James McDonald rides D'Argento in an exhibition gallop at Randwick on September 1. Picture: Mark Evans/Getty Images
James McDonald rides D'Argento in an exhibition gallop at Randwick on September 1. Picture: Mark Evans/Getty Images

J-Mac eyes big prize with D’Argento

LAST weekend's Rosehill meeting left James McDonald in a state of shock, but D'Argento could change all that on Saturday in the $1 million Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Royal Randwick.

The champion jockey narrowly lost the Golden Pendant (Champagne Cuddles) and the Group 1 Golden Rose (Zousain) last Saturday.

He said winning the last race on The Lord Mayor was a "small consolation" because he still couldn't believe he wasn't the Golden Rose winner hours earlier.

"I was hitting top speed at the furlong and not many get run down from there, especially those with the calibre of Zousain," McDonald said.

After Tuesday's Epsom barrier draw, he found out Chris Waller's grey D'Argento would come out of gate one, and he couldn't hide his excitement knowing he was riding the favourite in the big mile.

"He's as good as you get, especially at the weight," McDonald said.

"He's a Group 1 winner with 52.5kg on his back, he's beaten the handicapper and is trained by Chris, which is even better. His preparation has been spot-on so far with and couple of placings and he's in this race up to his ears, and there's no Winx!"

McDonald rode D'Argento two starts back when first-up in the Group 1 Winx Stakes (1400m) at Randwick. He ran on bravely from the rear of the field to  go down to only Winx and Invictus Prince.

"He was three wide and faced the breeze on a windy day and you couldn't do that," McDonald said. "Hardly anything made ground from out wide that day, but he was one of them."

D'Argento, $4 with Ladbrokes' fixed odds, will have to beat his highly rated stablemate Unforgotten in the Epsom.

D’Argento is second favourite for the Epsom Handicap. Picture: AAP
D’Argento is second favourite for the Epsom Handicap. Picture: AAP

Unforgotten remains a rock-solid second favourite at $4.50.

McDonald rode D'Argento on Tuesday morning and was more than satisfied with his work.

"D'Argento is flying and he's going to be awfully hard to beat," McDonald said.

"I worked him over five furlongs (1000m) nice and sharply. He came home in the last two very well and I couldn't be happier with him heading into the race."

McDonald will also ride Wall Of Fire in the Group 1 The Metropolitan (2400m) after he drew gate 10 in the 18-horse field.

He's first-up and hasn't run since sustaining an injury when one of the fancied runners in last year's Melbourne Cup.

Wall Of Fire will run first-up in The Metropolitan. Picture: Getty Images
Wall Of Fire will run first-up in The Metropolitan. Picture: Getty Images

He ran a super race a start earlier to run second in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) and McDonald said he was a smoky for The Metropolitan.

"He had good form in England and his fresh-up form off the boat last year was great," he said. "He's been racing around some very good European horses, so he's well up to this.

"European horses are very good with their wind. They can come into these types of races with not much racing. I'm pretty excited to be riding him.

"Nothing has been beating the Godolphin horse (Avilius) lately so we looked for a horse with a bit of outside form and he'll be cherry ripe."

McDonald also confirmed he still had no ride in The Everest.


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