Gun New Zealand jockey James McDonald has opted to put his attempt at riding 200 winners at home on hold to honour his four rides at Eagle Farm’s Tattersall’s Tiara meeting this Saturday.
McDonald, 19, is one of the best riders, young or old, from across the Tasman.
He has also caught the attention of Australian racing industry connections after hitting the big time down under with his Group 1 win aboard the devastatingly talented filly, now early 2011 Melbourne Cup favourite, Scarlett Lady in this winter’s Queensland Oaks.
The gifted hoop recently surpassed fellow Kiwi rider Lisa Cropp’s 197 wins, which she obtained in the 2004-05 New Zealand racing season, and he is now just one victory away from landing his 200th turf triumph for the current season.
His prized ride of the day at Eagle Farm on the weekend is in the final Group 1 race of the Australian season, the $500,000 Group 1 Tattersall’s Tiara (1400m), formerly known as the Winter Stakes.
McDonald is engaged to take the mount aboard the Michael, Wayne and John Hawkes-trained Redoute’s Choice filly Pontiana in the female, weight-for-age classic.
Pontiana, drawn in barrier seven of 15, is rated a $26 outsider in Tattersall’s Tiara markets lead by odds-on favourite and Doomben 10,000 winner Beaded.
The three-year-old, however, is not without her claims, Pontiana in top form this season.
She comes into Saturday’s showdown on the back of two third place finishes having come within a length of Shannara in the Listed Dark Jewel Classic (1400m) at Scone last month.
Last start Pontiana finished an eye-catching third behind fellow Tatt’s Tiara rivals Hurtle Myrtle and Zero Rock in the Group 2 Dane Ripper Stakes (1400m), a good result after she was tightened for room throughout the run.
McDonald could potentially come away with three other black-type wins from Saturday’s race-day.
His other rides will be aboard the Brian Wakefield-trained Exceed and Excel filly Emplus in the $100,000 Listed Centenary Classic Mercedes-Benz Stakes (1400m), Graham Richardson’s five-year-old galloper Atom Cat in the $100,000 Tattersall’s Racing Club Mile (1600m) and New Zealand-trained stayer Smoking Chimneys in the $200,000 Group 3 Tattersall’s Cup (2200m).
Generous seven-year-old Smoking Chimneys is rated a strong chance in this year’s Tattersall’s Cup where they will face off against the likes of Brisbane Cup fourth-placegetter Ironstein and Premier’s Cup winner Shuffle The Cash.
Drawn in barrier seven, Smoking Chimneys has been ultra consistent this prep most recently winning the Foxton Cup (2200m) on June 4, a ride McDonald was aboard for.
Lightly-raced for a rising eight-year-old, Smoking Chimneys has had a number of injury setbacks over their 30-career start to date but showed they were back in form with their Foxton Cup win on a heavy track.
“I thought if he could win the Foxton Cup last start we’d give him a go over here,” trainer David Haworth said.
“He was three wide and won really well.”
The gelding had nearly 18-months off the racing scene after injuring his knee during their gallant third place finish to My Scotsgrey in the 2009 New Zealand Cup over a testing two-miles (3200m), but has been carefully looked after and is now rewarding connections for the patience.
“He was badly injured and was out for a while,” Hawthorne said.
“The track was hard that day (2009 NZ Cup Day) and he jarred his knee but we couldn’t find anything wrong.
“Then he was getting ready for the spring when he damaged a stifle and fractured a bone high up.”
After Saturday, Hawthorne plans to head to the Sunshine Coast and give Smoking Chimneys a run in the $200,000 Listed Caloundra Cup (2400m) on July 2 before tackling the Listed Queensland Cup (3200m) back at Eagle Farm the next Saturday.
“His main mission here is the Queensland Cup but if he runs well on Saturday he’ll go to the Caloundra Cup next week,” Haworth confirmed.