The countdown to the Sydney Spring Racing...
Boom apprentice New Zealand jockey James McDonald will embark on a northern-hemisphere riding raid in Singapore next week, but first he is set to make his mark at Randwick this Saturday.
In response to a growing senior jockey shortage in Sydney this month, 19-year-old McDonald has been booked for rides in seven of the eight races running at Randwick on Saturday.
“I think everyone has heard the raps on him, and I’m sure you will see why at Randwick,” Form Expert and Race Caller Jack Petley said.
“He is a very cool rider and very mature for his age.
“He sums up races very quickly, and like all the good ones, he makes the right decisions, which is something you can’t teach.”
Following his Randwick debut, McDonald is set to travel to Singapore where the record-breaking hoop will appear in the Group 1 Singapore Derby (2000m), his services having been engaged by expat Kiwi trainer Lauri Laxon.
Laxon is preparing to saddle up Martial Art in the Singapore Derby on July 17 and McDonald has been granted a two-day racing licence by the Singapore Turf Club to allow him the mount on the promising Tiger Hill four-year-old.
The licence also grants McDonald the chance to ride on the earlier July 15 meeting at Kranji Racecourse and it will be his second trip to Singapore, McDonald having ridden there at the end of last season.
The first jockey to ride 200 winners in New Zealand during a single season, McDonald is one of the in-demand jockeys of the season and has bagged a hat-trick of jockey’s premierships already during his career.
McDonald would likely have had a fourth premiership to his name if he hadn’t taken a three-month sabbatical at the end of last season, where he travelled and rode internationally gaining a wealth of experience.
“It was something he wanted to do,” McDonald’s manager Garry Cossey said.
“He was 36 winners clear in the premiership when he left, and got run down, but I think it made him a better rider.
“It was one of the best things he has done because he got to ride out for Aidan O’Brien, and rode a couple of winners for John Oxx in Ireland.
“Peter Vela organised him to ride in Singapore as well on the trip, and he had success there as well.”
Travelling to Australia for the Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival, McDonald claimed an Aussie elite level thanks to his prize ride aboard Group 1 Queensland Oaks winner Scarlett Lady.
After this weekend in Sydney, he will be vying for more Group 1 glory this time in the 2011 Singapore Derby with New Zealand-bred, Singapore-trained, Peter Vela-owned Martial Art.
Martial Art had their opening eight race starts in New Zealand during the 2009-10 racing season before Laxon transferred their operation to Singapore.
A five-time winner from 24 starts, Martial Art will make their Group 1 debut in the Singapore Derby.
Regardless of how he does with Martial Art in the Singapore Derby, McDonald is not planning on a permanent relocation away from his native New Zealand just yet.
“We have had offers from several countries but we want to do what is best for James in the end, and we will take our time making any decision,” Cossey said.
McDonald also has his eyes on another prestigious prize, the 2011 Melbourne Cup with Scarlett Lady at the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.
“I would like to ride in Melbourne in the spring,” he admitted.
The Graeme Rogerson-trained Savabeel filly Scarlett Lady is the current $15 second elect behind last year’s Melbourne Cup runner-up Maluckyday in the pre-nomination Melbourne Cup betting odds.
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