McDonald lands Classic double

James McDonald has taken out both the Derby and Oaks race for three-year-olds at the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

ZARDOZI. Picture: Steve Hart

Champion jockey James Mcdonald has taken out a Classic double during Melbourne Cup week guiding Godolphin filly Zardozi to an easy win at Flemington. 

McDonald won the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) aboard Riff Rocket on the opening day of the four-day Carnival and returned on Thursday to score aboard Zardozi for James Cummings in the Group 1 VRC Oaks (2500m) for the three-year-old fillies. 

Sent off the $2.70 favourite, Zardozi scored a 2-¼ length win from Aethelflaed ($6) with Basilinna ($7.50) a further 4-¼ lengths away third. 

"Derbies and Oaks, there's something special about them," McDonald said. 

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

"My trainer's a freak. 

"He just set this horse for this race, and it's paid off. She had to do it, she's a star filly, executed beautifully, bang, crash, whatever you want." 

McDonald said it felt like he was jogging for the first-half of the 2500m journey before Zardozi ambled up to her opposition turning for home. 

"She's got a very stout pedigree and it takes her a long way in these types of races," McDonald said. 

"She was probably the best staying filly in that race and even if that didn't happen, we would have made our own luck. 

"The most important part of our race and in the back of my mind was the first 1000-metres because the second 1000 would look after itself. 

"Then, the last 500, good luck to them if they can beat her. 

"It was so important for this type of filly to utilise her turn-of-foot as key for that first half." 

Zardozi had won the Group 2 Manifold Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on October 7 and was backing up from finishing second behind Amazonian Lass in last Saturday's traditional lead-up, the Group 2 Wakeful Stakes (2000m). 

Zardozi's victory was Godolphin's and Cummings' second win in the Oaks in the past three years after Willowy took the race under Damien Oliver in 2021. 

Cummings said patience won out with Zardozi, a daughter of Kingman, as there had been thoughts of sending the filly to the paddock after couple of early sub-par performances. 

But Cummings saw signs of improvement at Sandown early last month before Zardozi took out the Edward Manifold Stakes

"It is a great exercise in patience and to have a belief in your horse," Cummings said. 

"She had one or two hooves in the spelling paddock after a couple of those runs but we had great faith that she was going to be better than that and she was just begging for me to step her up in distance. 

"We didn't quite lose the faith and persevered. 

"A little bit like her pedigree. She is out of a mare that is underperformed, but she is a granddaughter of a very talented Dalakani mare. 

"Those bloodlines came through to the fore and it is a good recipe to find some good European staying blood and send them to a local trainer in Australia and it is amazing how that recipe can be."