The new racing season kicks off this weekend with the opening black-type being Sydney’s 2014 Winter Challenge where the city’s premier jockey of 2013-14 James McDonald rides He’s Your Man.
McDonald secured the Sydney Jockey Premiership title with his 71st metropolitan win at the final city meeting for the season on Wednesday aboard the Chris Waller-trained Bascule to cap off a Warwick Farm double.
“It’s a proud moment, that’s for sure, to be involved in a young person’s career like James’,” Waller told AAP after McDonald, 23, rode his sixth winner for the trainer this season.
Waller had nothing but praise for McDonald, who was riding in Sydney for just his second season, saying the achievement of defeating a champion like Nash Rawiller for the title was a big one to be enjoyed by the Kiwi expat.
“It’s not just the city racing twice a week, it’s all the other commitments that come with it,” the fellow New Zealand-born horseman said.
“It’s no easy feat and I’ve got full respect for him for what he has achieved and there are a lot better things to come yet.”
Now the season’s leading trainer will again engage the services of the top hoop with McDonald to ride one of Waller’s four chances in Saturday’s $100,000 Listed Winter Challenge (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens.
There are only eight gallopers in the mix for the Winter Challenge this year including a quartet for Waller.
Winter Challenge betting markets at Ladbrokes.com.au have two of Waller’s four under single figures with last start Shoot Out Handicap winner over the Randwick mile I’m Imposing ($7), to be ridden by Tye Angland, and He’s Your Man ($5.50).
Drawn ideally in barrier three, French import He’s Your Man is an intriguing addition to Waller’s stable and the Winter Challenge field.
The Cape Cross gelding, turning six on Friday, has had five runs down under in their first Australian campaign this year.
They remain a maiden here however, something they’ll be out to brake on the weekend.
After a failed effort in the Listed Mornignton Cup (2400m) in February, He’s Your Man running dead last beaten over 14 lengths, they were turned out for nearly five months.
First-up they returned at Rosehill on July 5 and with the blinkers off they debuted as a gelding running an improved third to Generalife in the Listed Civic Stakes (1350m).
It is that form Waller is hoping they can grow on then in the Winter Challenge when stepped up in distance again.
Tim Clarke rode them in the Civic Stakes but Waller has McDonald as his replacement on Saturday with Clarke booked to ride the Gai Waterhouse-trained Queenstown.
Coming off a win in the Grafton Cup from July 10, Stratum mare Queenstown is the $3.60 Ladbrokes.com.au Winter Challenge betting favourite despite coming back 850m from 2350m to 1500m on Saturday.
McDonald is yet to ride He’s Your Man but he and Waller are both hoping it proves a winning combination.
Waller’s two other hopes are then Coup Ay Tee ($14) and Tougher Than Ever ($13).
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