New Zealand champion samples Lambourn life

James McDonald - champion NZ jockey

James McDonald - champion NZ jockey

James McDonald is a young jockey I imagine most Geegeez readers have hardly come across. That’s hardly surprising, as he has yet to ride in England. He’s hoping to put that right during the next six weeks as he undertakes a work placement with Lambourn trainer Charlie Hills.

McDonald is a 21-year-old New Zealander who quickly made a name for himself when he became champion jockey in his home country two years ago. His 200 winners came from fewer than 900 rides Last year he moved across to Australia where he had a rather mixed season. He rode five Group 1 winners, most recently It’s A Dundeel in the Australian Derby, but had several visits to the stewards’ rooms.

He was one of three jockeys suspended after the Melbourne Cup last November, when his ride on second placed Fiorente earned him a 14-day ban for careless riding. Last month the stewards handed him two separate seven-day breaks, one for careless riding and one for overuse of the whip. He’s probably glad to be out of the spotlight there for a little while.

McDonald called in at the Singapore International meeting on his way to England. He set out his high aspirations to the Australian Daily Telegraph. “"I was a stable rider for Peter Vela in New Zealand, he had plenty of contacts over there and lots
of horses racing. It was a good opportunity for me to ride at Royal Ascot over the four days. Charles has about 160 in work and said he'd have a few runners at Ascot and he'd give me the opportunity. It will be a huge buzz, it's one of the biggest meetings in the world and it will be cool to ride in front of the Queen."

Quite what Charlie Hills makes of being called Charles I can only guess, and it didn’t sound as though he had made such a strong commitment when he spoke about his new jockey yesterday. Hills said, “James is a very talented jockey, as his outstanding record illustrates, and we’re delighted to have him here. Hopefully we’ll be able to find him some rides and David Harrison will be booking his mounts.”

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