McDonald yet to settle on Verry Elleegant or Zaaki

Zaaki wins The Q22 at Eagle Farm

Leading Sydney jockey James McDonald has a tricky decision to make heading into the Spring Racing Carnival, with champion mare Verry Elleegant likely to clash with up-and-coming superstar Zaaki in the George Main Stakes on September 18.

The New Zealand hoop has a terrific affiliation with both horses, winning eight races on Verry Elleegant, including six Group 1 titles, while he has won three from four aboard Zaaki, with one of those being a barnstorming seven-length victory over a strong field in the Group 1 Doomben Cup.

While the decision may be made slightly easier for McDonald in the Cox Plate due to strict border and quarantine measures between New South Wales and Victoria, the two heavyweights are likely to clash in the 1600m George Main at Royal Randwick in a month’s time.

“I haven’t made it yet (a decision). I’m riding Verry Elleegant this weekend and then we’ll assess it from there,” McDonald told RSN on Monday morning.

The ongoing COVID-19 situation around Australia will make it difficult for jockeys to travel from Sydney to ride at the Melbourne Spring Carnival, which could see McDonald lose the ride on both horses in their main target race this spring, the Cox Plate.

“I still haven’t really closed the door on it (going to Melbourne), I’m looking forward to obviously hopefully being able to maybe sweep down there for the later part of it,” McDonald said.

“But at the moment it doesn’t look likely.

“It’ll be pretty frustrating if I’m watching it from up here, but I’m looking forward to Sydney’s carnival anyway.”

McDonald is set to partner Nature Strip in The Everest on October 16, hence why he has not made the early move to Melbourne like Glen Boss, who has to do 14 days of quarantine in Darwin before getting into Victoria.

“I just think, obviously it’s a fair way away, but it comes around pretty quick (Melbourne Spring Carnival), if you’ve got both jabs, I don’t see why there should be any restrictions on travel,” McDonald said.

“Hopefully common sense prevails.”

The leading hoop will partner Verry Elleegant this weekend in her defence of the Group 1 Winx Stakes (1400m), where she is the $2.80 all-in favourite.

“She’s going as well as ever,” McDonald said.

“She won the race last year in really good form and she’s going every bit as good as that, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Verry Elleegant and Zaaki share the top line of betting for the George Main Stakes at $3 apiece with Sportsbet.

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