Opie Bosson likely rider as McDonald veers to Waller.

The chances of Te Akau Shark making next week's Cox Plate appear to be increasing but the chances of him retaining jockey James McDonald are heading in the opposite direction.

And that could gift New Zealand's champion jockey Opie Bosson a shot at winning the second of Melbourne's three great spring races at The Valley in nine days' time.

The field for the A$5 million Cox Plate won't be finalised until 11am (NZ time) on Tuesday and Te Akau Shark is anything but guaranteed a start.


The big Waikato gelding doesn't have the group one victory that would propel him into the weight-for-age championship, being denied it by cruel luck in the Epsom in Sydney last start.

But he does have x-factor and punting appeal, which aids his case as the Cox Plate is chosen by the committee of the Moonee Valley Racing Club, rather than on strict ratings or money won.

The chances of him making the final 14 guaranteed a start (there are four emergencies as well) improved when the Godolphin pair of Hartnell and Flit were withdrawn yesterday but New Zealand mare Verry Elleegant became a probable contender after her trackwork gallop at The Valley yesterday morning.

Verry Elleegant, who started her career here and is still part-owned in New Zealand, could have been aimed at Saturday's Caulfield Cup or any number of the rich spring features in Melbourne but she pleased trainer Chris Waller with how she handled the tricky Valley surface.

So her connections are now hoping to gain a Cox start and that could leave the Te Akau Shark ride, should he get into the field, up for grabs.

James McDonald, who has been Verry Elleegant's regular rider and won the ATC Oaks on her in April, made a special trip to ride her in work at The Valley yesterday morning before returning to Sydney to ride yesterday afternoon. That alone was an indication he was likely to opt for her as his Cox Plate ride if she makes the field but there is also the Waller factor, with McDonald riding more and more for the new king of Australian racing.

So as much as McDonald also has close ties to Te Akau he looks likely to lean toward Verry Elleegant should she make the Cox.

And while Te Akau boss David Ellis is waiting to see how the pieces of that puzzle fall together before any decision is made, he knows he has a world class rider waiting in the wings for Te Akau Shark, who is the $9 fifth favourite for the Cox Plate, which also might not do his chances of making the field any harm.


"We aren't making any decisions on anything until the picture becomes clearer next week but obviously we have Opie," says Ellis.

"He has a great record on The Shark and in our colours so if the horse makes the race there is a very good chance he could ride him."

Having already won a Caulfield Cup on Mongolian Khan, a Cox Plate would give Bosson two legs of the Melbourne Triple Crown, with the last leg, the Melbourne Cup, becoming increasingly harder for any Australasian jockey to tick off their list.

Meanwhile, one Victorian spring group one ride Bosson is already guaranteed is Melody Belle, who was flown across the Tasman yesterday to be set for the A$1 million Empire Rose Stakes at Flemington on November 2.

• Cambridge mare Rondinella had to settle for a brave second in the A$200,000 Ladies Day Stakes at Caulfield last night.

The favourite was left flat-footed when her rivals, led by fellow Kiwi mare Consensus, sprinted at the top of the straight but closed late for second in the 1600m group three event.

The effort mirrored trainer Roger James's concerns about the race, that Rondinella may have been looking for 2000m third start back rather than the 1600m of last night's race.

Takanini mare Consensus faded late to sixth after having to work from barrier 11 to lead. Both mares are likely to race on at the spring carnival.