Yucatan jockey warns of unknowns in Cup
SYDNEY'S leading rider James McDonald, who watched last year's Melbourne Cup from the saddle of a bicycle rather than on horseback, maintains on exposed form this spring Yucatan Ire has the measure of his Melbourne Cup rivals.
"Any horse that has competed here in Australia this spring that is running in the Melbourne Cup I don't think can beat him,'' McDonald said.
"But there are three unknowns, Cross Counter, Magic Circle and Marmelo, to worry about.''
You can also throw in Muntahaa from the international contingent who will go straight into the Melbourne Cup without a lead-up run.
Yucatan Ire, among a potential record number of northern hemisphere-trained stayers being set for the Melbourne Cup next Tuesday, at least has had a run in Melbourne this spring, scoring a commanding win in the Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield earlier this month.
The Aidan O'Brien-trained stayer raced under his original name of Yucatan at Caulfield but there is a three-year-old trained in South Australia with the same name and under the rules of racing, it required a change of name for the overseas raider.
But McDonald isn't worried about the name change because he feels he is on the right horse.
"All I know is that the horse I rode at Caulfield was very good, he gave me a great feel and produced all the right attributes for a Melbourne Cup,'' McDonald said.
"I was talking to Mick Kinane who has won a Melbourne Cup (1993 on Vintage Crop) and he said Yucatan does look the one to beat. He has a great turn of foot, stays well and he loves fast ground.
"We want a bit of luck in running, he is going to need that, but I do feel he is definitely the one to beat.''
The second declarations for the Melbourne Cup were taken yesterday with 47 entries remaining in the big race including 15 northern hemisphere-trained stayers.
Yucatan Ire is a firm $4.50 Ladbrokes favourite for Tuesday's big race ahead of Magic Circle at $9, with Cross Circle on the third line of betting at $10. Marmelo is at $18.
McDonald, a two-time Melbourne Cup placegetter on Fiorente (second, 2012) and Hartnell (third, 2016), missed the big race last year as he was serving a riding ban due to a betting-related offence.
When the big race was run last year, McDonald was doing a bike ride adjacent to the Flemington racetrack and stopped near the 1400m point of the course and watched the Cup field charge by.
"I was watching from over the fence on the (cycle) bridge last year,'' McDonald revealed.
"It's very enjoyable to be a part of Cup week again. It's a unique week, very hard physically and mentally - but I'd rather be riding than watching from that bridge.''
The champion jockey's redemption will be complete if he can win his first Melbourne Cup on Tuesday.
He also has an outstanding book of rides on Derby Day this Saturday including Group 1 mounts on Chapada in the $2 million Victoria Derby (2500m), Le Romain in the $1 million Kennedy Mile (1600m) and Shillelagh in the $500,000 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m).