James McDonald has already ridden the winner of Australia’s richest weight-for-age race and the Sydney jockey is adamant there is nothing to stop him from adding the most prestigious.
McDonald landed the ride on Criterion for Saturday’s $3 million Cox Plate at the expense of the suspended Hugh Bowman.
This year’s ATC Australian Derby winner, Criterion provides McDonald with a genuine chance of adding to an already impressive list of important wins in 2014 including the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes on It’s A Dundeel.
“It’s always been a goal of mine to win the Cox Plate and hopefully I can achieve it on Saturday,” McDonald said.
The David Payne-trained Criterion has been one of the best-backed runners, firming from $9 to $6.50 since Tuesday’s barrier draw.
He is on the second line of betting behind his last-start conqueror Fawkner ($4.40).
McDonald rode Criterion at Moonee Valley’s trackwork session on Tuesday and walked away with his confidence buoyed.
“He felt amazing,” McDonald said.
“He’s in great form. He looks really good. He’s a big, strong robust horse that’s going to cope with a Cox Plate. He looks a great chance.”
Criterion showed he was on target for the Cox Plate, closing strongly for second in the Caulfield Stakes at his fourth run of the campaign.
“He should be peaking at the right time,” McDonald said.
Another of Australian racing’s star riders, Tommy Berry, is also intent on making the most of his call-up to ride Foreteller.
Earlier in the season Berry thought he would be on Carlton House or Dan Excel, but neither made it to the race.
He was booked for Crackerjack King last week but that horse was also ruled out, leaving Berry thinking he would have to wait another year for his first Cox Plate ride.
“So I’m really happy to be on him,” Berry said.
Foreteller was a fast-finishing fourth last year and Berry believes he can be in a position to strike from the inside draw.
“He’s a horse that’s got a good turn of foot,” Berry said.
“With a horse like The Cleaner running it out at a good pace, I’m not going to be the one taking the field up to The Cleaner. I’m going to be the next pair back. He’s definitely a great chance.”