New Zealand’s best young jockey James McDonald will make his riding debut in Sydney on Saturday week, the 19-year-old star engaged to ride for one of the state’s leading trainers John O’Shea.
McDonald recently entered the history books, riding his 200th winner back home in New Zealand for the season, and has already begun to make his mark on the Australian racing scene.
“It’s probably a relief more than anything because it’s been a long time coming,” McDonald said after reaching then exceeding the 200 at Te Teko during the week.
His biggest Aussie win to date came when partnering with the Graeme Rogerson-trained Kiwi sensation Scarlett Lady, the now Melbourne Cup-favourite winning back-to-back Group races during the Brisbane Winter Carnival including the Group 1 Queensland Oaks.
McDonald’s stunning season will see him score his second New Zealand Jockey’s Premiership title and his fourth consecutive Apprentice Premiership.
Now McDonald will look to extend his remarkable riding record over in Sydney, where he has had a number of offers to base himself permanently, O’Shea engaging the promising youngster’s services due to a senior jockey shortage for the upcoming city meets.
“Tim Clark and Christian Reith will be on holidays, Corey Brown is suspended and Hugh Bowman is in England,” O’Shea said.
“So I’ve asked James to come over and have his first crack at Sydney.”
O’Shea has chosen McDonald to ride a trio of his stable runners at the Randwick meeting on July 9 with Anabaa filly Vantage Point seeking her third win on the trot, Redoute’s Choice colt Cantonese and Red Ransom mare Kiss ‘N Chase.
“He will ride three for me – Vantage Point, Cantonese and Kiss ‘N Chase,” O’Shea confirmed.
Vantage Point was originally accepted to race in a 1100m Benchmark 80 Handicap at Rosehill Gardens’ Civic Stakes Day meeting this Saturday, but after she drew barrier seven of nine O’Shea opted to withdraw her with Randwick the following week now the target.
“She had drawn a little awkwardly and might end up having a hard run so we’ll wait,” O’Shea said.
O’Shea will still have a strong contingent of runners at Rosehill this Saturday with a trio from his Randwick stables engaged.
His first rep will be Hussonet five-year-old Fist Of Fury in the $70,000 Harris Farm Handicap (1100m), Christian Reith engaged for the ride from barrier five.
Fist Of Fury is having their first race since finishing dead last in the Magic Millions Cup on the Gold Coast in January, which concluded a disappointing season for the once very promising horse.
After winning their opening two race starts in the spring of 2008, Fist Of Fury ran a close second to Northern Meteor in that year’s Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m), but has since failed to live up to their early form.
“I don’t think he is ever going to get back to where he was but what I will say is that he is going better than he was last preparation,” O’Shea said.
“He missed a trial two weeks ago when they were called off (due to the weather) but he’s very well and is fit enough to run a race.”
It will be a tough test for Fist Of Fury as they come face-to-face with Joe Pride’s ultra consistent galloper Rain Affair who is out for their fourth straight turf triumph.
Later in the day Honest Lies will look to bounce back after a last-start failure when ninth at Rosehill on June 4, apprentice Blake Spriggs aboard the four-year-old O’Reilly gelding in the $70,000 Sydney Banana Wholesalers Handicap (1400m), O’Shea also saddling up Romanus in the race.
Honest Lies has the better barrier of the two in five, but with rain around O’Shea fancies the wider gate 12 start of Encosta De Lago four-year-old Romanus, another Christian Reith ride who
“I like that barrier draw for Romanus because he has to go back and get some cover – that’s the way he likes to be ridden,” O’Shea said.
“Honest Lies is going particularly well and is building up to a performance but he doesn’t like wet tracks.
“The track conditions will determine how close he gets to them.”