Leading Sydney hoop James McDonald has been ticking up the air miles of late and will add some more to his tally when he heads home to New Zealand this weekend to ride at the TAB Karaka Millions race meeting at Ellerslie.
The expat Kiwi hoop will head to Auckland on Saturday in red-hot form after he scored another elite-level triumph in Hong Kong when guiding Voyage Bubble to victory in the Gr.1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday for trainer Ricky Yiu.
It will be the first time McDonald will be back in his homeland in nearly five years and he is being welcomed home with some quality rides, including two of the favoured runners in the respective TAB Karaka Millions races.
McDonald will jump aboard the Roger James and Robert Wellwood-trained Orchestral in the $1.5 million TAB Karaka Millions 3YO (1600m), and believes she will jump favourite ahead of current market leader Molly Bloom.
“She (Orchestral) will jump favourite, she is a good horse,” McDonald told SENTrack.
“The only reason is that Molly Bloom has had a very busy schedule, she has been down to the South Island, where my filly is third-up. She ran an absolute screamer last start where she won very easily. She is ready to peak, and with Roger James training, I think she is as good as anything.”
Orchestral is currently a $4.50 second favourite behind Molly Bloom at $3.30 prior to the barrier draw on Wednesday evening.
Orchestral, who was a $625,000 purchase by her trainers out of Haunui Farm’s 2022 Karaka Book 1 draft, was runner-up to Lupo Solitario in the Gr.3 Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m) last month before turning the tables on her foe at Pukekohe on New Year’s Day when winning their mile contest by 2-1/2 lengths.
McDonald is also favoured to feature prominently in the TAB Karaka Millions 2YO (1200m), having secured the coveted ride on the Stephen Marsh-trained Velocious.
The daughter of Written Tycoon currently heads the market at $3.40 following her promising start to her career, winning her first two outings, including the Listed Challenge Stakes (1100m), before placing in the Gr.2 Eclipse Stakes (1200m) at Pukekohe on New Year’s Day.
“She is going really well, her form is outstanding,” McDonald said. “She had a nice burn around Pukekohe a couple of weeks ago. I get a text message from Stephen (Marsh, trainer) every week that she is in really good form. I wouldn’t swap her for anything.”
Velocious was purchased by syndicator Go Racing out of Inglewood Stud’s 2023 New Zealand Bloodstock Book 1 Yearling Sale draft for $190,000.
While excited about his rides, McDonald is also looking forward to competing on Ellerslie’s new StrathAyr track in front of a sold-out crowd.
“It looks good and a record crowd number too – 12,000,” he said.
– LOVERACING.NZ news Desk