The lethal combination of Chris Waller and James McDonald have claimed another Group 1 at Flemington during the Melbourne Cup Carnival, as they combined with Atishu (+750) to take out the $3 million VRC Champions Stakes.
After running in the Group 1 Empire Rose Stakes last Saturday and running home into second place behind Pride Of Jenni, it was clear that she was going to run well after Pride Of Jenni claimed the Champions Mile in the previous race.
In a muddling run affair, Zaaki (+340) took up the lead before West Wind Blows (+180) flew around the outside to then claim him and stride clear at the front of the field.
As expected, West Wind Blows started to struggle and Jamie Kah on Zaaki took over once again at the top of the home straight, but the challengers were coming from all angles with Buckaroo (+1800), Duais (+550) and Atishu looming up on the outside to run on.
However, it would be James McDonald and Atishu who would run straight past the leaders and kick clear to win by 1.75 lengths on the line from Duais and Young Werther (+5000), who finished in second and third, respectively.
2023 Champions Stakes Replay – Atishu | T: Chris Waller | J: James McDonald
Chris Waller was very happy to get another valuable win for Atishu, and he spoke post-race.
“Winning any race this week is (special) but that was something special,” Waller said.
“It's a race they we weren't overly strong and coming today I didn't know what to expect.
“I think she should have won a Group 1 on the first day – we all think that as owners and trainers when they don't win.
“To see Pride Of Jenni come out and blow them way in the race before, I guess that gave us a little bit of confidence.
“She backed up similarly last year. She won the Matriarch and has gone to a whole new step today.
“She was a Group 1 winner in Sydney in the autumn so when they're at that level they're there for the rest of her career and that is justified.”
James McDonald claimed three of the four features during the Melbourne Cup Carnival, with his Champions Stakes victory joining his wins in the VRC Derby and VRC Oaks.
“Horses don't run that well and not win so to run second behind a horse (last week) that franked the form in the previous, when I walked out to Chris for the instructions I said, ‘we're on a winner, I reckon',” McDonald said.
“We've just got to do the little things right and get the splits when we need it.
“She was fantastic, unbelievable.
“As the days go on, all the jockeys are there zoning in.
“They're not asleep at the wheel. We've seen a rush from outside gates, goes forward and generates pace.
“When West Wind Blows hightailing it around the outside it only generates speed.
“We were in a good position and we were on the back of the right horse and she went bang.
“She's beautifully bred by Savabeel, stays well, stays the ten furlongs beautifully and she's as tough as boots. It was great to be back on her back.”