HH Sheikh Mohammed's big hopes on Derby Day at the Melbourne Cup Carnival

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Godolphin and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, are very well represented at Saturday's Derby Day with 12 horses scheduled to run. Exosphere, who lines up in the G1 Coolmore Stud Stakes is undoubtedly the pick of the bunch on the opening day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival after winning five of his seven starts and is strongly fancied to win this feature sprint. He has drawn barrier two in this 12-runner field, but jockey James McDonald is not worried. "In my view, the draw is not going to make much difference. He is such a brilliant horse," he said. "I have ten rides on Derby Day, and he is the one I am most looking forward to. He gives you such a great feel when you ride him. He is a very exciting horse."

James McDonald

McDonald will also ride Etymology in the G1 Victoria Derby in preference to Shards, who was a gallant second to Jameka in the Vase at Moonee Valley last week. Tarzino, who stormed home late for third in the Vase, is favourite. "I went for Etymology because I was very impressed with his effort for third in the Norman Robinson at Caulfield. He was running on so strongly at the end, I have no doubt he is going to stay the 2,500m of the Derby right out. It's an ideal race for him," he pointed out. Etymology won his maiden at Pakenham in September and has got stronger as this preparation has unfolded. He is a son of the Darley stallion New Approach.There is growing confidence at Team Godolphin that Contributer can return to his very best in the G1 Mackinnon Stakes, over 2,000m. The six-year-old's three runs in Melbourne this Spring have lacked some of the sparkle he displayed in the Autumn in Sydney, but McDonald is confident those runs can be forgotten. "We felt that the very fast track at Caulfield last time (when 5th in the Caulfield Stakes) was against him. Being from the UK, he prefers to have just a little give underfoot, and he didn't get that at Caulfield. He is a multiple G1 winner, so he has a lot going for him," the jockey said. The G3 Lexus Stakes is going to be a make or break race for Godolphin's Melbourne Cup plans. Saeed bin Suroor runs Elhaame, with Brad Rawiller riding, and the six-year-old needs to win this to gain entry to the Cup field. McDonald is aboard Havana Cooler, a stayer who finished a solid third in the Metropolitan last start and who will be suited by this type of race. Ambience is the Godolphin hope in the G2 Wakeful Stakes, which is a pointer to the VRC Oaks next Thursday.

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