Australian-based James McDonald is among the star jockeys in action at Royal Ascot this week (U.S.-based Jose Ortiz is another) and he has high hopes of securing his first win at the great meeting.
New Zealander McDonald, who has just returned to action after an 18-month ban for a betting indiscretion, is particularly keen on the chance of the Charlie Hills-trained Equilateral in the G1 Commonwealth Cup on Friday. "He's come in to favouritism so hopefully they're right. Charlie sent me the link to his last-start win and he looks very good," McDonald said.
"Charlie reckons he's one of the best sprinters he's had, and that's saying something because he had Muhaarar, who won five Group 1s. But he reckons he could be up with him.
"That last race, he won by eight lengths and the third horse has won twice since so the form looks good too. He's still got to make the step up, but he looks a really good ride."
McDonald was hoping to ride at all five days of the meeting, with confirmed mounts on the Hills-trained Pogo in the G2 Coventry Stakes and the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Mirage Dancer in the listed Wolferton Stakes on the opening day tomorrow.
He will ride the Stoute-trained Expert Eye in the G3 Jersey Stakes on day two, Silver Quartz in the G3 Hampton Court Stakes and Curiosity in the Britannia Stakes, both for trainer Hugo Palmer, on day three, as well as the Hills-trained Hawayel in the G3 Albany Stakes and the Stoute-trained Elector in the G2 King Edward VII Stakes on day four
"I've won at Ascot before but not as part of Royal Ascot week and that's something I'm very keen to do. It would be nice to put that right this week," McDonald said.
He is on the cusp of £1 million in stakes earnings in England, having won 25 of his 139 rides there and banking £989,938 for his connections.
McDonald partnered 19 winners on his last summer stint in Britain two years ago, including Dutch Connection for Hills in the G2 Lennox Stakes at Goodwood and Big Orange in the G2 Princess of Wales’s Stakes for trainer Michael Bell.
A champion apprentice and senior jockey in New Zealand and premiership winner in Sydney, McDonald was Godolphin's main rider in Australia before the ban. He has quickly re-established himself in Sydney, winning 11 races from just 44 rides. A former top ten rider in the TRC Global Rankings, he is now back up to #30.
"I'm really enjoying it and I couldn't have asked for a better start really," he said. "Nearly every meeting I've ridden a winner. It would be nice if I could carry that form on to Royal Ascot."
McDonald is not the only Kiwi hoping to be in the spotlight at the Royal meeting. The Sir Peter Vela-owned Eminent will take on Europe’s best weight-for-age performers in the G1 Prince Of Wales's Stakes on day 2two, while the tangerine colours of Te Akau racing will be sported by Torcedor in the G1 Gold Cup on day three.