Melbourne Cup: James McDonald first choice to ride British challenger Away He Goes

Horse Racing James McDonald Nature Strip TJ Smith Stakes
James McDonald: the top jockey could ride Away He Goes in the Melbourne Cup. Photo: Steve Hart/Racing and Sports

By Jon Lees

Australia: Away He Goes could get the assistance of James McDonald in the Melbourne Cup, with connections of the British challenger hoping to get a commitment from the top jockey at the weekend.

Confidence grows by the day in the chance of the Ismail Mohammed-trained stayer, whose Goodwood Cup second place behind Trueshan has been boosted by the winner adding two more G1 victories.

A positive response from McDonald, Sydney’s leading rider, would raise Melbourne Cup expectations still further. “We are waiting for a final answer from James McDonald,” said Jose Santos, Mohammed’s assistant.

“James’s agent called us for the ride but we expect a decision at the weekend if he is available. If the answer is negative we hope he will help us get someone of the same level.”

He added: “We want to get the best jockey because we are really positive about the horse.”

Away He Goes appears to have thrived since he flew to Australia as part of a three horse international assault on the ‘race that stops a nation’.

Horse Racing Away He Goes
Away He Goes: Goodwood Cup runner-up set to tackle Melbourne Cup. Photo: DRC/Erika Rasmussen

“We are very positive, he has ticked all the boxes,” said Santos. “He travelled well and has recovered well from the travelling. He is a very weak-framed horse so the main key for us is how he is eating. He is cleaning up all his food and is happy in the environment. His lad says he can’t be any better.”

The five-year-old gelded son of Farhh has raced against Europe’s top stayers in 2021, finishing third behind Gold Cup winner Subjectivist in the Dubai Gold Cup and second at Goodwood. He was then a disappointing seventh in the Ebor at York.

“Before the Goodwood run we were worried that he would not appreciate the soft ground and he is more of a flat-track horse,” said Santos. “We were very surprised by his run. 

“Then we were very disappointed in his last run in the Ebor. The jockey sat too far back and didn’t give him a positive ride. He turned for home last in a field of 20 and managed to finish seventh.

“We don’t expect him to have that kind of a problem in the Melbourne Cup, which is why we are waiting on a top jockey.”

Melbourne Cup betting (Ladbrokes): 7-4 Incentivise, 11-2 Spanish Mission, 12 Grand Promenade, Twilight Payment, 14 Away He Goes, 16 Gold Trip, Persan, Verry Elleegant, Young Werther, 20 bar.

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