J-Mac and Waller on top over Cup Carnival

7 November 2022

The Melbourne Cup carnival has come to an end, and over the 37 races there were 23 different winning trainers and 20 different winning jockeys.

It came as no shock to see Australia’s leading trainer and jockey come out on top at the end of the 2022 Lexus Melbourne Cup carnival, with powerhouse duo Chris Waller and James McDonald taking out their respective awards.

By his lofty standards, McDonald had a ‘down carnival’, having ridden a record-breaking ten winners last year, falling two shy this year with eight, which was still more than enough to record back-to-back Ron Hutchinson awards.

Over the four days, he amassed 34 points, more than doubling his nearest rivals in Damien Oliver and Jamie Kah.

His best day was easily Penfolds Derby Day, having steered home four winners, including a stunning victory aboard In Secret in the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m).

Left without a Melbourne Cup ride due to the scratching of Loft, McDonald would have been looking forward to Champions Day as he re-united with his two stars- Nature Strip and Anamoe.

He chalked up an earlier winner aboard Atishu in the Group 2 TAB Matriarch Stakes (2000m) but unfortunately fell short aboard Nature Strip and Anamoe. It just wasn’t their day.

Over his career, McDonald strikes at 20.9% when riding for the Chris Waller stable and bettered that average this week, with three of his eight winners (37.5%) coming aboard his fellow countryman’s horses.

Surefire, Roots and Atishu were all short-priced favourites in their races and accounted for three of Waller’s five wins over the carnival to add to Manzoice in the Group 1 Penfolds Victoria Derby (2500m) and Soulcombe in the Group 3 Queen’s Cup (2600m).

In a much tighter race than the jockey’s award, Waller (22 points) just edged out Melbourne Cup winning stable Ciaron Maher & David Eustace (20.5 points), with Nature Strip’s second placing in the Group 1 Darley Champions Sprint (1200m) just enough to ensure he recorded back-to-back JB Cummings awards.

Interestingly, all of the eight Group 1’s across the Flemington carnival were won by different stables, and while the jockey ranks may be a one-act affair, it goes to show how deep the Australian training ranks are.

No doubt Chris Waller and his team will need to be on their game come next year, and given he currently has the two favourites for the 2023 Lexus Melbourne Cup, Soulcombe and Francesco Guardi, there’s every chance he’ll be on top again.