Kiwi riding sensation James McDonald has overcome his first obstacle on route to the final day of the Brisbane Winter Carnival, simply getting there.
Reports earlier today suggested that McDonald was stranded in New Zealand with the ash cloud that has caused so much havoc over recent weeks having a direct impact on him.
Luckily for all concerned he managed to sneak out on one of the flights that were still operating and he’s here in plenty of time to get ready for his four rides at Eagle Farm tomorrow.
“Qantas flights had stopped but Air New Zealand were still flying,” McDonald said.
“Some of the New Zealand trainers were booked on Qantas but I was lucky enough to come over on Air New Zealand.”
Nobody will be more pleased to hear of McDonald’s safe arrival than Michael Hawkes, co-trainer of Group 1 Tattersall’s Tiara hope Pontiana.
She’s one of a host of fillies of mares lining up for a shot at the dominant favourite Beaded.
Pontiana has been upstaged a bit by both Beaded and some more fancied runners however her form lines aren’t oo bad leading into the race.
She’s run third in her last two starts, the first in the Listed Dark Jewel Classic at Scone and the latest in Group 2 company at Eagle Farm in the Dane Ripper Stakes.
Hawkes believes there are excuses for her in both those runs and he feels with a change of luck she’ll be well in the hunt.
“She drew inside at Scone and got cluttered up and then was knocked from pillar to post in the straight and should have won,” Hawkes said.
“In the Dane Ripper she was a little slow away then the field stacked up in the middle stages and it took her awhile to get going again.
“Had she jumped with them she could have won.”
He says he would have much preferred to meet Beaded in a handicap race but they’re far from throwing in the towel.
“Beaded is thrown in under the weight-for-age scale but our filly will run well,” he said.
The Hawkes team is due for a big showing at the top level, they haven’t won a Group 1 since The BMW at Rosehill back in 2009.
It’s a very different story for the stable of Beaded with Peter Snowden looking for his 8th Group 1 win this season in the Winter Stakes.
Whatever happens tomorrow though Pontiana will be spelled immediately with the richest of the spring awaiting her back down south.
“She’ll get ready for the spring after this race but what races she’ll go for will depend on her performance tomorrow,” Hawkes said.
James McDonald has been arguably the find of the Brisbane carnival having grabbed a bag of winners including Group 1 glory on Scarlett Lady in the Queensland Oaks.