McDonald Star of Cup Week

Auckland Cup Week belonged to local jockey James McDonald.

McDonald dominated the carnival to such an extent, there were slim pickings for his fellow riders.

A break down of his rides over the carnival tells the story.

McDonald rode in 28 of the 30 races over the three days at Ellerslie, resulting in 8 wins, 6 seconds and 2 third placings.

It is when you delve further into his success that you realize how dominant he was.

There were four Group One races over the carnival and it was here that McDonald excelled.

He won the NZ Derby aboard Silent Achiever, Auckland Cup (Shez Sinsational) and the NZ Stakes (Scarlett Lady).

The other Group One race, the Diamond Stakes saw McDonald’s mount Roll Out The Carpet, relegated from first to second place.

The Jeff McVean – Emma Lee Browne trained filly lost the race through veering out sharply causing significant interference to eventual winner Warhorse.  

The closeness of the finish, the official margin was a half head, always favoured Warhorse, and so it proved.

However, that setback, although bitterly disappointing for the connections of Roll Out The Carpet, was a blip on the Cup Week radar.

I’m sure that peculiar beast of the NZ pysche, the one that chooses to belittle achievement, will again raise it’s head in relation to McDonald’s success.

I can already hear the usual bleating hearts.

“He’s on the best horses…… it is so easy for him” etc etc etc.

Sure it’s a help being on the “fast ones” as McDonald often modestly claims.

But it is his innate ability to read a race that often proves the difference.

The NZ Derby win aboard Silent Achiever was a classic point.

McDonald revealed after the race, his instructions were to sit as long as possible before making a move aboard Silent Achiever.

However, as the field neared the 1400m, McDonald seized the opportunity to progress forward, three wide with cover.

“I could see Noel Harris’s mount Guess What, couldn’t get in, so I thought I’d allow it to give me a drag into the race” said McDonald later.

Remember, this wasn’t a mid week maiden at Paeroa we are talking about.

It was the NZ Derby, and McDonald was aboard the race favourite which brings it’s own pressure.

And this is one of those intangibles that all champion sportspeople have that sets them apart from their peers.

The ability to react to what is happening there and then.

And to have the utmost confidence to do something about it.

We saw that again with McDonald’s win aboard Shez Sinsational in the Auckland Cup.

McDonald’s coolness under pressure was severely tested prior to the start of the 3200m staying test.

Everyone now knows how the start was delayed by nearly ten minutes as McDonald sought a replacement saddle.

How he kept it under control, is testament to his unflappable character.

Even during the race McDonald showed commendable poise in the face of adversity.

With 600m to go, Shez Sinsational was going no where in a hurry.

McDonald got to work and the combination hit the lead three strides from the finish.

Never ever say die.

What about the ride on Scarlett Lady last Saturday?

Most pundits thought the NZ Stakes was a race in two, Veyron versus Scarlett Lady.

Mark Hills aboard Veyron rode a lovely race.

Unfortunately for Hills, so did McDonald on Scarlett Lady.

McDonald tracked Veyron throughout the 2000m event, eventually over hauling Veyron just short of the post.

Modesty will prevent McDonald from saying so, but, trust me, this kid is the real deal.

He has all the attributes to become one of the best jockeys this country has ever produced.

Watching his career is going to be fun!