Jockey James McDonald continued his outstanding Melbourne Cup Carnival completing a Group 1 double on the day at Flemington and celebrating a record 10th victory for the week on Zaaki in the $2 million Mackinnon Stakes (2000m).
After disappointingly missing out on a run Group 1 $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) having been scratched the morning of with an elevated temperature, Zaaki produced a brilliant performance in the Mackinnon to return to winning form for trainer Annabel Neasham.
“He’s a dominant horse and that what he can do when he’s in the zone. It’s a shame for the connections to miss two week’s ago,” McDonald said of Zaaki speaking to Racing.com after the race.
“Credit to Annabel, she preserved and got over that little hiccup and moved on and got a great race today.”
Just two runs after guiding the Chris Waller-trained Nature Strip to victory in the Group 1 Darley Classic, McDonald boldly went out and was happy to lead on the favourite in the meeting’s marquee race.
McDonald let Zaaki roll along in the weight-for-age feature and it was an impressive performance by horse and hoop, as well as an outstanding trainer performance by Neasham to get the spruik seven-year-old to win off the set-back.
“So satisfying I was pretty nervous beforehand,” Neasham said.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling.
“He looked fresh in the run, he’s obviously hasn’t ran in a month.
“A beautiful ride by James he can do no wrong at the moment.
“I knew at the top of the straight he just had a lapful of horse and I knew it was going to take a good horse to run him down.”
Zaaki had won a string of races including the Underwood Stakes by two-lengths before the winning streak came to an end when third in the Caulfield Stakes, but he always looked the horse to be on in the Mackinnon after crossing Homesman.
McDonald was able to control the pace up front and it was an easy watch for favourite backers with nothing pressuring Zaaki for the lead.
Around the turn, McDonald still hadn’t moved on the favourite, but once on the straight Zaaki kicked away and really let down inside the 300m.
McDonald, now the most winningest jockey of the Carnival in a remarkable performance, surpassed the previous record of nine victories held by Brett Prebble who rode the runner-up in the Mackinnon Cascadian.
“It’s obviously fantastic,” McDonald said.
“Started off with a Coolmore domination (on Home Affairs), then the Holy Grail (Verry Elleegant in the Melbourne Cup) which was the most special one and capitalised with two more today.”
Cascadian was brave again, James Cummings’ Doncaster Mile winner on the quick back-up off a third to Superstorm in the Kennedy Cantala – the horse’s third straight top three run in that event.
“Really special to share that moment with him (Prebble),” McDonald, who celebrated alongside his childhood hero Prebble after the race, said.
Cascadian and Prebble wore down the margin racing into a clear second to finish a length away, while Neasham enjoyed a great result also preparing the third placed Mo’unga who raced one off the fence fifth throughout before closing late.
“Superb and Mo’unga as well, very proud of him,” Neasham added.
“There’s plenty more to come from him and a lot more improvement I think. I can’t wait for the autumn with both horses.”