Moore hails wonder kid McDonald
Brilliant young New Zealand jockey James McDonald made the overnight transition from a provincial track in Australia to the Group One BMW Champions Mile at Sha Tin to carry on a flood tide of recent success and land the John Moore-trained Xtension a surprise back-to-back winner of the race.
McDonald was one of the stars of the Sydney autumn carnival, landing four winners on a day at Randwick including a Group One, and made his only ride yesterday count as Xtension became only the second horse to return from Dubai and win first time out.
Fairy King Prawn went down narrowly in the 2001 Dubai Duty Free and was able to land the Chairman's Sprint Prize at his next start, but the record of other horses returning since has not been good and Moore had aired his doubts about the condition of the 2011 Champions Mile winner.
'I have to say that it all came down to great work by everyone in the stable to get Xtension back well enough to do what he's done today - there were doubts about him but everyone worked hard to get the horse eating again and then James has given him the best ride ever seen,' said Moore, who has been an unabashed McDonald fan.
'He got him in behind my other horse Able One and just a perfect run. He had to extricate him from a pocket at the 200m but he did that and I am thrilled to win the race again with this horse. He showed true courage because he wasn't at his best weight today - although I will say he never lost the sheen in his coat - and really we were just hoping.'
Those hopes turned into what dreams are made of when McDonald eased Xtension out to issue his challenge as Glorious Days (Felix Coetzee) looked to be getting the better of a tight finish with Lucky Nine, Able One and Ambitious Dragon.
'I had a gorgeous run - I couldn't believe where we ended up arrays and he normally goes through a flat spot but he didn't today. He travelled up like a good thing in the race, then fought really hard.'
McDonald had rushed from riding at the Sydney provincial track Hawkesbury on Saturday to fly overnight to his only ride at Sha Tin that achieved an ambition the jockey has held since his meteoric career began - to win a Group One in Hong Kong.
'As a kid I always dreamed to be riding in country like this, with the calibre of jockeys and horses, it's a real privilege,' he said. 'Hopefully one day I'll come back and be a Dougie Whyte, but there's a lot of water to flow under the bridge before them.'
Moore hopes to have McDonald on board if he can convince owner Steven Lo Kit-sing to send Xtension for the Singapore International Airlines Cup (2,000m) at Kranji in two weeks' time.
'If the owner will let him go, Xtension will be a force to be reckoned with in Singapore - he wasn't 100 per cent today and he won and if we can make him fitter for Singapore, he has to be the horse to beat,' Moore said. 'And then we'd have to make a decision about whether he goes to Royal Ascot.'
Going in the opposite direction will be Glorious Days, with trainer John Size keen to press on to the Yasuda Kinen early next month in Tokyo and Caspar Fownes is of a similar mind with third-placed Lucky Nine.
'Providing the horse cools down fine out of this, there's nothing in that half length defeat today that would suggest Glorious Days shouldn't go,' Size said. 'The winner was better on the day, we were there to win and just couldn't but I'm very happy with the run.'
Fownes said Lucky Nine's horror draw in 14 had cost him the race: 'We made the decision to go forward but we were hoping for cover and didn't get it. If he'd had cover he might have given a bit more of a kick.'
Times John Moore has won the Champions Mile following Xtension's triumph