Sydney based New Zealander James McDonald is a lot more relaxed going into this year’s Group 1 $3m Sportingbet Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley today on Criterion who remains solid in the betting for the weight for age championship.
Last year McDonald was aboard the high profile Kiwi galloper It’s A Dundeel who was sent out the $4 favourite before finishing eighth to Shamus Award and the Kiwi hoop says he has a different feeling going into this year’s race.
Even though the David Payne trained Criterion is the current Cox Plate second favourite at $6 behind Fawkner at $4.80, McDonald says the he doesn’t feel the same pressure as last year.
“Instead of being the hunted, you’re the hunter,” McDonald told AAP.
“In this kind of race it’s a good card to play.”
McDonald only picked up the mount on the top Cox Plate fancy after regular rider Hugh Bowman was suspended for improper riding on Caulfield Cup Day and although he feels for his fellow rider, he is more than happy to be on a top chance in the Spring Carnival’s feature weight for age race.
“It’s obviously at the expense of a great friend of mine, but look, someone’s got to fill in and I’m the lucky one,” McDonald said.
“His preparation has been great, he takes time to find form, so he’s peaking for the right day.”
Criterion kicked off his Spring Carnival campaign with a third to Tiger Tees in the Group 2 $175,000 Pro-Ride Warwick Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on August 23 before beating one runner home when seventh to Hawkspur in the Group 2 $175,000 Tattersalls Club Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on September 6.
Payne then stepped the Sebring stallion up to 2000m for a second to Junoob in the Group 2 $200,000 Ascend Sales Trophies Hill Stakes at Randwick on September 20 and then travelled to Melbourne where he cemented a start in the Cox Plate with strong finishing second to Cox Plate favourite Fawkner in the Group 1 $400,000 Cathay Pacific Caulfield Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield on October 11.
The Aidan O’Brien trained Irish galloper Adelaide is on the third line of Cox Plate betting at $7.50 with Ladbrokes.com.au just ahead of the first of Chris Waller’s three runners Sacred Falls at $8.
Waller’s second fancy Royal Descent shares the next line of betting with last year’s Cox Plate runner up Happy Trails at $11 just in front of The Cleaner at $12 while Waller’s third runner, Foreteller, is one of the outsiders of the field at $34.