James McDonald celebrates after winning the Oaks on Zardozi. Picture: Racing Photos

James McDonald celebrates after winning the Oaks on Zardozi. Picture: Racing Photos

J-Mac stars in spring 3YO staying classics

James McDonald has claimed both of the 2023 Cup Carnival’s three-year-old staying classics, teaming up with Zardozi to win the 2500-metre VRC Oaks with ease.  

McDonald also won the VRC Derby last Saturday, but unlike the driving finish that saw him lift Riff Rocket over the line, the Oaks result was a foregone conclusion a long way out.

Zardozi, trained by James Cummings for Godolphin, had just missed against Oaks rival Amazonian Lass in last week’s 2000m G3 Wakeful Stakes, but turned the tables in some fashion on Thursday, winning by over two lengths eased down.

McDonald had the daughter of Kingman in a lovely rhythm out the back, and once the field hit the straight, nothing came close to matching her turn of foot.

The Kiwi hoop, who already has five Group 1s to his name this season, was delighted to register not only his first Oaks triumph, but an incredibly prestigious double as well.

“Derbies and Oaks, there’s something special about them,” he said.

“I’ve never won a VRC Oaks and it’s a test of training ability, horsepower and obviously you’ve got to execute pretty well because they're immature still.

“My trainer (James Cummings) is a freak, he just set this horse for this race, and it’s paid off and she had to do it, she’s a star filly, executed beautifully, bang, crash, whatever you want.

“Oaks and Derbies are very precious. It is a test of horse, trainer, and jockey and the VRC Oaks and Derby are testament to that.”

WATCH: Zardozi win the VRC Oaks

With Zardozi hitting the line superbly in the Wakeful, McDonald said it was no surprise to see his mount dominate over the extended distance.

“We had it in the back of our mind with her pedigree that she would come into her own from 2000-metres onwards,” he said.

“Her run here on Saturday was phenomenal and even though we were disappointed not to win it had Oaks written all over her.

“There wasn’t a horse in this race that has a turn-of-foot like her and it was evident today when she ambled up and put them to the sword very quickly.”

He also gave credit to Cummings for his pre-race tactics, which were spot-on, and the filly’s excellent condition in general.

“I’ll give James credit, the draw enabled us to race a lot closer and he was adamant that he wanted her to be back and give her the rest she needed and it proved right here,” he said.

“Credit to the whole Godolphin team, they’ve turned out a beautiful filly for this Oaks.

“It’s so prestigious, it’s a beautiful race to win and I’m so proud to win it.”

Cummings said: “He’s absolutely nailed it. To win the Derby and the Oaks in the same Cup carnival is a great credit to James, he showed great nous early, got himself in a perfect position, settled down eighth in his own space, I love that and she let go like a weapon, that’s absolutely gold for her pedigree.

“All these Group Ones are special and a time honoured VRC Oaks, it’s going to get a shot in the pool room.”