After being lured to make his Randwick riding debut on Saturday by top trainer John O’Shea, New Zealand’s gun apprentice jockey James McDonald has been called upon by a trio more trainers giving him nearly a full book of rides for the day.
McDonald, 19, recently became the first Kiwi jockey to ride 200 or more city winners for a single season back home in New Zealand with the in-demand star now also making his mark on the Australian turf.
After being aboard the Graeme Rogerson-trained filly Scarlett Lady for his maiden elite level in Australia, winning the Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2400m) at Eagle Farm last month, McDonald is well on his way to more glory down under.
Originally McDonald was engaged for three rides at Randwick on Saturday aboard O’Shea-trained stablemates Vantage Point, Cantonese and Kiss ‘N Chase.
The jockey’s high-profile status and ability partnered with the current senior jockey shortage in Sydney at the moment has seen that number of rides grow to seven.
With Sydney Jockey’s Premiership favourite Nash Rawiller, Corey Brown, Tim Clark and Christian Reith all on holidays; Hugh Bowman overseas riding in England; Jim Cassidy on leave for a fortnight Josh Adams on suspension; and Glyn Schofield set to start a 10-meeting ban following Randwick’s Saturday meet, there is a void McDonald is happy to fill in the jockey’s room.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” McDonald said of Saturday.
“I rode at Rosehill during the Autumn Carnival but I’ve never ridden at Randwick.
“At this stage I’m probably going to fly over on Friday and I will definitely have a walk around the track before I ride there.”
McDonald’s growing popularity as hoop of choice is in part thanks to prolific Sydney jockeys’ agent Bryan Haskins, who also manages one of New South’s best, Hugh Bowman.
“I helped him out with rides when he came over as a guest of Hawkesbury,” Haskins said.
“He is a great talent who would hold his own anywhere he rides.”
The newly-booked rides for McDonald at Randwick on Saturday will be aboard the Anthony Cummings-trained Gybe; the Hawkes family’s veteran galloper Get Up Jude and Viscount four-year-old Dunrossil; and the Tim Martin-trained Skip Town, the two-year-old Gonski gelding looking for their second win from three starts after breaking their maiden status in fine style last month.
Of the quartet, Fastent Rock filly Gybe is shaping up as McDonald’s best pick up, the smart three-year-old vying for her third win on the trot when she contests a Benchmark 80 Handicap over 1200m.