James McDonald set for Ascot ride on Equilateral after betting ban return
Australian influence at Royal Ascot is nothing new in terms of horses, but James McDonald – the one-time rising star of the southern hemisphere riding ranks before being engulfed in a betting scandal – will add further Antipodean dash to the meeting as he is in line to ride exciting sprinter Equilateral in the Commonwealth Cup.
A 26-year-old New Zealander, who can be booked via agent Michael Haggas, McDonald has spent the majority of his career riding in Australia and has recently returned to action having served an 18-month suspension for betting on one of his mounts at Randwick in 2015.
Racing New South Wales stewards subsequently suspended him in December 2016 when Godolphin released the multiple Group 1-winning jockey from his position as their retained rider in Australia.
However, McDonald, whose big-race hits include It's A Dundeel and Mossfun in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Golden Slipper in 2014, has returned with a flourish, steering Cormac to victory at Warwick Farm on his first ride back on May 16.
Other winners have followed and Equilateral's trainer Charlie Hills is excited about McDonald's arrival, especially as the pair enjoyed teaming up in the summer of 2016.
"James is going to come over for Royal Ascot and maybe for a couple of days before as well," Hills said on Wednesday.
"Equilateral is one he can ride and I'll see what else I can put him on, but if the word's out other trainers might want to use him as well.
"I think he's a world-class jockey who has a very cool head on him. We had a good bit of success together in the past – he won the Lennox Stakes on Dutch Connection in 2016 – and it'll be good to link up again. I think he's a great young talent."
McDonald rode seven British winners in 2013 and six two years later, but his spell in 2016 really caught the eye with Hills revealing his father Barry had compared him to legendary US champion Steve Cauthen. He also won that year's Princess of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket on popular stayer Big Orange.
"He's going to be very hungry and has ridden lots of winners since he's been back, so hopefully Ascot will be another nice opportunity for him," Hills added.
A general 9-1 for the Commonwealth Cup, the Khalid Abdullah-owned Equilateral was last seen bolting up under PJ McDonald on his seasonal reappearance at Doncaster recently.
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