McDonald Eyes Fitting Elleegant Tribute With Fangirl

James McDonald is no stranger to winning the race now named after champion mare Verry Elleegant.

Jockey James McDonald (Pic: Bradley Photos)

His name is on the Chipping Norton Stakes honour roll four times, and he’s dominated the event in the past three years with dual wins on Verry Elleegant (in 2021 and 2022) and Anamoe last year.

But with the horse’s recent passing, due to complications when foaling, it goes without saying victory on Fangirl in the Group 1 $1 million TAB Verry Elleegant Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on Saturday would be something special.

Verry Elleegant has been a significant horse in McDonald’s career, he won 11 races on the Chris Waller-trained mare including eight at Group 1 level and gave him some unforgettable moments.

“I’m looking forward to riding in the race named after such a special racehorse to me,’’ McDonald said.

“Hopefully we’ve got a good chance and we’d dearly love to win it.”

Fangirl is considered more than a good chance, as the $1.55 favourite with TAB on Wednesday, after looking very Winx-like as she cruised home to win the Group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400m) first-up two weeks ago.

The five-year-old even took McDonald back with how easily she accounted for her rivals, many of which oppose her again on Saturday, and he expects Waller will only have her better for the run.

“The first-up win suggests she’s come back equally as good as last preparation anyway,’’ he said.

“We’re looking forward to her campaign and it couldn’t have started any better. She won pretty easily and she won with a bit of arrogance didn’t she.

“She’s a five-year-old mare now and she’s in her prime.”

While everything points to a fifth win in the race for McDonald, and 11th for Waller, the champion jockey isn’t taking it for granted.

He said it’s as much up to Fangirl to perform to that level again as it is for her rivals to come up to the benchmark she set in the Apollo, and probably more significantly her runaway King Charles III Stakes win over the Randwick mile in the spring.

“Obviously those horses will improve a lot so she’s going to have to perform every bit as good as she did first-up to win this race,’’ he said.

“Think It Over will be hard to beat again, Buckaroo will improve, Lindermann didn’t get out, Cascadian didn’t get out.

“There’s a few hard horses to beat there so she’ll have to bring her A game again for sure.”

Boom colt Storm Boy is set to start even shorter than Fangirl when McDonald partners the Golden Slipper favourite for the first time in the Group 2 $300,000 Catanach’s Jewellers Skyline Stakes (1200m).

The unbeaten two-year-old has a stranglehold on betting for the $5 million TAB Golden Slipper at $2.80 and McDonald said he learned a bit about Storm Boy in his recent barrier trial win.

“All eyes will be on him for sure,’’ McDonald said.

“He felt really good in his trial and it’ll be nice to see him under race conditions, and how he’s come back from the Magic Millions.

“He’s obviously got a big rap on him, he’s a gorgeous colt and hopefully he lives up to expectations.

“He feels pretty economical, he’s got a tremendous amount of ability and that takes you a long way.”

The barrier gods have helped McDonald’s cause on Tiz Invincible in the Group 1 $750,000 Drinkwise Surround Stakes (1400m).

Ciaron Maher’s filly found the task took big after drawing wide and conceding a huge start in the Light Fingers Stakes (1200m) two weeks ago but McDonald said there was plenty of merit in the run.

She’s drawn five in a field of 13 and he said that will suit her well.

“She was excellent off a wide gate, I took her back and the race didn’t really unfold for us,’’ he said.

“She made a good sprint in the straight and just got a bit tired.

“I’m very happy to be on her, we saw what she did in the spring, if she can get a good run in transit she’ll be hard to beat.”

– Racing NSW

Share this article