By Ray Hickson
James McDonald was spoilt for choice when it came to a Silver Slipper ride and while the champion jockey partners Tassort he’s not taking the result for granted.
The Godolphin colt would normally be an easy selection for a jockey given the boom on him since his five length debut win in November but McDonald has also steered the Snowden colt McLaren to a first-up win and guided $2 million colt Faretti to two impressive trial wins.
“It was a hard choice but I thought Tassort couldn't have been more impressive,’’ McDonald said.
“I think all three would have been fantastic rides.’’
Add to that trio the $1.4m colt Born A Warrior and the $4.60 TAB Golden Slipper favourite headlines what can only be a crack edition of the Group 2 $250,000 Chandon S Silver Slipper (1100m) at Rosehill on Saturday.
Tassort was put on ice after his Golden Gift win and resurfaced in a trial at Rosehill just over a week ago where McDonald had his first sit on the colt in over two months.
Tassort wins a Rosehill trial on February 11
“He's actually come back a much more relaxed horse, at least he was in the trial,’’ he said.
“I still think he has a lot to learn, I don't think he is the finished product yet. He's not your typical jump and run sort of horse.
“Whatever he does on Saturday he's going to improve because he had a really good blow after the trial which is good to see.’’
TAB installed Tassort $1.65 favourite on Wednesday to add his name to an honour roll including his half-brother Astern (2016), the last colt to win the race.
McDonald clearly has plenty of respect for the two other colts he could have ridden, while he’s bullish enough about Tassort he regards Saturday’s race as a test.
“I think he has to measure up again, he has to take another step,’’ he said.
“These horses are getting better and better as the season goes on so he has to improve as well.
“One thing about him as a two-year-old he's brilliant through the line every time so I'm looking forward to the challenge of seeing him measure up against better opposition than he's met.
“If he wins on Saturday it's going to be very exciting for the rest of the preparation.’’
So what does McDonald make of McLaren after his debut win in the Group 3 Canonbury Stakes (1100m) at Rosehill earlier this month?
“He's a quality colt, he was pretty ready that day and he did a great job,’’ he said.
“He's your typical running sort of horse, very precocious, very fast and at 1100m he's tough to beat because he's had that run under his belt.
“If he doesn't beat us this time he won't beat us this prep.’’
It’s been 12 years since the Silver Slipper has been won on debut, that horse was Woodlands product Shaft with Darren Beadman in the saddle.
Faretti, trained by Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, comes with a big price tag – he’s a $2m sale topping colt – and therefore big expectations.
McDonald speaks highly of the I Am Invincible colt, as though he’s the horse we could all be talking about in 12 months time.
“He's a proper colt, he's the one I'm worried about out of all of them,’’ he said.
“He has a great nature, travels well and he's been impressive in his trials. He oozes quality and feels like he's going to come into his own at 1200m.
“If there's a horse that can make an impact in a Silver Slipper at his first start it's him.’’