James McDonald hunting another The Gong

After a dominant carnival in Melbourne, James McDonald will bid to add the $1 million The Gong to his spring portfolio before jetting off to Hong Kong for a short-term stint.

Sydney’s reigning champion jockey will link with the Chris Waller-trained Osipenko in Saturday’s Kembla Grange feature, ahead of fulfilling a five-week contract in the Asian racing centre where he will reunite with Cox Plate hero Romantic Warrior at next month’s Hong Kong International meeting.

Keen to dip his toe in the water in one of racing’s most competitive arenas, McDonald says he is looking forward to his latest challenge.

“It’s a different environment, different jockeys up there competing, and you’ve got to catch and kill your own a little bit,” McDonald told Sky Sports radio.

“It’s going to be an exciting time for five weeks and I’m really looking forward to it.

“The books of rides I’ve got coming up, they look promising anyway, and the meeting I’m obviously looking forward to is the International meeting. It’s one of the biggest days in racing, especially in Asia, so it’s going to be so good.”

McDonald is coming off a hugely successful spring in Melbourne where he not only captured the Cox Plate on Romantic Warrior, but the Victoria Derby (Riff Rocket), VRC Oaks (Zardozi), Champions Stakes (Atishu) and last weekend’s Thousand Guineas (Joliestar).

He is hopeful Osipenko can continue that vein of form in The Gong (1600m) after drawing barrier 10 in the capacity field of 16 plus four emergencies.

The four-year-old has had a mixed spring but brings high-class formlines into the race, including a third behind Mr Brightside and Alligator Blood in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) two starts ago.

He has been freshened since his midfield effort in the Turnbull Stakes (2000m) on October 7 and will be striving to give Waller and McDonald their second win in the race after they combined to take out the inaugural edition with Mister Sea Wolf in 2019.

Osipenko is one of seven rides for McDonald, who partners with the James Cummings-trained Bacchanalia in the day’s other feature, the $300,000 The Warra (1000m).

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