McDonald creates history as Zaaki salutes in Mackinnon

6 November 2021 Written by VRC

James McDonald is officially the most successful rider at an individual Melbourne Cup Carnival ever after he brought up his 10th win of the week in one of Flemington’s most time-honoured features, the $2 million Group 1 Paramount+ Mackinnon Stakes (2000m), aboard the exciting Zaaki.

The 29-year-old registered his 59th Group 1 winner when the Annabel Neasham-trained Zaaki strode clear to win the last of the week’s big races, but it was his effort in recording a 10th victory of the week – surpassing his childhood idol Brett Prebble’s record of nine from 1999 and 2000 – that had the Flemington crowd on their feet.

In a show of class, Prebble – who partnered runner-up Cascadian – was the first to ride up alongside McDonald, congratulating him on his new-held record in a passing of the torch between two generations.

“It was awesome - just past the post he yelled out ‘son, son, come here’,” McDonald revealed. “That was really special to share. There’s a picture of me standing next to him 20 years ago and to compete against as great a calibre of riders in this jockeys room over this carnival is something special and hopefully it continues.

“It has probably been my greatest three weeks in the saddle, leading up to this fantastic carnival. I got some brilliant rides, starting off with the Coolmore and then to take home the holy grail, the Melbourne Cup, it’s been arguably the highest achievement.

“It’s obviously a fantastic thrill. I obviously can’t do it without the support of all the trainers that have put me on this week, and good horses that I’ve been so lucky to partner for the whole week, like Zaaki. He’s a dominant horse and that is what he can do when he’s in the zone. All credit to Annabel.”

Neasham herself brought up her first Flemington winner with Zaaki, just 15 months after she took out her licence. She admitted that her overwhelming feeling was relief after the long-time favourite for the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) was ruled out on race morning and instead targeted the Paramount+ Mackinnon Stakes for an ownership group that includes Victoria Racing Club (VRC) Chairman Neil Wilson.

“This is so satisfying,” she said. “I was so nervous beforehand. It’s so good for the team, Todd (Pollard) and Raphael (Marchelli) who have been down here for six weeks and still running the show back at home, it’s a good team effort.

“He looked fresh in the run. He obviously hadn’t run for a month, but it was a beautiful ride by James who can do no wrong at the moment. I knew at the top of the straight that he had such a lapful of horse that I knew it would take a good one to run him down.”

In a remarkable effort from a sophomore trainer, English-born Neasham also saddled up third-placed Mo’unga who finished three lengths behind his stablemate under Hugh Bowman. Between Zaaki and Mo’unga, she has now trained five Group 1 winners since she brought up her first in March.

“It’s superb,” she said. “I’m very proud of him. He’s not in the shadow. There’s plenty of more of him to come and a lot more improvement. I can’t wait for the autumn with both of those horses. I’m so proud of them both.”

Image: Brett Prebble congratulates James McDonald (Credit: Racing Photos)