Racing: McDonald hints at his riding future

By Mike Dillon

James McDonald. Photo / Getty Images
James McDonald. Photo / Getty Images

Did James McDonald let a closely guarded secret slip when interviewed after winning at Rosehill on Saturday?

"It's getting closer to when I move over," McDonald told interviewer Bruce Clarke after landing $8 winner Colorado Claire home safely in the A$175,000 Phar Lap Stakes.

Even if that might be literally true to a degree, McDonald swore yesterday he has not got a date in mind when he will transfer his riding operation to Australia.

And even declared that when it does happen it might not be a total, permanent shift.

New Zealand's champion jockey is the retained rider for the powerful Peter and Philip Vela team, even though he says he does not have a hard and fast contract.

"I enjoy riding the Vela horses and if I absolutely have to ride something else, they are happy to let me off.

"They will always have nice horses and while they do I'm happy to ride them."

So, does McDonald see himself as a transtasman rider? In the short and possibly medium term, yes.

"It would make sense to stay over here [Sydney] for a month while the carnival is on and then move up to Brisbane, because the top-class New Zealand horses go to that Queensland carnival."

After this Saturday's rides he dashes to Hong Kong for Sunday's racing to ride three for John Moore, one for Paul O'Sullivan and has the offers of a further couple of rides.

Colorado Claire's Sydney trainer John O'Shea has engaged McDonald for Ashokan in the Golden Slipper Stakes on April 7 and offers are solid for Australian mounts, particularly after Saturday's Phar Lap Stakes victory.

"Patinak Farm wants me on a couple of their horses, so the response has been good."

One of the Vela horses James McDonald is looking to stay associated with is Pure Elegance, who turned on a stunning debut winning performance at Waipukurau on Friday.

The electric sprint Pure Elegance turned on when McDonald gave her a kick early in the home straight was something only potential group one horses can produce.

"Yes, she's something special this filly. She's going out for a spell now and wait until she comes back, she will be so much stronger.

"She's got a real future."

Pure Elegance is by Redoute's Choice from the Zabeel mare Our Echezeaux and is closely related to Ethereal and Darci Brahma.

McDonald wasn't quite sure what to make of the performance of top-class mare Scarlett Lady in the Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill on Saturday after the mare finished beyond mid-field.

"She was fair, just okay," which about matched what you saw.

"I got on to the back of the eventual winner and I thought she was going well enough to get a cart into the race, but when the speed went on she was left flat-footed for the entire length of the home straight.

"It wasn't until after the finish line that she really started to wind up.

"I'm really not sure what to make of the run, but it's possible that effort to win at Ellerslie took more out of her than you might have thought.

"Veyron is a difficult horse to get past in the home straight and it could be that second-up it might have been a little too much for her.

"Her next run should tell a few stories. It's possible she will bounce back after yesterday's effort."

How many mares can win a group two event at their 10th race start and only their fourth in open company.

Well, Villifye is one of them. It's a small group.

Villifye's win in Saturday's $85,000 Windsor Park Stud Japan Trophy continues the remarkable run of luck Graham Richardson has enjoyed this season.

When you talk about luck in thoroughbred racing, you often mean hard work and guile.

But there was definitely a luck element in this win - Richardson came as close as he dares to think about to scratching the O'Reilly mare.

"I wasn't at all sure she would handle the conditions and I thought seriously about dragging her out," said Richardson.

"How lucky are the owners and I?"

In a knock down-drag out finish, Villifye and Craig Grylls just got the edge on Postman's Daughter by a long head with another long head to Jeu de Cartes third.

Given the quick rise in class for Villifye, you have to believe she will be a much better mare in her next preparation.

"There is a massive upside to her," says Richardson.

Arcenciel pretty much guaranteed herself a trip to the Queensland carnival with victory in Saturday's $40,000 MCL Stuccorite Bay Of Plenty Cup.

The improving mare won with a bit to spare in the testing conditions.

"We took her over there last year, but I think we jumped her up from 1600m to 2400m a bit quickly and she might not have been ready for it," said trainer Yves Seguin. "She still raced well enough and will be better with another year on her."

Runnerup Pay Back showed appreciation of the wetter conditions.

If a few punters were worried about Xanadu handling the wet Tauranga conditions, the mare herself wasn't.

Xanadu had control of everything as she bolted away for her win.

The stable now hopes to aim for Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes glory.

The Vela brothers and retired former master trainer Jim Gibbs won Saturday's $70,000 Valachi Downs South Island Breeders Stakes at Riccarton with 4-year-old mare Papilio.

Papilio is by Redoute's Choice from the Zabeel mare Lafleur, who Gibbs trained successfully.

The stakes victory continued the success for private trainers Steven Ramsay and Julia Ritchie.

- NZ Herald

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