IN Racing
J-Mac makes instant impact in Karaka Millions
"She gave me a beautiful ride and produced the goods, it was unreal.”
Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk | January 27, 2024
Velocious and James McDonald storm to victory in the $1 million TAB Karaka Millions 2YO (1200m) at Ellerslie on Saturday. Photo: Race Images

Ellerslie racegoers got to witness expat Kiwi jockey James McDonald have his first ride back on home soil in several years at the TAB Karaka Millions meeting at Ellerslie on Saturday, and he made an instant impact in front of the sold-out crowd.

Sydney-based McDonald had returned across the Tasman to partner the Stephen Marsh-trained filly Velocious in the TAB Karaka Millions 2YO (1200m) and he showed why he is revered as one of the world's best.

After jumping away well out of the barriers, McDonald was able to secure the coveted one-one position with Velocious, where she was able to settle beautifully. Entering the straight, McDonald guided his charge three-wide and Velocious was able to reel in the leaders and hit the front with 250m to go. She held out the late challenge of Damask Rose to win by 2-1/2 lengths, denying Te Akau Racing a record eighth straight victory in the race.

Saturday’s victory completes the Karaka Millions collection for McDonald, who had previously won the Karaka Millions 3YO Classic (1600m) aboard Long Leaf in 2019 for trainers David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig.

“It’s bloody great,” an enthused McDonald said post-race. “It has eluded me a little bit this race, I have finished a few seconds, but I was on the right filly today, (who was) trained to an absolute minute. She gave me a beautiful ride and produced the goods, it was unreal.”

It was an emotional homecoming for McDonald who said it was great to be back riding at Ellerslie on their new StrathAyr track.

“Ellerslie was our headquarters growing up, I was here for three or four years. It was my favourite track, and it still is. To get success here is just awesome,” he said.

“There is nothing like home and even though we live in Australia, it is always great to come back and ride winners, especially big ones like that.”

McDonald was impressed with Velocious’ talent and tenacity, and he believes there is a bright future instore for the daughter of Written Tycoon.

“I could feel them coming (in the straight) but she pulled out all the stops, she didn’t feel like she was ever going to get beaten,” McDonald said. “She is very good, and I just love her tenacity, she is just a gorgeous filly.”

With victory, Velocious extended her career record to three wins and a placing from four starts, with her Karaka Millions triumph joining her win in the Listed Challenge Stakes (1100m) and third placing in the Gr.2 Eclipse Stakes (1200m).

Trainer Stephen Marsh was quietly confident heading into the race, saying his filly had a faultless preparation and had the benefit of McDonald aboard.

“We thought we had the right filly all the way through, and James was very keen to come and ride her,” he said. “We think he (McDonald) is the world’s best and for Go Racing and Marsh Racing to give him his first Karaka Million (2YO) win is exciting for everyone.

“It is one of those preparations where nothing has gone wrong – we haven’t nursed her, she hasn’t had shin soreness, we haven’t done anything. She has been the perfect racehorse the whole way through, so we weren’t actually that nervous going into it. We felt we had the right horse, and she is just an absolute gem to train, does what you like, she is unbelievable.”

It was an emotional victory for Marsh, who dedicated it to his mother Kay, who is suffering from ill-health.

“I just want to say, that is for my mum,” he said.

It was the second win in the race for Marsh and syndicator Go Racing, who combined to win the race in 2013 with Ruud Awakeing, and Go Racing principal Albert Bosma was glad he could get another with his great mate, particular during trying times for his family.

“It is special for us, but it is probably more special for Stephen and his family with what they are going through. He has been like a brother, 20 years we have been doing this,” Bosma said.

Velocious was purchased by Go Racing out of Inglewood Stud’s 2023 New Zealand Bloodstock Book 1 Yearling Sale draft for $190,000 with a view towards to the Karaka Millions 2YO.

“Over the last five or six years we have focussed on middle-distance horses for Australia, that is where the money is,” Bosma said. “Now things have changed and last year was the first time we said we have got to start focussing back on New Zealand with all these amazing changes Entain is bringing in and these great races. We bought this filly for this race, and we have done it.

“It is hard to win races and when you buy something with a plan, 99 times (out of 100) it doesn’t come off, and it came off this time and we had the right plan. I am so happy for Stephen, and I am so happy for us.

“Seven wins in a row by Te Akau may never be beaten but I think it is going to get harder and harder going forward, there are going to be so many people trying to win this race.” 

Velocious TAB Karaka Millions 2yo James McDonald Ellerslie Stephen Marsh Go Racing Written Tycoon Albert Bosma Inglewood Stud