Racing: It's a Big Mac with the lot

James McDonald and Hartnell will be hoping to double up in the Cox Plate after winning  the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington. Picture / NZ Racing Desk
James McDonald and Hartnell will be hoping to double up in the Cox Plate after winning the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington. Picture / NZ Racing Desk

Sydney-based Kiwi jockey James McDonald hopes to make a meal of the Melbourne majors this spring.

McDonald missed Caulfield Cup Day through suspension but has some appetising mounts for Cox Plate Day at Moonee Valley on Saturday and the four-day Flemington meeting that follows.

"I've been looking at the markets and in most of the big races I'm on either the first or second favourites," the 24-year-old said.

In particular, McDonald will be hoping that former English galloper Hartnell can deliver him wins in the two premier races in Melbourne, the A$3 million Cox Plate and A$6 million Melbourne Cup.

Hartnell is second favourite for the weight-for-age Cox Plate and the Melbourne Cup favourite.

McDonald's other notable mounts over the next 16 days include glamour three-year-old Astern in the Coolmore Stakes on Saturday week and Caulfield Cup placegetter Scottish in the A$2 million Emirates Stakes (formerly the Mackinnon Stakes) on the final day at Flemington.

McDonald, who shifted to Sydney in 2012, is due to make a real splash at the Melbourne carnival.

He has notched a group one win in Melbourne in each of the past three seasons and won the Turnbull Stakes on Hartnell at Flemington this month, but has not grabbed the headlines in Melbourne as often as in Sydney.

He was wonderfully consistent in Melbourne last spring and was rarely out of the money at the height of the carnival, which takes in Cox Plate Day and the four-day Flemington meeting.

McDonald finished in the first four in 30 of his 40 mounts over this period, with five wins, 11 seconds and nine thirds.

The clash between Winx and Hartnell - clearly the two best horses in Australia - on Saturday is being touted as a race that could match the Bonecrusher-Waverley Star battle 30 years ago.

Winx, the defending champion, warrants being a $1.85 favourite. She has not been beaten since April 2015 and has won another five group one races since her runaway Cox triumph last year.

However, Hartnell has taken his form to another level this spring. He ran second to Winx, over 1400m, when resuming and has outclassed his opposition at his next three starts.

He was particularly impressive when beating subsequent Caulfield Cup winner Jameka by more than three lengths, easing down, in the 2000m Turnbull.

"He's flying and in a great frame of mind," McDonald said. "He has had a great preparation and been trained to perfection.

"I'm happy with the gate [seven] and if the breaks go his way, then we will be giving Winx a good run for her money."

McDonald hopes that Winx will be chasing Hartnell on the turn rather than vice-versa. "I want to be in front of her at the 600m."

Meanwhile, English galloper Qewy has stormed into Melbourne Cup calculations with a narrow victory in the Geelong Cup yesterday - minutes after he was backed to win at Flemington, reported the Herald Sun..

Given a perfect pace-setting ride by Kerrin McEvoy, the Godolphin raider held off Grey Lion by a long head. Oceanographer, also from winning trainer Charlie Appleby's yard, was a fast-finishing third.

The TAB reported a $4000 wager at $51 on Qewy just before runners entered the Geelong mounting yard. With the victory, Qewy's odds tumbled to $21.

Qewy and Oceanographer have now both passed the crucial first ballot clause for the Melbourne Cup, while Grey Lion is already qualified.

"He lacks a quick change of gears but he's very genuine," McEvoy said of Qewy. "The Cup's a viable option now. He'd be a good each-way chance."

Chasing big pay days

• Punters could do well to back James McDonald in the spring carnival features.

• He is bullish about the chances of Hartnell ending Winx's golden run in the Cox Plate.

• He has several good rides over the four-day Flemington carnival.

- NZ Herald

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