Sydney’s reigning champion jockey James McDonald expects North Pacific to silence the critics with a resounding comeback win in the Group 3 $160,000 Eskimo Prince Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick.
McDonald is aware North Pacific’s recent barrier trials have created some “negative debate” but wouldn’t swap the Team Hawkes-trained colt for any other ride in Saturday’s race.
“I have had a bit to do with North Pacific, he’s lightly raced but is a colt with enormous talent,’’ McDonald said. “He was very good in the spring and unlucky not to have won a Group 1 (second to stablemate Ole Kirk in the Golden Rose).
“I haven’t ridden him in his two trials this campaign but he is a very relaxed colt, he only does what he has to and has always been like that.
James McDonald will reunite with North Pacific in the Eskimo Prince Stakes. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
“Some people might say they expected a little bit more from the horse but they are only barrier trials and you can read too much into trials with some horses.
“The Hawkes stable doesn’t trial them too hard anyway and this colt goes about his business very casually. I would say you will see a decent horse on raceday.’’
TAB Fixed Odds price assessors certainly aren’t taking any risks with North Pacific who has firmed into a dominant $2.15 favourite to make a winning return to racing.
North Pacific hasn’t raced since that epic Golden Rose when he was edged out by Ole Kirk last spring. But McDonald is back on Ole Kirk when the glamour colt resumes in the $1 million Inglis 3yo Sprint (1200m).
Tommy Berry, who won the Golden Rose on Ole Kirk, is partnering top filly Dame Giselle in their much-anticipated clash.
Ole Kirk followed his Golden Rose win with another outstanding effort to take out the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas last spring before being spelled.
With a Timeform rating of 120, Ole Kirk is the highest-ranked three-year-old in training while his stablemate, North Pacific is on 118 with a bullet.
Ole Kirk is among James McDonald’s feature rides at Royal Randwick. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
“I’m excited to be riding Ole Kirk and North Pacific,’’ McDonald said. “They are both first-up and will improve with racing they are there to run well.’’
Ole Kirk is favourite at $2.40 for the Inglis Sprint ahead of Dame Giselle at $3.80.
“This is a good, competitive race and Dame Giselle is not the only one to beat, particularly if we get some rain,’’ McDonald said. “But Ole Kirk has the form on the board and he’s the type of colt that seems to take it all in his stride. My colt is very well in at the weights and he has 1400m-1600m form so he will be strong late.’’
McDonald has seven rides at the feature Randwick meeting and four of those are race favourites including boom mare April Rain ($2) for the Ranvet Handicap (1300m).
April Rain, trained by Chris Waller, is a rising five-year-old but has only been to the races three times for a second on debut last season before successive wins at the Canterbury midweeks this summer.,
McDonald rode April Rain in the grey-brown mare’s most recent demolition job over 1250m and is convinced she is ready for Sydney Saturday class.
James McDonald has seven rides, including four early favourites, at Royal Randwick on Saturday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/James GourleySource:News Corp Australia
“I have no doubt she can take the next step, she will be very hard to beat,’’ McDonald said.
“She is a beautiful mare that has taken her time to get to the races – but she is pretty good.’’
McDonald is also looking forward to riding promising three-year-old colt, Blaze A Trail, the $3.50 favourite for the Agency Real Estate Mile (1600m).
The Matt Vella-trained Blaze A Trail resumed with a close second at Rosehill three weeks ago and is suited racing over the Randwick mile course. “Blaze A Trail is a lovely colt,’’ McDonald said. “He looks very hard to beat form the good draw.’’
McDonald doesn’t have a ride in the $2 million Inglis Millennium but he is booked to partner classy Shared Ambition who resumes in the Davali Thoroughbreds Cup (1600m).
Sydney’s reigning premier jockey also rides first starter Conglomerate in the Listed $160,000 Darley Lonhro Plate (1000m) and Mnementh in the TAB Highway (1200m).
CASSIDY CAN’T SPLIT TOP GUNS
Riding legend Jim Cassidy predicts this season’s Sydney jockeys’ premiership battle between Tommy Berry and defending champion James McDonald will “go down to the wire”.
“There is not a split hair between them,’’ said Cassidy, a Hall of Famer and winner of the Sydney premiership back in 1985-86.
“It will depend on who gets the most opportunities in the last month or so. Tommy is very focused and I think he has never ridden in better form.
Tommy Berry is setting the pace in the Sydney jockeys’ premiership. Picture: AAPSource:AAP
“There is no reason he can’t win the title and I’d like to see him win it because I share a birthday with Tommy and his late brother Nathan.
“I always send a message to Tommy on his birthday to let him know I’m thinking of him.’’
Berry has ridden 61 winners so far this season and takes a six-win lead over McDonald into the Royal Randwick meeting on Saturday. Berry has rides in all nine races, including hot favourite Written Beauty.
But McDonald also has a strong book with four of his rides favourite in betting, including the Team Hawkes-trained duo of North Pacific and Ole Kirk.
“When James sets his mind on something, he’s very hard to beat,’’ Cassidy said. “He’s an outstanding jockey and he could get on a roll at Randwick (today).’’
Originally published asMcDonald backs North Pacific to silence doubters
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