stakes and then the Tibbie Stakes.
Jay Ford rides Anagain who has the one win and four placings from seven runs this prosperous preparation.
Pride said the stable had taken a few days to get over the heartbreak of seeing Big Parade break down mid-race at Rosehill last Saturday.
Pride said there would be no emotional scars for him returning to the same track so quickly, and the loss of Big Parade reminded him and his staff of how you can never take things for granted in this game.
“We all work around the clock to make these horses’ lives as good as we possibly can, and to see that happen is absolutely gut-wrenching,” Pride said.
“The worst thing about race-day fatalities are the emotions are already so high for everyone. When you’re already super-charged emotionally, then that happens, it’s awful. You never forget those moments, and with all these good sprinters coming back to racing, what it does do is put things into perspective.”
Lightly raced mare Cinderella Days kicks off in the Toy Show Quality on Saturday week.
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