J-Mac: ‘Changing his name, won’t change Cup result’

SYDNEY’S leading rider James McDonald, who watched last year’s Melbourne Cup from the saddle of a bicycle rather than on horseback, maintains on exposed form this spring Yucatan Ire has the measure of his Melbourne Cup rivals.




“Any horse that has competed here in Australia this spring that is running in the Melbourne Cup I don’t think can beat him,’’ McDonald said.

“But there are three unknowns, Cross Counter, Magic Circle and Marmelo, to worry about.’’

You can also throw in Muntahaa from the international contingent who will go straight into the Melbourne Cup without a lead-up run.

Yucatan Ire, among a potential record number of northern hemisphere-trained stayers being set for the Melbourne Cup next Tuesday, at least has had a run in Melbourne this spring, scoring a commanding win in the Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield earlier this month.

James McDonald and Yucatan Ire run their rivals ragged in the Herbert Power Stakes.Source:Getty Images

The Aidan O’Brien-trained stayer raced under his original name of Yucatan at Caulfield but there is a three-year-old trained in South Australia with the same name and under the rules of racing, it required a change of name for the overseas raider.

But McDonald isn’t worried about the name change because he feels he is on the right horse.

“All I know is that the horse I rode at Caulfield was very good, he gave me a great feel and produced all the right attributes for a Melbourne Cup,’’ McDonald said.

“I was talking to Mick Kinane who has won a Melbourne Cup (1993 on Vintage Crop) and he said Yucatan does look the one to beat. He has a great turn of foot, stays well and he loves fast ground.

“We want a bit of luck in running, he is going to need that, but I do feel he is definitely the one to beat.’’

The second declarations for the Melbourne Cup were taken yesterday with 47 entries remaining in the big race including 15 northern hemisphere-trained stayers.

James McDonald has high hopes with Yucatan Ire in this year’s Melbourne Cup.Source:Getty Images

Yucatan Ire is a firm $4.50 TAB Fixed Odds favourite for Tuesday’s big race ahead of Cross Counter and Magic Circle at $11, with Muntahaa on the third line of betting at $13. Marmelo is at $17.

McDonald, a two-time Melbourne Cup placegetter on Fiorente (second, 2012) and Hartnell (third, 2016), missed the big race last year as he was serving a riding ban due to a betting-related offence.

When the big race was run last year, McDonald was doing a bike ride adjacent to the Flemington racetrack and stopped near the 1400m point of the course and watched the Cup field charge by.

“I was watching from over the fence on the (cycle) bridge last year,’’ McDonald revealed.

“It’s very enjoyable to be a part of Cup Week again. It’s a unique week, very hard physically and mentally — but I’d rather be riding than watching from that bridge.’’

The champion jockey’s redemption will be complete if he can win his first Melbourne Cup on Tuesday.

He also has an outstanding book of rides on Derby Day this Saturday including Group 1 mounts on Chapada in the $2 million Victoria Derby (2500m), Le Romain in the $1 million Kennedy Mile (1600m) and Shillelagh in the $500,000 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m).

Corey Brown, James McDonald and Darren Weir at the launch event of the 2018 Melbourne Cup Carnival. Picture: AAPSource:AAP


By Lauren Wood

TOP jockey James McDonald is yet to jump on board his Victoria Derby hopeful Chapada but has backed him to deliver in spades come Saturday.

The Michael Moroney-trained gelding is rated fourth-favourite at $9 to take out the $1.5 million Group 1 at Flemington — with Gai Waterhouse’s Thinkin Big favourite at $3 — and McDonald believes it is anyone’s to win.

“Anything can win these races,” he said.

“I think it is an open year and Gai’s is the one to beat and the form is on the board, the same with Godolphin, but he is pretty untapped, my fella, and from what I have heard, he has improved a hell of a lot too.

“He’s a very exciting horse. I haven’t sat on him but will sit on him (today). He looks a beauty to me — a lovely, good action and covers the ground well. He’ll run the mile-and-a-half super.”

McDonald, 26, missed the Cox Plate carnival due to suspension but said he had spent his enforced ban wisely and was physically primed for a big Melbourne Cup Carnival.

“I played a lot of golf and mucked around but kept training and will be in good shape come the week,” he said.

“It wasn’t ideal — I enjoy riding and competing, but yes, it is what it is.”

Waterhouse declared yesterday that Thinkin Big would “win, and win easily”.

“I think he’s a quality horse,” she said.

“He’s had the right preparation, he’s ready for the Derby. He’s done nothing wrong.”

Originally published as J-Mac: ‘Changing his name, won’t change Cup result’

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