Caulfield Cup-winning jockey Mark Zahra has retained the mount on Verry Elleegant in the Melbourne Cup with James McDonald to ride stablemate Finche.

McDonald has been the Chris Waller-trained mare’s regular partner in Sydney but unable to travel freely due to COVID-19 restrictions, he has missed her past two starts in Victoria.

Mark Zahra picked up the prized mount and made the most of the opportunity, guiding Verry Elleegant to successive Group One wins in the Turnbull Stakes and Caulfield Cup.

With travel restrictions recently easing, McDonald is heading to Melbourne for the remainder of the spring, forcing Verry Elleegant’s connections to make a tough choice about her Melbourne Cup jockey.

“James McDonald has done a lot of work on this wonderful mare and will rejoin her when she returns to Sydney for her autumn campaign,” Waller’s stable representative, Charlie Duckworth said.

“It was not a decision we took lightly but we felt it would be wrong to break up the partnership that Mark and Verry Elleegant have created winning both the Turnbull Stakes and the Caulfield Cup.”

The Waller-trained Finche finished fifth in the Caulfield Cup and the stable said he had come through the race in good order and would also press on to Australia’s most famous race.

The son of champion Frankel finished fourth to Cross Counter in the 2018 Melbourne Cup and seventh to Vow And Declare last year.

“He is a genuine chance again this year in his third attempt at the time-honoured race and we are delighted to be represented by him again,” Duckworth said.

Duckworth confirmed Toffee Tongue would miss the Melbourne Cup after finishing down the track behind Verry Elleegant at Caulfield on Saturday.


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