Cambridge’s impact on Caulfield Cup day

The $A3 million Caulfield Cup went to Japan for the first time last Saturday but Cambridge can feel proud of its results on the day.

The two horses chasing the winner Admiral Rakti home hardest were Rising Romance and Lucia Valentina and both have connections to Cambridge. Though trained at Ruakaka by Donna and Dean Logan, Rising Romance was ridden by former Cambridge jockey James McDonald and third placegetter Lucia Valentina began her career from the Cambridge stable of Stephen Marsh.

McDonald had reason to celebrate after notching his 1000th win two races earlier at the Caulfield meeting aboard European import Contributer, who recorded a successful Australian debut in the Gr. 3 David Jones Cup.

Contributer, a son of High Chaparral, was purchased by Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation to join the Sydney stable of John O’Shea after winning the Listed Wolferton Handicap (2000m) easily at the Royal Ascot meeting last June. Contributer had been trained by Ed Dunlop and had beaten Bold Sniper (owned by Her Majesty The Queen) at Royal Ascot with Café Society, the horse bought by Gai Waterhouse as a potential Melbourne Cup hope, third.

McDonald has become the youngest New Zealand-born jockey to kick home 1000 winners and the milestone adds to a wonderful year experienced by the 22-year-old who landed the Sydney Jockeys Premiership to add to his two New Zealand titles.

McDonald then came so close to the ultimate result on Rising Romance in the Caulfield Cup after bouncing her out from her wide draw to lead early, then getting her to settle nicely in a trailing position. A gap opened rounding the home turn and McDonald pressed forward on the Oaks winner and put what looked a winning break on the field.

It took Admiral Rakti, a star in Japan, to produce an irresistible finish to run down Rising Romance.

McDonald was left wondering if the result would have been reversed if he had waited a shade longer before pushing the accelerator on Rising Romance. But Donna Logan would have none of that self-doubt expressed by the international hoop. “James rode her beautifully,” she said. “He couldn’t have done any more.”

McDonald was thrilled with Rising Romance’s performance but obviously disappointed not to win. “I thought we were home, I really did,” he said. “She definitely stood up today. As you can see, she’s a stayer of the future.”

Lucia Valentina also did her connections proud when fighting on bravely for third after having to do plenty of work after getting back in an awkward position.

“Very game in defeat,” said Lucia Valentina’s rider, Kerrin McEvoy. “At the 1000 (metres) I was happy enough when they began to stroll along a bit. I elected to get out and get going thinking that Zac’s horse (Admire Rakti) might take a bit of winding then Zac pushed me fairly wide on the bend so we covered extra ground. She still hit the line strongly but the winner was just a bit too sharp inside that last furlong and a half.”

Lucia Valentina had been a Group Three winner for Marsh last season and had also chased Rising Romance home in her last appearance from the Cambridge stable when runner-up in the NZ Bloodstock Royal Stakes at Ellerslie. She was also third to Rising Romance in the Gr. 1 ATC Oaks in her fourth start for her current trainer, Kris Lees.