Two of New Zealand racing's superstars have a rare shot at Kiwi sporting glory in Sydney today but under vastly different circumstances.

Champion jockey James McDonald and trainer Jamie Richards, recently rated in the top 10 in the world, fly the flag in more than A$2 million worth of races at Rosehill.

Racing continues in Australia after two days when much of it was shut down after leading jockey Mark Zahra was found to have been on the same plane as a passenger later diagnosed with Covid-19.

Zahra and several other jockeys he had been in contact with were tested, shutting down racing in three states until they had tested negative.


A similar experience rocked harness racing in three states of Australia but they are all back racing today, too.

With almost no sport televised in Australasia, or even around the world at the moment, racing will be a rare live sports gem on people's televisions today, and McDonald and Richards find themselves centre stage.

McDonald, now Sydney's leading jockey, will partner the part-New Zealand owned mare Verry Elleegant, the hot favourite in the A$1.5 million Tancred Stakes, the Kiwi connection extended because the 4-year-old mare is trained by Chris Waller. But McDonald will find himself opposing the main Kiwi flavour of the day in the AS500,000 Vinery Stakes as he rides Funstar against the Richards-trained Probabeel.

The latter has won two $1m races at home on the last two Karaka Million nights at Ellerslie, and beat Funstar at Group 1 level in Sydney two starts ago. She is a world class filly.

But while Richards is excited for today, it won't be his usual day at the races. Instead, like most Kiwi racing and plenty of sports fans, he will be watching from his couch at home.

The 30-year-old champion trainer could have made it to Australia before last week's travel-then-isolate deadline but decided to stay in New Zealand to look after his domestic racing team, all of which have now been sent for a spell as Kiwi racing shuts down.

Just a few weeks ago, Richards was the golden boy of Australasian racing when he won two Group 1 races on the same day at Randwick. This week, he has being waterblasting the garage and cleaning out the gutters at home.

"We are lucky we have three very good horses in Sydney hopefully racing for serious money in the next two weeks."


Richards says while Probabeel is well and handling her campaign at the highest level nicely, she had her work cut out against Funstar today.

"We have been a bit unlucky with the rain this week," he says, with Rosehill rated a soft7 last night.

"That will suit Funstar more than us and I also think Rosehill does, too. She is more likely to go forward, whereas we are loathe to change the pattern with our filly.

"So we will almost certainly have to come from behind her and that is not going to be easy."

The Richards-trained pair of Melody Belle (Doncaster) and Te Akau Shark (Queen Elizabeth Stakes) are ticking over well as they prepare for their Group 1 races on the next two respective Saturdays, with all Australian racing holding their breath the show can continue under the strict protocols put in place.

McDonald and Richards aren't the only New Zealanders in with a shot at some much-needed stake money at Rosehill today, with 3-year-old Quick Thinker favourite for the A$200,000 Tulloch Stakes.

He is trained by reigning premier trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman and is yet another who has McDonald in the saddle.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand filly Dr Susan is a red hot favourite to win her A$100,000 Gold Bracelet Final at the Bathurst harness meeting tonight.

Although there is no New Zealand racing today, all Australian racing will be telecast on Trackside TV (Sky Channels 62 and 63) with enhanced betting options.

Starring in Sydney

Kiwis take on the Aussies in multi-million meeting in Sydney today.

● Champion Kiwi jockey James McDonald is favoured to win three of the major races.

● Trainer Jamie Richards was the golden boy of Sydney racing three weeks ago; today, he has to watch his millionaire filly Probabeel compete from his couch in Matamata.

● There is no New Zealand horse or dog racing until the country reduces to at least level 3.