James McDonald on Guard ahead of G1 Caulfield Cup return

James McDonald’s commitment to ride Francesco Guardi in this Saturday’s Caulfield Cup highlights just how desperate he is to win the $5 million event.

The champion jockey has leapt at the chance to ride the Chris Waller-trained import in the 2400-metre event, in which he has 54kg.

McDonald has not ridden at that weight in more than 2-1/2 years, but he was light on for Caulfield Cup 2023 options in what is a rare chance for him to ride in the race.

“It’s either ride 54 kilos or have no ride, so I chose to have a ride,” McDonald said.

“It’ll be hard work.

“So I’ve got a tough week ahead, but I’ve got a bit of time.”

McDonald hasn’t ridden 54kg since partnering Vowmaster in February 2021, with Magic Millions Day in January 2019 the previous time he had got down to that weight.

It is even more rare that McDonald rides in the Caulfield Cup.

He hasn’t participated in the world’s richest 2400-metre handicap since finishing fifth aboard The Taj Mahal in 2018.

The past four editions of the Caulfield Cup have been run on the same day as the rich The Everest, which has kept McDonald in Sydney.

The Caulfield Cup is the race McDonald needs to win to join Craig Williams, Damien Oliver, Chris Munce, Jim Cassidy, Mick Dittman, Pat Hyland, Roy Higgins and Neville Sellwood as the jockeys to have won the Australian racing ‘Grand Slam’, which also includes the Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate and Golden Slipper.

Williams is the only rider in that group to have also won The Everest, a race McDonald won on Nature Strip in 2021.

McDonald committed to ride Francesco Guardi at 54kg before the Turnbull Stakes (2000m), in which he ran a dour seventh, but McDonald liked his runs in the Winx Stakes (1400m) and Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at his earlier starts this campaign and is expecting improvement this Saturday.

“He had two really good performances then he whacked away there in the Turnbull,” McDonald said of the campaign.

“But what I gather from Chris is there was good improvement to come out of that race.

“Whether it’s the Caulfield Cup or the Melbourne Cup, I’m sure there’ll be a sense of timing anyway.”

The Caulfield Cup will be the first time McDonald has ridden Francesco Guardi since his stunning win in last year’s Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup, while he was also successful at his previous two rides aboard the son of Frankel.

Francesco Guardi is currently listed at odds of around $13 to win the Caulfield Cup with Australian online bookies.

James McDonald’s Caulfield Cup record

2013 – Dear Demi 3rd

2014 – Rising Romance 2nd

2015 – Hauraki 8th

2018 – The Taj Mahal 5th

About RS NewsWire

Racing and Sports is a global publisher of online horse racing form and information, and a leader in interactive racing technology. Racing and Sports is at the cutting-edge of information technology, allowing businesses and website users first access to emerging technologies.

Bookmaker Why Bet Sign Up Full Review
Bet Now at ladbrokes Back Yourself with Ladbrokes! Join Review
Bet Now at neds Back a Winner with Neds! Join Review
Bet Now at palmerbet Sign up to Unibet and start betting in minutes! Join Review
Bet Now at tab Sign up to TAB and start betting in minutes! Join Review
Bet Now at playup Sign up to PlayUp and start betting in minutes! Join Review