Wednesday, December 1

James McDonald is ready to dominate the Kembla Grange main meeting


Hall of Fame jockeys Darren Beadman, Jim Cassidy and Malcolm Johnston agree that James McDonald leads the “Jockey Stakes”

As James McDonald was preparing to make his return on horseback, he called Jim Cassidy for advice.

“Hey Pump, what do I do?” McDonald asked.

Cassidy’s response was … well, typical Cassidy: “Have you forgotten how to ride?”

McDonald: “No.”

Cassidy: “Then don’t change (insert expletives) anything.”

This conversation says a lot about McDonald and the respect he has for his teammates and the sport. It also says a lot about what some of the best racing drivers think of McDonald’s.

It’s been more than three years since that conversation and McDonald has certainly listened to Cassidy’s advice.

McDonald has won a top-ranked hat-trick from the Sydney jockeys and has virtually an insurmountable chance of winning a fourth title in a row, he has ridden 20 Group 1 winners during this period and is now recognized as the best rider in the world. nation.

It seems that everyone wants “JMac” on their horse, it is in high demand and often has the supply of three or four rides in each race.

At the Kembla Grange Main Gathering on Saturday he has another powerful book of nine attractions, including First Favorites Anamoe ($ 2.50) in Group 2 $ 200,000 Run To The Rose (1200m), Entriviere ($ 2.90, Group 2 $ 200,000 Sheraco Stakes (1200m), Tiger De Malay ($ 3.60, $ 150,000 Dulcify Stakes, 1500m) and Cobia ($ 3.80, Midway Handicap, 1200m). The other five McDonald’s games are also prominent in the betting, which is nothing. unusual, as punters often ignore the form and rally behind the rider.

With nearly 1800 career victories, including 54 at the Group 1 level, McDonald has a riding record already comparable to some of the best jockeys of yesteryear, but the scary part is that he is still only 29 years old.

So, to get some clarity on McDonald’s evolution as a cyclist, I asked the opinion of three great riders of all time: Darren Beadman, Malcolm Johnston and Cassidy, each of whom has been inducted into the Hall of Fame, a rare honor that McDonald seems sure will likely achieve sooner rather than later in his career.

Beadman, a seven-time premier rider from Sydney and a regular rider for champions Octagonal, Saintly, Lonhro and Super Impose, could not deliver higher praise than to reveal how much he enjoys watching McDonald’s ride.

“James has really started to hone the art of horsemanship,” Beadman said.

“He’s always had that natural ability, horses run for him, but now he’s honing his skills and hitting that one percent right.

“I’m very excited to see him riding not only our horses (Godolphin), but other horses as well.”

Johnston, a racer of more than 2,000 career winners, a three-time champion rider from Sydney, and famous as a regular driver for the legendary Kingston Town, went one step further than Beadman.

“I have to say that James McDonald is as good as I’ve never seen him, he’s a superstar,” Johnston said.

“They ride on instinct and I’ve never seen a rider take them to the right place like him. I used to put them in the right place, but normally I had to flatten three to get there!

“But when you have to make a decision in a split second, ‘JMac’ gets it right 99 times out of 100. Whether you move forward or backward, you love making the right decisions.

“He gets the horses to do what he wants them to do, and that’s a gift. It’s something you’re born with, you can’t teach it. “

Johnston said McDonald is the complete package with unmatched driving skills, tactical acumen and supreme confidence in his own ability.

“I’ve watched him a lot over the years and he’s such a confident rider, and that’s very helpful,” Johnston said.

“In this game, I have always said that it is 80% mental and 20% physical. When James comes out, he doesn’t doubt himself.

“But for someone who is so good, he is quite humble. He is a very nice young man, very presentable and always shakes my hand. He has a great attitude towards his sport ”.

Cassidy, who participated in 98 Australian Group 1 winners during his celebrated cycling career to be third on the all-time list and is one of the elite few to win all four Grand Slam races (Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup , Cox Plate, Golden Slipper), first noticed McDonald’s prodigious talents when he moved to Sydney about a decade ago.

“James is natural, you could see it from day one,” Cassidy said.

“He has great poise, he’s a good thinker, he doesn’t panic, he summarizes situations quickly and positions the horses well. Check all the boxes.

“He is the best jockey in Australia without a doubt. Get the horses in a good rhythm, you can sit ten feet deep and still win with them, not many riders can do that.

“I remember Chris Waller asking me one day when I was riding in Zoustar what barrier I would like for the Golden Rose.

“I said 17 because Zoustar will be a better price, I can sit with him, not get in trouble and he will just win, and he won, easily.”

The big three retired cyclists agreed that McDonald’s can dominate the races in Sydney and Australia for at least the next decade.

It’s widely accepted that most riders are in their prime when they approach 40 than 30, so is it conceivable that McDonald’s best horse is still ahead of him?

“There is always room for improvement and as you get closer to 30, you think a little differently and you probably handle things better,” Beadman said.

“James, in terms of skills, is almost at the top of the mountain, but he always asks me about different things, so he is willing to learn and always challenges himself to improve.

“You need people in your life to bounce things off. During my cycling career, I had my dad, then Theo (Green) and RQ (Ron Quinton) and then I had Hawkesy (John Hawkes) as my number one coach. “

But Johnston and Cassidy had a caveat for McDonald: stay away from social media.

Riders are often the subject of criticism and while most accept that it comes with the territory, the comments can be vile and abusive.

There was an example at the Gosford midweek meeting on Wednesday when McDonald’s at the favorite Waihaha Falls came back last inside early and then couldn’t get room to gallop for the rest of the race, going untested without a rival runner behind him.

McDonald’s ride received many unfavorable comments on social media, although a quick read of the Racing NSW stewards report and a replay study cleared the rider of any wrongdoing.

“JMac is in a great place right now, the only thing that can put him off is the critics on social media,” Johnston said.

“Everyone has the right to comment and criticize a bad trip, but when it becomes personal, the line is crossed. It’s human nature to read it, if not, someone will tell you, and that can have a massive impact on racing.

“I know it’s easy to say forget it or don’t worry, but James has to make sure he doesn’t let it get to him. You have to remember that you are not going to make the right decision every time, no one does.

“These critics are just negative people, they don’t appear on social media and they praise a great trip so often.”

Cassidy endured his share of controversy during his racing career, but thrived under the pressure of race day – what happened off the track sometimes got to him.

“I loved the ‘running pressure,’ that kind of pressure is good because you need it to take you to the next level and I’ve noticed that it doesn’t seem to bother James at all,” Cassidy said.

Sure, bettors sometimes give it to you after a race, but they pay their money to get in the door, let them say what they want because they can’t hurt you.

“But the unnecessary pressure comes from things like social media, where there are some horrible comments and a lot of innuendo.

“JMac should be able to control these things and stay away from it (social media), and not pay too much attention to the stories in the newspaper about how good he is!”

McDonald has accomplished a lot in the saddle already, but from the way his career unfolds, he could break all riding records, including Beadman’s all-time extraordinary best of 164 wins in a Sydney season set in 2006-07.

“I keep challenging James to get the record,” Beadman said. “When he reaches 100 wins each season, I tell him he has 65 left in another three months.

“It can be done, but it comes down to opportunities, staying in the game and being consistent.

“I have a theory about how I did it, but I’m not going to tell you; I tell you most things, but you might just keep it to myself!”

Originally posted as Hall of Famers Beadman, Johnston and Cassidy rate James McDonald as the best


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