McDonald picks up choice mount

Top jockey James McDonald received a telephone call this afternoon he originally thought was a prank.

On the other end of the line was Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh offering McDonald the ride on his stable star Ruud Awakening when she begins her three-year-old campaign in the $A80,000 Super VOBIS Plate, a three-year-old fillies 1100 metres at Flemington on Saturday week.

“He didn’t take me seriously for a long time,” said Marsh. “He kept asking me whether I was serious. It took a fair bit of convincing him.

“He jumped at the chance to ride her when he finalised realised I wasn’t having him on. He’s over the moon. He can’t believe I’ve given him the ride on Ruud Awakening. He even said he’d fly down a couple of days earlier to ride her in trackwork.”

McDonald’s original disbelief is understandable as it had been widely reported that Craig Williams would ride Ruud Awakening fresh-up. But the change of ride came when Williams’ agent rang Marsh to tell Marsh he couldn’t commit to her.

“He felt she didn’t have the experience down the chute at Flemington and he’s going to ride one for Peter Snowden instead,” said Marsh. “I’m rapt James is riding her. The advantage of having him on is that he not only knows how good she is, he can stick with her right through. And he’s riding very well and you need that confidence going into big races.”

McDonald has ridden several winners for Marsh, but hasn’t sat on Ruud Awakening’s back. Williams had the last ride on her when she was unplaced from a wide draw in the Golden Slipper Stakes and Opie Bosson was aboard when she did an exhibition gallop between races at Taupo recently.

Ruud Awakening is booked to be flown to Melbourne next week in the care of Marsh’s stable employee Troy Harris and provided she acquits herself well fresh-up she will race at Moonee Valley on September 27.

“She’s had no trial or no jumpout so there will be a fair bit of improvement in her from the first-up run,” said Marsh. “But she’s ready to go a big race.”