The story goes that former Kiwi jockey James McDonald’s timing was so off when he crossed the Tasman to ride in Sydney that one rival hoop jokingly put an alarm clock in his gear bag.
It may have been the wake-up call that McDonald needed because he quickly adapted and has gone on to establish himself as one of the country’s top riders.
Two years ago McDonald was flying, riding big race winners and he also held the position as number one stable rider for the powerful Godolphin stable.
Then it all came crashing down when he copped an 18-month disqualification for betting on a horse he rode in a race.
McDonald returned last week and his timing was spot on. He was quickly in the winners’ list, showing riding a double on his first day back at Warwick Farm and another double last Saturday. He has now ridden five winners from 19 rides.
The 26 year-old can cap a meteoric comeback when he tackles his first Group 1, aboard the Matt Dunn trained Care To Think, in Saturday’s Kingsford-Smith Cup (1350m) at Doomben. His last ride in a major was aboard Holler, when unplaced in the 2016 Darley Classic at Flemington.
“I booked James with the intention of him testing Care To Think as a Stradbroke Handicap mount,” Dunn said. “I don’t know what weight Care to Think will get in the Stradbroke, but if he wins the Kingsford-Smith he’ll probably get 55kg in the Stradbroke Handicap (1350m) which will suit James.”
Care To Think will tackle several possible Stradbroke rivals in the Kingsford-Smith, including Impending, Le Romain and Doomben 10,000 winner English.
Godolphin gelding Osborne Bulls head betting for the Stradbroke on $7.00, just ahead of Care To Think and Impending, on $7.50.