James McDonald is hoping to take good news to Hong Kong from Saturday’s Canterbury Stakes meeting when he goes to the racing Mecca’s Derby on Sunday.
He has the rides on Savvy Nature in the Royal Randwick Guineas and Not Listenin’tome in the Canterbury Stakes to start a group1 book that includes Mr Gnocchi in Hong Kong’s biggest race.
“I think Savvy Nature is a bit underrated going into his race,” McDonald said.
“And Not Listenin’tome is just exciting and I have to be a chance in the Derby over there ... Mr Gnocchi should run a good race.”
It is the life of a 21st-century jockey that McDonald rides at Randwick on Saturday and heads to Mascot after the races to be in Hong Kong for an engagement within 24 hours.
McDonald could be taking the Canterbury Stakes trophy with him to give to Not Listenin’tome’s owner, Hong Kong trainer John Moore.
“That would be awesome,” said McDonald. “To go over there for the Derby is exciting but to take a trophy with me would be even better.”
Not Listenin’tome has all the elements of a topliner, said McDonald, who was left stunned by his sprint when he won the Zeditave Stakes on February 22.
“It is probably one of the best turns of foot I have felt from a horse, it was amazing,” McDonald said. “He has such a high cruising speed and when you ask him to go it is there immediately.
“He is a group1 horse, it is only a matter of when.”
Not Listenin’tome has won three of his five starts and was runner-up on the other two occasions, including being the closest to Zoustar in the Coolmore Stud Stakes down the straight in the spring at the end of his first campaign.
“He is the sort of horse you just want to be on,” McDonald said after he had just one race ride.
McDonald has established himself in the top echelon of hoops and is quite at home travelling for rides around the world.
“To get asked to ride in any Derby is great but especially over in Hong Kong,” McDonald said.
“The call came a couple of weeks ago from over there and it is a great opportunity to ride for a very influential owner.
“I have a good relationship there and these opportunities give more chances to build more contacts.
“I have watched Tom Berry go over there and ride and it is something I think everyone wants to do.”
Berry is also making the trip for the Hong Kong Derby to link with one of the favourites for Moore in Designs On Rome.
McDonald has become Team Hawkes’ go-to jockey in the past couple of months, which led to the Not Listenin’tome ride but he also has a strong combination with Savvy Nature’s trainer John O’Shea.
“It is great to have James as part of the team and he knows Savvy [Nature] very well,” O’Shea said. “He is a very big part of his success.”
McDonald was on board for the wins in the Spring Stakes at Newcastle and Moonee Valley Vase during the spring. Add placings in the Gloaming Stakes and Spring Champion Stakes and it is clear Savvy Nature is up to group1 level.
The Vase was won under the cover of blinkers and the gear goes back on in the Guineas.
Savvy Nature hit the line hard when finishing third behind Dissident at his autumn return in the Hobartville Stakes.
“He was very good that day and he will be better back at Randwick,” McDonald said.
The story James McDonald sets sights on unique weekend treble first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.