Nation’s hottest jockey set for another big Melbourne Cup Carnival

25 October 2022 Written by Racing & Sports

James McDonald's attention shifts to the stage he last year dominated like no one else in Melbourne Cup Carnival history.

The champion jockey looks poised to challenge last year's Cup Week heroics when he won 10 races across the four days, four of them at Group 1 level, including the Melbourne Cup.

McDonald has landed the ride on Saturday's Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes winner Sharp 'N' Smart in the $2 million Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) and rides the favourite in the day's two other Group 1s.

He will partner In Secret for James Cummings in the $2 million Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) and Kiwi mare La Crique in the $1 million Empire Rose Stakes (1600m).

McDonald will ride second favourite Loft in next Tuesday's $8 million Melbourne Cup (3200m) and will potentially reunite with Anamoe in the Champions Stakes (2000m) and Nature Strip in the Champions Sprint (1200m) on Final Day.

"I'm actually really looking forward to this Cup Week, it's going to be a phenomenal Cup Week with some big races and some awesome horses floating around," McDonald said.

"I hope Anamoe lines up on the last day, that would be something to behold and obviously Nature Strip, so we've got a few little bullets to fire and I can't wait for the week ahead."

McDonald will team up with the man who gave him his first Group 1 win in Australia – Scarlett Lady in the 2011 Queensland Oaks – when he rides Sharp 'N' Smart for Graeme Rogerson and his wife Deborah in the Derby.

The son of Redwood was ridden to Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) victory by Hugh Bowman but Bowman's decision to remain in Sydney for the Golden Eagle meeting paved the way for McDonald to snap up the Derby mount.

The Derby remains absent from the list of 72 Group 1 successes for McDonald, whose best result is a second placing aboard Etymology in 2015. He has also been unplaced twice aboard favourites, in 2011 when seventh on Dundeel and 14th on Savvy Nature the following year.

Sharp 'N' Smart's Spring Champion performance convinced McDonald he is capable of finally giving him some Derby joy providing he handles the seven-day back-up and trip down from Sydney.

"He was amazing, to soldier it out like he did was a phenomenal performance after doing a little bit of work through the mid-stages and being caught wide," McDonald told RSN927's Racing Pulse.

"He's a lovely pick-up ride. As long as he travels down OK, the week's back up is obviously a question mark, but he looks a nice ride."

Sharp 'N' Smart was one of 18 nominations for the Derby with fellow Kiwi, Mr Maestro, Saturday's Moonee Valley Vase winner Berkeley Square, Pericles and Muramasa ad Grand Pierro among his potential rivals.