Trainer John O’Shea has confirmed that in-form hoop James McDonald will retain the plumb ride on Exosphere in the 2015 Golden Slipper at Rosehill Gardens next weekend.
Exosphere made his racing debut with a disappointing performance in the CFMEU/West Tradies Plate (1100m) at Rosehill Gardens on November 1 with Glyn Schofield in the saddle, but he bounced back to record his maiden race win in the Valentines Day Maiden Plate (1000m) at Kembla Grange on February 14.
The Lonhro colt was well-backed in the lead-up to the Group 2 Skyline Stakes (1200m) at Warwick Farm on February 28 and he stormed away from his rivals to record a dominant four lengths win and stamp himself as a leading Golden Slipper contender.
McDonald speculated after his Skyline Stakes win on Exosphere that he would be replaced on the two-year-old in the Golden Slipper by European hoops William Buick or James Doyle, but O’Shea told Sky Racing HQ that McDonald would maintain the ride on the Golden Slipper second favourite.
Buick and Doyle are still set to return to Australia for the Golden Slipper meeting next weekend and O’Shea said that at this stage Buick would partner Ottoman and Doyle would ride Haptic.
Ottoman moved to the top of Golden Slipper betting when she stormed home to record a win on debut at Rosehill Gardens on December 20 and she finished a disappointing fourth behind Headwater in the Group 2 Silver Slipper Stakes (1100m) at the same venue on February 21 before she returned to a semblance of her best form with a second place finish in the Group 2 Reisling Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Haptic is yet to be tested at Group level, but has done nothing wrong in his racing career to date after winning the Place Multi Plate (1000m) at Royal Randwick on January 24 on debut before she upset stablemate Furnaces to win the Listed Lonhro Plate (1100m) at Royal Randwick on February 14.
Rounding out the Godolphin runners that at this stage are certain to start in the 2015 Golden Slipper is Furnaces and the talented colt will be partnered by leading Sydney hoop Hugh Bowman.
Furnaces was beaten as short-priced favourite by Haptic in the Lonhro Plate and he led in the early stages of the Group 2 Todman Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick on March 7, but was no luck for Vancouver in the final stages of the race.
Calaverite, Italy and Igraine all remain a chance of running in the Golden Slipper and Sam Clipperton will likely take the ride if any of the three earn a start in the Group 1 event.
Vancouver ($3.20) is currently on top of the 2015 Golden Slipper betting market with Ladbrokes from Exosphere ($4.60), Headwater ($11) and English ($13).