By Ray Hickson
They say only so much should be taken out of barrier trials but that’s all champion jockey James McDonald has to go on for some of his key rides at Rosehill on Saturday including Godolphin debutant Chilliwack.
It was the professional nature of Godolphin’s Destination that saw him post trainer James Cummings’ first two-year-old winner for the season at Kembla last Saturday and McDonald said Chilliwack strikes him as a pro as well.
The colt is a full brother to Group 3 winner Malahat, who famously downed Kementari to win his first race, and McDonald was left with a positive impression after partnering him to a narrow Warwick Farm trial win on November 21.
“Professionalism is the key isn’t it, and obviously ability,’’ McDonald said.
“If they have a bit of both they generally do pretty well and the Godolphin two-year-olds are pretty well educated.’’
Godolphin won the corresponding two-year-old race last year with Athiri who McDonald subsequently rode to three placings in Group company last season.
Chilliwack, so named as he is out of a mare called Raspberries, was on the speed all the way in his 798m trial under McDonald and is a clear second favourite with TAB in the Sky Racing Active Handicap (1100m).
“He relaxes pretty well and he executed it well in the trial,’’ he said.
“I think they ran reasonable time and he’s a lovely sort of colt that is laid back and takes everything in his stride.’’
McDonald rides Badajoz for Godolphin in the Listed $140,000 Drinkwise Starlight Stakes (1100m) with a cruisy trial from earlier in the week fresh in the memory.
It’s been four years since McDonald has partnered the seven-year-old in a race, though he’s had a couple of trial spins over the years, including a his debut win in April 2015.
More recently Badajoz, $11, has been campaigning in Melbourne and ran third behind stablemate Soothing in a Listed race at Flemington three weeks ago.
“He just went through the motions and came up really well on the bridle in his trial,’’ he said.
“His form has been pretty good of late down in Melbourne and it’s another even sort of race with some handy sprinters in it.’’
Group 2 winner Sambro makes his return from injury in the Group 3 $160,000 Iron Jack Festival Stakes (1500m) and while McDonald said he felt good in his recent trial it’s a big ask for him first-up.
The gelding hasn’t raced since running second in the Magic Millions Cup (1400m) in January and was being prepared for the autumn when he suffered a hind fetlock injury which required surgery.
Chilliwack wins a trial at Warwick Farm on November 21
He chased home Albumin in a 900m trial at Rosehill recently and has been kept safe with TAB at $7 despite the layoff, one trial and an awkward alley.
“It was a couple of weeks ago but he trialled reasonably well from memory,’’ McDonald said.
“He jumped and was outside the lead, he’s a bit of a quirky horse who has had his issues in the gates.
“The 1500m first-up would be my only question mark with him but he’s a pretty good horse and he felt terrific. Chris Waller wouldn’t put him in if he wasn’t ready.’’
It’s been a big couple of weeks for McDonald having claimed both the $1m The Hunter and $1m The Gong in the past two Saturdays and his workload will be a busy one in the week or so ahead.
He’ll fly to Hong Kong to ride in a jockeys championship there on Wednesday, then to Perth to partner The Gong winner Mister Sea Wolf in the Group 1 Kingston Town Classic on Saturday week, then back to Hong Kong for the International meeting a day later.