If New Zealand jockey James McDonald is going to win his first Melbourne Cup, he’s going to need to work some magic.
The Cambridge-born jockey will ride Cup favourite Yucatan, trained by Irishman Aidan O’Brien, in Tuesday’s A$7.3 million ($7.9m NZD) Melbourne Cup (3200 metres) at Flemington.
The Irish bred horse burst into favouritism on the back of his easy win in the Group II Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield last month.
Yucatan’s part-owner Nick Williams joked he will have to sack himself from drawing barriers after he picked gate 23 in a blind draw on Saturday evening for starting barriers in the 24 horse field.
Yucatan has drifted from $4.50 to $4.60 with the New Zealand TAB on the back of the draw.
But Williams, who alongside his father Lloyd Williams, has been involved in the last two Cup winners Almandin and Rekindling, was not going to lose much sleep over the draw.
“I’m of the view that barriers don’t really matter in this race because you have 1000m before the first turn. They sort themselves out by then,” he said.
“If they’re good enough, they will still win from out there.”
McDonald, who missed last year’s Melbourne Cup because of a riding ban, has never won the Cup.
His best result was his second in 2012 aboard the Gai Waterhouse-trained Fiorente. McDonald was just 19 when he and Fiorente finished just a length behind Green Moon.
He also finished third aboard Hartnell in 2016.
Second favourite Cross Counter, a $9 chance, has also drawn wide and will jump from barrier 19.
The Charlie Appleby-trained European raider will carry just 51kg and as a three-year-old lightweight chance, he carries similar credentials to Rekindling in 2017.
Rekindling will not be back to defend his crown in 2018.