They formed an unconquerable team on Australian soil earlier in the year but the combination of James McDonald and Scarlett Lady could face their first Aussie defeat when the spring carnival kicks off over the next few weeks.
It’s not any one horse which poses the biggest threat but rather a set of scales which McDonald will have to overcome.
There was never any doubt that the star kiwi apprentice was going to be the man picked to ride Scarlett Lady through her spring campaign but it will take plenty of dedication and hard work if he is to get down to the weights required.
Racing Victoria Greg Carpenter has warned McDonald that Scarlett Lady will be weighted less than 52kg when she liens up in the Caulfield Cup and potentially then the Melbourne Cup as well.
This is stretching the bottom limit of McDonald’s capabilities and he’s not sure if it’s possible to get to such a level.
The New Zealander will ride at 54kgs at Flemington tomorrow in the apprentice challenge but admits himself every kilo becomes harder to lose the further down you go.
“I’ve been on holidays so I haven’t tried to keep my weight down. I plan to ride at 53kg in the spring and I can ride at 52 on a strict diet. Getting down to 51 might stretch it,” McDonald said.
The one saving grace for him could be if the top weights for the Caulfield Cup didn’t accept a spot in the field.
That would see the minimum weights rise and accommodate him far more comfortably.
McDonald rose to stardom last season after riding a record 207 winner in New Zealand, the first person to crack the double ton.
He also had a spattering of overseas start towards the end of the season giving him a further eight wins internationally.
The most notable of those were his wins with Scarlett Lady during the Brisbane Winter Carnival where she won The Roses at Doomben and then blew the field away in the Group 1 Queensland Oaks.
That win giving him a total of five top level victories in just a couple of years of riding.
He says he’s ready to add to that tally as well with Scarlett Lady returning in top condition.
“She’s come back awesome. I will ride her in an exhibition gallop at Te Rapa on Saturday week, then she will run in a 1400m race and come here for the Underwood Stakes,” he said.
The rider has naturally had a myriad of offers form stables hoping to secure his services fulltime but at the moment he’s content to pick and choose short stints while remaining based in New Zealand.
He says he still enjoys riding at home, especially for prolific owner Peter Vela who he credits for helping him to get to where he is today.
“He’s been my biggest supporter. I’ve ridden his horses in Singapore, Ireland, England and Macau,” McDonald said.
“I’d say I’ve won 40 races for him in the past 18 months.”