J-Mac predicted Champions Stakes success to Waller

Source: Racenet, by Gilbert Gardiner

“We’re on a winner.”

James McDonald knew he was on the right horse to win the Champions Stakes (2000m) at Flemington before being legged aboard Chris Waller-trained Atishu.

Confidence in the mare grew 40 minutes prior to the jockeys and trainers assembling in the mounting yard when Pride Of Jenni led all the way to win the Champions Mile (1600m).

Atishu launched an almighty chase in the Group 1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) last Saturday but could not entirely bridge the gap to runaway leader Pride Of Jenni.

She lapped up the extra distance on Saturday, blasting clear at the 150m to setup the 1¾-length win from Anthony Cummings-trained Duais and the fast-finishing Young Werther.

“Horses don’t run that well and not win so to run second behind a horse (last week) that franked the form in the previous,” McDonald said.

“When I walked out to Chris for the instructions I said, ‘we’re on a winner, I reckon’.

“We’ve just got to do the little things right and get the splits when we need it. She was fantastic, unbelievable.”

Favourite West Wind Blows and reigning back-to-back Champions (Mackinnon) Stakes winner Zaaki ensured a genuine speed in front, which played into McDonald’s hands.

He hooked widest around the bend, balanced up and pulled the trigger.

“We were in a good position and we were on the back of the right horse and she went bang.”

McDonald said after his third Group 1 success in Melbourne Cup Week.

The champion jockey won the Victoria Derby and VRC Oaks earlier in the carnival.

Atishu sealed a second Group 1 for the week for Waller in quiet week for the master trainer in the wins column.

Waller claimed overall training honours based on a 3-2-1 scale.

“Relief. We’ve had a quiet week. We ran second and third in the Cup and to get a win on the last day – this day has gone from strength to strength,” Waller said.

“Winning any race this week is (special) but that was something special. It’s a race they we weren’t overly strong and coming today I didn’t know what to expect.

“I think she should have won a Group 1 on the first day – we all think that as owners and trainers when they don’t win.

“To see Pride Of Jenni come out and blow them way in the race before, I guess that gave us a little bit of confidence.

“She backed up similarly last year. She won the Matriarch and has gone to a whole new step today.”