Ace Sydney-based hoop James McDonald will reunite with star Godolphin galloper Contributer when the John O’Shea-trained stallion runs in the 2015 Underwood Stakes at Caulfield Racecourse on Saturday.
McDonald has ridden the High Chaparral six-year-old five previous times, missing just one of the import’s six runs down under since arriving in Australia back in the spring of last year.
His first association was a first-up win when Contributer debuted in Australia on Caulfield Cup Day last October with a Group 3 Coongy Handicap (2000m) win.
Following that he ran an eighth to Hucklebuck in the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) before returning in the autumn to record a flawless three-from-three campaign in Sydney.
That hat-trick of wins with McDonald aboard including two elite levels with Contributer saluting in both the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Warwick Farm and the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill.
This season the horse returned on September 5 at Moonee Valley Racecourse in the Group 2 Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) where Dwayne Dunn had the inside alley but could only manage to ride Contributer to finish three and a quarter lengths away fifth behind star Tassie runner The Cleaner.
On Saturday Contributer is set to enjoy a step up in distance and class when back in Group 1 company with McDonald also back aboard for the $400,000 Group 1 Hyland Race Colours Underwood Stakes (1800m).
In the lead-up to the Underwood Contributer galloped at Moonee Valley on Tuesday morning and impressed O’Shea’s assistant trainer David Charles who confirmed McDonald’s booking for the weekend.
“We’re very happy with his work this morning,” Charles told Racing Victoria.
“It was well documented he went to Bendigo during the week.
“John was there, and he was really happy with his work up there.
“And he’s come on since that gallop up there and we’ve brought him here this morning. Very happy.
“We’re expecting him to run very well (in the Underwood).
“His condition’s great. We look forward to Saturday.”
Underwood Stakes nominations also feature Contributer’s last start conqueror, the Mick Burles-trained Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes winner The Cleaner.
Last year’s Underwood Stakes winner was Chris Waller’s Foreteller (2014) who ran third in the Dato’ before his Group 1 triumph as an eight-year-old.
McDonald has had two previous Underwood Stakes rides over the years including the win two years ago on Murray Baker’s New Zealand visitor It’s A Dundeel (2013) who went back-to-back for the Kiwis after the success of the Gary Hennessy-trained Ocean Park (2012) 12 months earlier.
This year there are two major New Zealand-trained players in the Underwood Stakes with Baker’s 2015 Caulfield Cup-bound ATC Derby winner Mongolian Khan and the Donna Logan-trained third placegetter in that same autumn feature in Sydney as a three-year-old Volkstok’n’barrell.
Other headline Underwood Stakes entries include the Robert Hickmott-trained Makybe Diva Stakes winner over the Flemington mile last time out Fawkner who is out to go back-to-back for the eight-year-olds and the two horses that ran second and third behind him in the Makybe Diva – Rising Romance (2nd) and Entirely Platinum (3rd).
Contributer is heading towards a run in the $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) when Australasia’s weight-for-age championship takes place at Moonee Valley on October 24.
A one-time favourite in futures Cox Plate betting, he is now paying $13 for the win in markets led by Waller’s George Main Stakes winner last weekend Kermadec ($7).
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