Superstar Anamoe has been almost invincible this season and while James McDonald is naturally confident the horse can notch his eighth Group 1 win at Randwick on Saturday the champion jockey is wary there’s still a horse race to win.
The Godolphin entire has only been beaten once in the 2022/23 season, that was in the Champions Stakes in November, and is a short price to maintain that record in the Group 1 $600,000 TAB Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m).
And if he does it will hand McDonald a Chipping Norton threepeat following wins on Verry Elleegant in 2021 and 2022.
Seven of Anamoe’s 11 rivals chased him home in the Apollo Stakes (1400m) two weeks ago and McDonald said the likes of Hinged and Fangirl, who filled the placings in that race, can only be improved as well so he can’t afford to take it for granted.
“It’s going to be a strong race and he’s going to have to be on his game again,’’ McDonald said.
“He’s going to have to get a little bit of luck somewhere in the run and I’m sure he’ll be hard to beat.
“You always go out there feeling optimistic and you need a bit of luck.”
Luck was quickly taken out of the equation by McDonald on Anamoe when he scored a predictable first-up win in the Apollo Stakes.
It seemed from the moment he landed in a trailing spot one off the fence that it was a matter of going through the motions and held a solid half length or so on Hinged and Fangirl.
McDonald said the first-up win was the perfect entrée to the four-year-old’s autumn campaign and, while respecting his opposition, said with an ideal draw this time the only way is up.
He was $1.70 favourite with TAB on Wednesday on the back of that first-up win.
“He had an economical trip, he’s bounced out of it well,’’ he said.
“It wasn’t a hard run for him. It was basically a seven home two sort of work.
“He’s come out of it in good order and he looks fantastic. I would expect him to progress nicely.”
It’s expected Anamoe will continue to the Group 1 $1m Ranvet Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 18 before confirmation is made of an Australian farewell in the Group 1 $5m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m).
The barrier gods weren’t so kind to McDonald with Zougotcha in the Group 1 $600,000 Drinkwise Surround Stakes (1400m) especially since the classy filly is coming off a slight setback.
Zougotcha, the Flight Stakes winner in the spring, was due to resume in the Light Fingers but an elevated temperature forced Chris Waller to wait and tackle Saturday’s race first-up.
McDonald said the filly, $6 with TAB on Wednesday, feels in great shape having been on her back in trackwork and just hopes she has the luck at the right time if she’s to defeat ruling favourite In Secret for a second time.
“I would have loved a soft barrier for her but it is what it is,’’ he said.
“She looks very classy and what she did last preparation was phenomenal.
“She’s improved off that and she looks one of the fillies of Australia at the moment along with In Secret.”
Meanwhile, McDonald is warming to Michael Freedman’s filly Blanc De Blanc being a genuine Golden Slipper prospect though she will once again need fortune to favour her in the Group 2 $250,000 Catanach’s Sweet Embrace Stakes (1200m).
Since her debut win in a four horse field, Blanc De Blanc has drawn 11 of 11 when a close third in the Inglis Nursery and 12 of 16 in her second in the $2m Inglis Millennium behind Slipper favourite Learning To Fly.
“She was fantastic, I was pleasantly surprised how well she went,’’ he said.
“Off one trial, she drew the car park and was fighting out the finish with the Slipper favourite at the moment.
“That gives us huge confidence this filly has a tremendous amount of ability and is on track, and she should improve off the run so should be hard to beat.”
Blanc De Blanc is an $11 chance in next month’s Golden Slipper.
– Racing NSW