Yucatan may have been scratched from the Group 1 Caulfield Cup not long after New Zealand jockey James McDonald was announced as the rider, but he still has the same horse and the top line of betting for two weeks plus a couple days for the Melbourne Cup.
McDonald was on for Yucatan’s win in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes and apparently, McDonald turned in the sort of ride that convinced trainer Aidan O’Brien that McDonald should be in the irons when Yucatan runs in the Melbourne Cup.
Yucatan owner Lloyd Williams shocked and dismayed the racing community by pulling the horse from the Caulfield Cup, but it should have surprised no one, as modern Thoroughbreds of the top order seldom back with as little as one week between races.
Winning the Herbert Power earned Yucatan a 2.5 kg penalty for the Caufield Cup and a good showing there could have increased his allowance for the Melbourne Cup, so Williams, who has made no secret of which race he wants to win, probably made a savvy decision to rest his stayer.
“He (Yucatan) is certainly my best chance to win the Cup ever. I don’t think I have ridden a stayer quite like him before,” McDonald said. “When it comes to the Melbourne Cup, Lloyd Williams certainly knows what he is doing and has won it six times as an owner, and this horse is trained by genius in Aidan O’Brien.”
We wonder if O’Brien and Williams will be as obsequious to McDonald should Yucatan fail to salute.
Yucatan opened an eight-length lead on the field in the Herbert Power and McDonald coasted to the line to win by one and a quarter lengths.
The company line is that Yucatan was pulled from the Caulfield Cup due to fluid in his joints following the Herbert Power.
Kiwi horses have traditionally done well in the Melbourne Cup, but it is something of a shift to have a British import steered by a Kiwi jockey.